Anciso offered these tips for producers for capturing good water samples for testing:
- Collect samples in the afternoon
- Sample Monday through Friday
- Collect close to the field rather than close to the river/canal
- Maintain a record of custody of samples
Collecting in the afternoon is important, Anciso said.
“When you have to overnight it to the lab, it must be tested exactly 24 hours after it is collected and a lab might not get the chance to test the sample early in the morning,” he said. “Collecting in the afternoon gives them time.”
Trevor Suslow, extension research specialist at the University of California-Davis’s Center for Produce Safety also talked about best practices for water sampling. Temperature is important, he said.
“You may have a compliant level of E. coli (in your sample), but over X amount of hours in room temperature or even just below room temperature, you may push yourself into non-compliant levels,” he said.
Frequent water testing does not prevent risks, he said, but establishes a baseline to identify problems.
“It’s telling you to go check the system and reassess,” Suslow said. “It’s in a grower’s best interest to understand the system and what it takes to clear it and get back to the baseline when an event happens.”
That’s why the FDA is proposing stringent water testing standards with operations exposed to runoff, he said.
HACCP as a road map
Jeff Lucas of San Antonio-based IEH Quanta Labs talked with attendees on how HACCP relates to produce, even in operations that do not process fruits and vegetables.
The principles of HACCP — identifying hazards and ways to control them — can be a key component to food safety programs for fruit and vegetable producers. He stressed the need for even smaller producers to have a food safety program in place.
TVA president Jed Murray, of Val Verde Vegetable Co., McAllen, said the conference gave attendees a push to enhance their food safety programs.
“I think we all need to take time to continue to educate ourselves, and participate in an honest assessment of the programs we have in place,” he said.