A while has passed since the last outbreak of a foodborne illness struck and made the news and events like this one have resulted in new policies and regulations for produce handlers, growers, packers, etc. getting created in California. See Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (LGMA) for additional details.
“In 2007 California farmers came together to raise the bar for food safety. As a result the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA) was formed. Members of the LGMA are working collaboratively to protect public health by reducing potential sources of contamination in California-grown leafy greens.
To date nearly 120 handlers, representing over 99% of the volume of California leafy greens, have joined the LGMA. These companies have committed themselves to sell products grown in compliance with the food safety practices accepted by the LGMA board. LGMA membership requires verification of compliance with the accepted food safety practices through mandatory government audits. These food safety practices were developed by university and industry scientists, food safety experts and farmers, shippers and processors. California leafy greens are now grown under a unique system that has become a model for leafy green growers in other states.” ( source )
What does any of this have to do with water testing? Quite a bit, actually.
- All fresh produce gets rinsed several times during processing with water containing some form of disinfectant. At the end of each rinsing stage, the water must used must get tested to make sure it still has a certain amount of residual disinfectant. This helps to ‘guarantee’ the cleanliness of the product.
- The machinery and equipment (bins, conveyor belts, cutting tools, etc.) used during the processing of the fresh produce must get washed down thoroughly with water containing a certain concentration of sanitizer and then rinsed clean w/ sanitizer-free water until all traces of sanitizer have been removed.
- Gloves, boots, etc. worn by the staff working in produce packing houses must get sanitized with, and later rinsed clean of, sanitizers.
Commonly used sanitizers and disinfectants in the food preparation/processing industries include chlorine, chlorine dioxide, quaternary ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, and ozone.