A contribution from Amanda Fuxman – Safe Nature S.R.L. (*)
Today’s tendency towards a greater consumption of fresh products is unquestionable, like it is also the influence of food diet on human health. Health organizations from around the world recommend to increase the consumption of fruits, vegetables and cereals, and to reduce the consumption of high fat food in order to maintain an adequate body weight and to avoid high levels of cholesterol. Although the benefits of fruits and vegetables have been demonstrated, there are antecedents of outbreaks of diseases transmitted by them. The fresh products represent a medium-low risk group in comparison with meat, fish and poultry with regard to food poisoning; nevertheless today is the consumer who demands high-quality and innocuous vegetable products.
Quality is a group of characteristics that shape its identity on the basis of objective and subjective facts:
ORGANOLEPTIC: sense, flavor, texture, etc.
COMMERCIAL: price, container, arrangement in gondola, customer services, labeled of the product, traceability, etc.
INNOCUOUNESS: basic condition for human health safety, it is no negotiable.
NUTRITIONAL: supply of nutrients, labeling of the nutritive value, ingredients, energetic levels, additives, etc.
Quality is the satisfaction of the demands and taste of the consumer.
Fresh products like the fruit cultivated in the open air, where animals, insects and man can carry pathogens to the crop and cause contamination. At the same time, an inadequate handling of the product in any phase of the chain can aggravate this, in the productive stage, as well as in the post-harvesting, commercialization and consumption stage.
The growing global commerce increases the exposure of fresh food to pathogens and it also increases the expansion possibilities of some epidemics, for example: cholera, hepatitis, etc.
Which are the contamination factors?
Bad quality water.
Lack of training in the hygienic health conditions of handling of food by the workers.
Inadequate facilities and equipment and lack of a suitable program for hygiene and disinfection.
Presence of animals in areas of packing, storage, process, etc.
Alterations of different kinds: a) physiological alterations caused by cold or heat, exposure to gases, etc, b) biochemical alterations caused by the postharvesting handling, giving origin to browning, unpleasant smells and degradation of texture, and c) microbial alterations produced by the postharvesting physiological ripening.
All the good practices in the handling of fruit products are directed towards quality, improvement of the characteristics of freshness, prolongation of the useful life of the fruit, etc.
This objective, among others, is what it is intended to be obtained by means of optimum uses of systems of good agricultural practices, process from cultivation to harvesting, manufacture packing, process, conservation and commerce. Taking into account the mentioned above and considering the tendencies and international and national demands, it is fundamental to adequate the norms of good Practices of Hygiene, Agriculture, Manufacture and the Systems of Control, to assure the quality and innocuousness of our fruits.
These practices cover all the phases from primary production cultivation-postharvesting Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), to packing, storage and transport of the fresh fruit that corresponds to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). The Health Standardized Operative Procedure (POE’S) must be also included.
Each of these practices mentioned above imply the control of the totality of the processes from the raw materials that are the base of the chain of added value, quality and innocuousness; to the setting of products in gondola.
These tools contribute to the assurance of quality in food production, obtaining safe, healthy and innocuous fruit for human consumption.
Likewise, these quality management systems allow: to shape a system of controls and registers from the farm to the consumer, covering the whole product chain; to obtain the food traceability and the standards of quality required by the clients; to differentiate the products and impose the brand; to reach a better position in the most demanding markets, getting better prices; to reinforce the commercial position with the clients; and to facilitate the access to new markets, supermarkets, consumers, and to whoever wants to buy with confidence.
The Agricultural Good Practices (GAP) are a tool that identifies the basic principles of hygiene for fresh fruit products from primary production to harvesting, reducing the crop contamination that could put in danger the innocuousness of the fruit or the aptitud for consumption in posterior stages of the food chain.
The Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) are a basic tool to obtain safe products for human consumption. These practices focus in the hygiene and in the way of handling the product during the packing, storage, transport, and its industrialization if need.
The success in the implementation of the Good Agricultural Practices is owed to the existence of an adequate system of Documentation that permits to follow the steps of a product from the entry of the raw material to the distribution of the final product.
These good practices are fundamental and basic for the future application of the Hazard Analisys and Critical Control Points (HACCP), or a program of Total Quality Management TQM, or a quality program like ISO9000. They will allow us to achieve the levels of foreign producers and cover the requirements of the most demanding markets, therefore the ones that pay the better prices. The Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOP) are procedures that are applied before, during and after the elaboration operations. The conservation of the fresh fruit quality depends on the hygienic conditions, for example of boxes and containers used for recollection and transport.
A fundamental characteristic of the SSOP, is the possibility of answering immediately to flaws in the product quality, owed to hygiene problems. We must remember that a good system of SSOP and BPM minimize the outbreak of these flaws, reducing costs that are frequently hidden.
As complementary information, look relevant aspects of the article on quality published in the Forrajes y Granos magazine. August 2000, Magazine Carnes y Tendencias. August 2000, newspaper Ambito Financiero, Farming supplement. Argentina, 08/11/00.
|(*) Amanda Fuxman - SAFE NATURE S.R.L.|
|TE: 54 11 15 5806 4594 -|