NC Fresh Produce Safety’s 10-Point Checklist for Transportation

This checklist provides guidance in looking at preloading and loading conditions prior to transporting produce


NSF Davis Fresh’s Farm Evaluation

This evaluation walks through possible scenarios which a third party auditor may encounter on a GAPs certification audit and provides possible solutions to the issues.

NSF Davis Fresh Farm-Ranch Audit Checklist-1

Food transporters have food safety guidance

Guidance for Industry – Sanitary Transportation of Food

This guidance document sets forth FDA’s current thoughts on guidance for food transporters.   I have highlighted a few areas and the whole document is linked above.  NC MarketReady Fresh Produce Safety Curriculum – Tier 2 training include this guidance in ongoing trainings across NC ( to find a training near you, visit under “Trainings & Events”).

In the discussion,  problem areas for contamination  (physical, chemical, or biological)  during food transport are highlighted:

  • Improper refrigeration or temperature control of food products (temperature abuse).
  • Improper management of transportation units (or storage facilities used during transport) to preclude cross-contamination, including improper sanitation, backhauling hazardous materials, not maintaining tanker wash records, improper disposal of wastewater, and aluminum phosphide fumigation methods in railcar transit;
  • Improper packing of transportation units (or storage facilities used during transport), including incorrect use of packing materials and poor pallet quality;
  • Improper loading practices, conditions, or equipment, including improper sanitation of loading equipment, not using dedicated units where appropriate, inappropriate loading patterns, and transporting mixed loads that increase the risk for cross-contamination;
  • Improper unloading practices, conditions, or equipment, including improper sanitation of equipment and leaving raw materials on loading docks after hours;
  • Poor pest control in transportation units (or storage facilities used during transport);
  • Lack of driver/employee training and/or supervisor/manager/owner knowledge of food safety and/or security;
  • Poor transportation unit design and construction;
  • Inadequate preventive maintenance for transportation units (or storage facilities used during transport), resulting in roof leaks, gaps in doors, and dripping condensation or ice accumulations;
  • Poor employee hygiene;
  • Inadequate policies for the safe and/or secure transport (or storage during transport) of foods, e.g., lack of or improper use of security seals;
  • Improper handling and tracking of rejected loads and salvaged, reworked, and returned products or products destined for disposal; and
  • Improper holding practices for food products awaiting shipment or inspection, including unattended product, delayed holding of product, shipping of product while in quarantine, and poor rotation and throughput.

Recommendations on priority areas for transporter to concentrate efforts include:

  • To address some of the problems enumerated above, we recommend that persons engaged in food transport concentrate their efforts at this time on the following, broadly applicable preventive controls:
  • Appropriate temperature control during transport;
  • Sanitation, including:
    • Monitoring and ensuring the sanitation and condition of transportation vehicles as appropriate;
    • Pest control; and
    • Sanitation associated with loading/unloading procedures;
  • Appropriate packaging/packing of food products and transportation units (e.g., good quality pallets, correct use of packing materials);
  • Good communications between shipper, transporter and receiver; and
  • Employee awareness and training.

Frequently Asked Questions from Farms going through GAPs Audit

Q1: What measures can be taken to deter animals from fields? 

If we see evidence of animals or the physical presences of animals, what are acceptable actions?

What can we do about deterring animals in the pack house (birds, etc)?


 A1: a sample food safety plan has been put together to help growers navigate through some of the details on the 3rd party audits.  You may want to look at website: , under the Food Safety plans the document called “Good Agricultural Practices – Fresh Produce Safety Plan for Field Practices” for some examples of how to deter animals and what some documentation might look like for the field.   Remember that is helpful to identify the risk first, then identify and manage that risk with the various tools that you might have in your particular toolkit!  In the field, SOP 6/0 Animals/Wildlife might have some good suggestions for you.  As far as deterring animals in the packhouse, some general suggestions include the use of bird netting, management of garbage or refuse that will attach animals, active pest management traps and scouting.  Idaho Center for Potato Research &Education has a potato plan reference that might be helpful (, click on the “SOP Appendix”.  Also University of Maine has a good resource for the “Packing House Facility” (


Some additional resources that might be helpful for potatoes:$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex1250/$file/258_65-1.pdf?OpenElement


Q2: Can you clarify/distinguish between what is meant by Climate control vs refrigeration systems in the USDA audit matrix  ( 4-19, 4-20, 4-21)? 

A2: Climate control typically can refer to controlled atmosphere (CA) storage, modified atmosphere (MA) storage and gas storage were the addition or removal of gases resulting in an atmospheric composition different from that of normal air.  The levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, acetaldehyde  and ethanol can be manipulated in these systems.  This reference might be helpful to help you distinguish your storage practices.

The way that you described your refrigeration would be called forced-air and is very typical.  This publication can help you to understand better the best management practices with this method of cooling.


Q3: Traceability  – what is needed?

A3:   Generally speaking, One step forward and one step back sums it up.

•        A documented traceback program has been established.

•        Finished product is traceable to:

–        the packing house

–       a group of growers/the specific grower

–       a group of orchards or fields/to the specific orchard or field.

–       a group of harvest dates/a specific harvest date

–       a packing date.

•        The operation has performed a “mock recall” that was proven to be effective.

•        Grower

•        Uniquely identify all growers in a value chain

•        Machine readable (barcode or RFID)

•        And human readable (growers name, address)

–       Specific Field location (Premises ID)

•        Coordinates (get a map of your fields online)

•        Use the Farm Service Agency numbers

–       Assign a Product ID for each commodity

–       Identify each picker or group of pickers

–       Date of harvest (and time of day)

–       Date of pack


The Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) has some good ground rules for the entire fresh produce supply chain to allow for both internal and external traceability- getting everybody to speak the same language.  This might be a valuable resource to consider as you develop your own traceability system.   Check out the website of  We have also provided a structure for traceability in our Tier 2 & 3 trainings which can be found on under “ Trainings & Events”.


Q4: What are the water testing parameters that I need to be looking at?  When do I need to take corrective actions? 

A4: It is important to understand the types of tests available to obtain the bacteria count first.  There are generally three different water tests are available at most labs:
Total coliform
Fecal coliform
The recommended generic E. coli test.*

*It is important to understand the difference and to request the generic E. coli test that is quantitative.
Total coliform bacteria are microbes found in the digestive systems of warm-blooded animals, in soil, on plants and in surface water. Fecal coliform bacteria are a kind of total coliform. The feces (or stool) and digestive systems of humans and warm-blooded animals contain millions of fecal coliforms. E. coli is part of the fecal coliform group and may be tested for by itself, such as with the recommended generic E. coli test.

Tests can indicate either a minimal reading of presence and/or absence or can quantify the amount of the pathogen’s presence. These quantitative tests are what you should be looking for with results measured in MPN (most probable number) or CFU (colony forming units).

Standards for microbiological testing of IRRIGATION WATER for
generic /E. coli/ are as follows ( in accordance with the
Clean Water Act of 1972 /Bacterial Water Quality Standards for
Recreational Waters (Freshwater and Marine Waters/ and the
Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Guidance):

1.  Where edible portions of the crop ARE NOT contacted by water
Acceptable Criteria: Single Sample: less than or equal to 576 MPN/100 per mL
Acceptable Criteria: Geometric mean of 5 samples: less than or equal to 126 MPN/100 mL

2.  Where edible portions of the crop ARE contacted by water
Acceptable Criteria: Single Sample: less than or equal to 235 MPN/100 mL
Acceptable Criteria: Geometric mean of 5 samples: less than or equal to 126 MPN/100 mL

Standards for microbiological testing of Postharvest/Processing Water are as follows:
Water in direct contact with produce should meet EPA  MCLG (maximum contaminant level goal) microbial drinking water quality standards.  Acceptable Criteria: Generic E. coli negative test or below detection limit and MCLG for total coliform in drinking water is zero

Additional information that might be helpful to know from the lab is: Water collection protocol, test results turnaround time and how test results are relayed to you.

Growers are encouraged to find local laboratories that can run the generic E. coli tests. Using the local phone book, look under “Water Testing.”

Q5: What is the acceptable PPM of chlorine for potatoes, pH, and temperature?


A5: A good general resource for potatoes is
Rule of thumb is generally a range of 100-150 PPM of free chlorine, but accepted chlorine ppm level for dump tanks can vary depending on produce.  Dr. Trevor Suslow has a nice paper on parameters associated with chlorine use in dump tanks at:
In this paper the parameters to measure include free chlorine (PPM), temperature (F/C),  pH, and contact time in the dump tank.  As far as what kind of chlorine test strips to use, the growers can get chlorine and pH strips at the local pool supply place ( as well as K-mart, Walmart, and Target).  Temperature can be taken with a regular thermometer and temperature should be appropriate for the particular commodity.  General postharvest handling parameters which can be found at :
As far as how to mix up your dump tank for the required ppm, it depends on the chlorine produce you use and the %Acitive ingredient.  Florida has a nice publication on how to do this with different products in 100 gal tanks.
Temperature of the wash water (dump tank, flume, spray bar)  is important as a gradient can be established that would allow for potential contaminants to be infiltrated.  Water temperature should be maintained within 10 degrees F of the product’s pulp temperature to discourage this gradient formation.

Three farms who participated in the NC Fresh Produce Safety Initiative

Below you will find three case studies documenting North Carolina farmers’s experiences who have participated in the NC Fresh Produce Safety Initiative. The following farms are of varying sizes and represent various commodities. By attending GAPs training these farms  prepared for certification and also strengthened their ability to respond to market demands, food safety costs, and unforseen situations such as an outbreak.  Here are the stories of Cold Mountain, Patterson’s and Cane Creek Valley Farms.

Patterson Farm_CaseStudy2010

Cold Mountain_CaseStudy2010

Cane Creek Valley Farm_CaseStudy2010

Mock Audit Video taking a Small Farm through a GAPs Audit

This project received funding from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.

Here is an educational video directed at small growers.  We held a mock  audit at  CEFS in 2010  and placed
it into this video showing some typical areas  of concerns for small farms that are wanting to get GAPs certified.

The video can easily be viewed at

For more information about the NC Fresh Produce Safety Initiative
visit: or contact Diane Ducharme, GAPs Program
Coordinator ( 

GAPs Worker Training Requested by Growers

GAPs Worker Training Requested by

This project received funding from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.

 Non-English speaking employees represent the majority of North Carolina’s farm labor force. Growers have requested a versatile and easily adaptable training tool that can be used during their informal morning meetings to continually educate their workforce with language appropriate materials and visuals pertinent to agricultural work conditions.   A series of eight videos available in English and Spanish have been created covering the topics of:

  • Video 1- Worker Health and Hygiene Training

English Version.

Español Version.

  • Video 2-  Hand Washing Training

English Version.
Español Version.

  • Video 3- Sanitary and Hand Washing Facilities Training

English  Version.
Español Version.

  • Video 4-  Cross Contamination Training

English  Version.

Español Version.

  • Video 5-   Cleaning and Sanitation Practices Training

English Version.
Español Version.

  • Video 6- Wash Water Monitoring  Training

English Version.

Español Version.

  • Video 7- Proper Food Safety  Practices in the Home Training

English Version.

Español Version.

  • Video 8- Infield Practices   Training

English  Version.

Español Version.



These videos can easily be viewed on YouTube (as linked above)  and on  DVDs.

 For more information about the NC Fresh Produce Safety Initiative
visit:  or contact Diane Ducharme, GAPs Program
Coordinator ( 

Direct Market Display Checklist

Risks include Produce Safety and Liability issues.  In this document  is a list of risk factors and best management practices to consider.   For each question, indicate your risk level in the right-hand column. Although some choices may not correspond exactly to your situation, choose the response that best fits.


What is GAPs and How do I get started?

What is GAPs and How do I get started

This document defines what Good Agricultural Practices are and offers advice on where to begin.

The Spread of Superbugs

Nicholas Kristof’s article featured in The New York Times looks at the presence of antibiotics within our food system.  He notes that “more antibiotics are fed to livestock in North Carolina along than are given to humans in the U.S.”