Research – Assessing Food Safety Practices Among Texas Small Growers

Journal of Food Protection

This could be applied to many small growers all over the world.

This study aimed to assess current food safety gaps among small growers in Texas to identify key areas of focus for potential education and training materials for these stakeholders. Small growers earn ≤$25,000 in annual sales over a 3-year period and have an average food sale of less than $500,000. To this end, a survey tool was designed to determine the gaps in small farm growers’ food safety knowledge. A total of 29 questions were disseminated to participants at fruit and vegetable conference. The questions included topics such as food safety practices and perceptions, and current and past food safety training experiences. Data from 70 growers was collected and analyzed and the results demonstrated that more than 34% of growers use manure and 51% have domestic animals on the farm premises. Even though more than 51% of participants use bare hands for harvesting, 39% of growers do not provide handwashing facilities for workers, and 46% of the growers do not provide toilet facilities for their workers. Only 25% of the growers surveyed have access to food safety training materials for their employees. The results also showed that 21% of participants have previous food safety training. Furthermore, half of the growers surveyed used soil amendments and approximately 87% did not test irrigation water. About 30% of growers believe that organic produce is safer than conventional produce and 37% believe that organically grown produce has fewer harmful bacteria. Also, > 41% of participants could not recognize the difference between hydroponically grown produce and conventional systems. The results indicated specific areas of opportunity, gaps in resources needed by growers, and lack of food safety training materials. The results of this study will help in the design of targeted and specific food safety training materials for small growers.



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