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Guidelines for Growers to Minimise the Risks of Microbiological Contamination of Ready to Eat Crops Summary of guidelines issued by the Food Standards Agency


Farm  manures and slurries are applied to agricultural land to meet crop nutrient requirements and to improve soil fertility. Around 90 million tonnes of farm manures are applied to approximately 4 million hectares of agricultural land each year in the UK. These manures can contain pathogenic microorganisms (e.g. E.coli O157, Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium and Giardia) which may cause foodborne illness. The number of microorganisms in manures is affected by factors such as the age, diet and management of animals, as well as regional and seasonal influences.

The management and handling of farm manures, particularly the length of time they are stored, are important factors in the survival of microorganisms. The method and timing of manure applications to land can affect the length of time that pathogens survive in the soil, and the likelihood of their getting onto food crops. In order to reduce any risks of foodborne illness resulting from the use of farm manures, there is a need for due diligence in the growing, harvesting and packing of ready to eat crops.

Detailed guidelines for farmers and growers of ready to eat crops can be obtained fom the Food Standards Agency. A summary of these guidelines and the essential risk assessment process is given below.

Stage 1: Before Crop Establishment

  • Select fields carefully so as to minimise the risks of indirect contamination via surface runoff from manure heaps and stores, or following the land spreading of manures.
  • You should NOT apply fresh solid manures and slurries within 6 months of harvest.
  • You should NOT apply treated or batch stored solid manures and slurries within 2 months of harvest.
  • Allow at least 4 months between livestock last being in the field and harvest.

Stage 2: During Growing Season

  • Do NOT apply manure to ready to eat crops during the growing season.
  • Store solid manures and slurries well away from growing areas.
  • Avoid contamination of growing crops e.g. from aerosol and windborne drift during manure spreading, or by runoff from adjacent fields where manure has been spread.
  • Ensure water sources used on the farm are not contaminated with pathogens.
  • Ensure all equipment (including vehicles) is clean.
  • Keep livestock out of cropped areas.

Stage 3: After Harvest

  • Ensure all equipment (including vehicles) is clean.
  • Only use potable water for washing produce and transportation flumes.
  • Keep livestock away from packing and storage areas.
  • Ensure staff observe good hygiene practices.

Stage 4: General Management

  • Include manure handling, storage and application in your assessment and control of microbiological hazards, and COSHH assessment.
  • Record all manure applications on a field by field basis.
  • Make all manure applications according to guidelines in the relevant Codes of Good Agricultural Practice (Water, Air, Soil).

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