An Assessment of Produce Growers’ Sanitizer Knowledge and Practices on the Correct Use of Sanitizers

Vaishali Dharmarha, Renee R. Boyer, Laura K. Strawn, Tiffany A. Drape, Joell Eifert, Amber D. Vallotton, Amy Pruden, Monica A. Ponder

Biblographic citation: Food Protection Trends, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 140-146, May 2020

Volume 40, Issue 3: Pages 140–146

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Sanitizer use in post-harvest produce washing is a common practice to reduce microbial contamination of wash water, reducing transfer and dispersal of pathogenic bacteria on fresh produce. Understanding growers’ sanitizer-use knowledge and current practices may guide development of educational materials and thus fill knowledge gaps. A survey examining sanitizer-use practices was delivered to produce growers in Virginia representing very small (48%), small (35%) and large (17%) farms. Eighty-two percent of respondents used some type of wash system to wash their produce. Chlorine was the most common sanitizer used (75%), most commonly delivered through a spray bar (40%). Over 34% of growers used concentrations of sanitizer that did not fall within the recommended concentration range for the specific use or were unsure of the sanitizer’s concentration. Generally, extension agents and growers’ meetings were the preferred sources of education (78%). Results demonstrate the importance of extension as a delivery system for fresh produce growers. Often, sanitizer-use education, although part of extension food safety trainings, is not the primary focus. To increase the percentage of growers using correct concentrations/application, more targeted, in-depth education on improved sanitizer use in pre- or post-harvest wash water may be necessary.

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