Survey Of Current Water Use Practices On Fresh Fruit And Vegetable Farms And Evaluation Of Microbiological Quality Of Surface Waters Intended For Fresh Produce Production

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Fruits and vegetables are a delicious and nutritious food source enjoyed worldwide. Most produce is grown in fields, under open skies, where human pathogens could be present and then transferred to fresh produce during production, harvesting, and packing resulting in contamination. Consumption of contaminated fresh produce can result in produce-associated foodborne illnesses as has been documented multiple times over the last three decades in commodities such as spinach, tomatoes, lettuce, melons, and peppers to name a few. Fresh fruits and vegetables that are eaten raw, receive no treatment that would remove or kill bacteria, viruses or other microorganisms that may be present. Thus the focus for reducing produce-associated foodborne illnesses is on preventing contamination before it occurs. Understanding risks that exist on farms and in packinghouses and developing Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) that reduce these risks are critical to preventing contamination. The studies in this dissertation focus on fruit and vegetable production as it relates to food safety, with an emphasis on water management practices especially from surface water sources. Specifically, a grower survey was conducted to assess on-farm practices related to the use of surface water sources during the production of fruits and vegetables because surface water represents a potential microbial hazard, particularly if it is applied directly to the edible portion of the plant during irrigation, frost protection or the application of protective topical sprays. Samples from surface water sources on farms throughout New York and Tennessee were analyzed for water quality indicators such as quantified generic E.coli, specific conductance, turbidity, and pH with a subgroup of samples analyzed for Salmonella spp. as another means of assessing risk. This resulted in a better understanding of produce safety issues, particularly those related to the use of surface water during production to guide the practical implementation of food safety practices on farms and in packinghouses based on current, relevant scientific data. Reducing contamination risks through science-based risk assessment and the implementation of GAPs to reduce identified risks are effective and practical approaches that can be utilized by all growers to help ensure safe fresh fruits and vegetables.
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Good Agricultural Practices; Surface water; Fruits and Vegetables
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Worobo, Randy W.
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Gravani, Robert Bernard
Reiners, Stephen
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Food Science and Technology
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Ph. D., Food Science and Technology
Degree Level
Doctor of Philosophy
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Government Document
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dissertation or thesis
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