Aerobic composting – the biochemical decomposition of organic matter in sewage sludge or manure into carbon dioxide and water by microorganisms in the presence of air.
Agricultural water – water used in the growing environment (for example: field, vineyard or orchard) for agronomic reasons. It includes water used for irrigation, transpiration control (cooling), frost protection, or as a carrier for fertilizers and pesticides. Typical sources of agricultural water include flowing surface waters from rivers, streams, irrigation ditches, open canals, impoundments (such as ponds, reserviors and lakes), wells and municipal supplies.
Agricultural worker – any person that undertakes cultivation, packing or harvesting of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Anaerobic composting – the biochemical decomposition of organic matter in sewage sludge or manure into methane gas and carbon dioxide and water by microorganisms in the absence of air.
Broadcast – to apply fertilizer in all directions by scattering.
Buffer strip – also referred to as a filter strip. A strip of permanent vegetation of sufficient width and vegetative density adjacent to or near a susceptible target area to provide protection from microbial contamination through water. The vegetation retards the flow of runoff water, causing the flowing water to deposit silt.
CAFO – Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Animals (other than aquatic animals) have been, are or will be stabled or confined and fed or maintained for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period, and crops, vegetation, forage growth or postharvest residues are not sustained in the normal growing season over any portion of the lot or facility.
Chemigation – the application of chemicals through irrigation systems. Chemicals applied in this method include pesticides and fertilizers (sometimes called fertigation).
Chlorine – the chemical element Cl. A greenish-yellow gaseous element used in water purification as a disinfectant.
Clean – food or food-contact surfaces are washed and rinsed and are visually free of dust, dirt, food residues and other debris.
Cleaning – the removal of all foreign material (such as soil, organic matter) from objects. Cleaning is normally accomplished with water, mechanical action and detergents or enzymatic products. Failure to remove foreign matter (such as soil) from an object before disinfection or sterilization is likely to render the process ineffective.
Cold chain – the maintenance of proper cooling temperatures throughout the food system (farm to fork) for fruits and vegetables to ensure product safety and quality.
Compost – the product of a managed process (treatment, turning, etc) through which microorganisms break down plant and animal materials into more available forms suitable for application to the soil as a fertilizer. According to EPA, compost must be produced through a process that combines plant and animal materials with an initial Carbon:Nitrogen ratio of between 25:1 and 40:1. Producers using an in-vessel or static aerated pile system must maintain the composting materials at a temperature between 131 degrees F and 170 degrees F for 3 days. Producers using a windrow system must maintain the composting materials at a temperature between 131 degrees F and 170 degrees F for 15 days, during which time the materials must be turned a minimum of five times.
Compost Tea – liquid preparation made using compost as a starting material, used as a foliar application to combat plant pathogens or supplement plant nutrients.
Contaminant – any biological or chemical agent, foreign matter, or other substance not intentionally added that, when found on or in produce, can cause human illness or injury.
Control – (a) to manage the conditions of an operation in order to be consistent with established criteria, and (b) to follow correct procedures and meet established criteria.
Control measure – any action or activity that can be used to prevent, reduce or eliminate a microbiological hazard.
Conveyor – a mechanical device for carrying material from one point to another.
Critical Control Point – a point, step or procedure at which control can be applied and food safety hazards can be prevented, eliminated or reduced.
Deterioration – for produce, deterioration can be used interchangeably with spoilage. When applied to non-food products such as packaging materials, deterioration is a physical or chemical change in the material that may adversely affect the safety of the product.
Disinfection – the reduction, by means of chemical agents or physical methods, of the number of microorganisms in the environment, to a level that does not compromise food safety or suitability. The effectiveness of disinfection is affected by a number of factors, each of which may nullify or limit the efficiency of the process. Some of the factors that have been shown to affect disinfection effectiveness are the previous cleaning of the object, the organic load on the object, the type and level of microbial contamination, the concentration of and exposure time to the disinfectant, the physical configuration of the object (such as crevices), and the temperature and pH of the disinfection process.
Drift – the physical movement of prohibited substances from the intended target site onto an organic operation or portion thereof.
Drip/trickle irrigation – watering plants so that only soil in the plant’s immediate vicinity is moistened. Water is supplied from a thin plastic tube at a low flow rate. It is the most efficient use of water for irrigation and also reduces the chance of pathogens because the entire plant is not wetted, thereby denying moisture to the microorganisms.
Fertilizer – a single or blended substance containing one or more recognized plant nutrient which is used primarily for its plant nutrient content and which is designed for use or claimed to have value in promoting plant growth.
Field packing – packing produce directly from the field into market containers for commercial distribution and sale.
Float/soak tank – tanks filled with water and cleansing agents to clean produce.
Food-contact surfaces – those surfaces that contact fresh produce and those surfaces from which drainage onto the produce or onto surfaces that contact the produce may occur during the normal course of operations. Food-contact surfaces include equipment such as containers and conveyor belts that contact fresh produce used in harvesting, postharvest handling and packing operations. It would not include tractors, forklifts, handtrucks and pallets that are used for handling or storing large quantities of contained or packed fresh produce and that do not come into actual contact with the food.
Food quality – the composite of those characteristics that differentiate individual units of a product and have significance in determining the degree of acceptability by the buyer.
Food safety – the practical certainty that injury or damage will not result from a food or ingredient used in a reasonable and customary manner and quantity.
Foodborne disease – the occurrence of illness resulting from the ingestion of food. Gastrointestinal tract symptoms are the most common clinical manifestations of foodborne illnesses. Foodborne illnesses can be caused by microorganisms and their toxins, marine organisms and their toxins, fungi and their related toxins and chemical contaminants.
Forced-air cooling – a fan powered cooling system which exposes packages of produce in a cooling room to higher air pressure on one side than on the other forcing the cool air through the packages and past the produce for heat transfer from the produce.
Fresh fruit and vegetables – fresh produce that is likely to be sold to consumers in an unprocessed or minimally processed (raw) form. Fresh produce may be intact, such as strawberries, whole carrots, radishes and fresh market tomatoes or cut during harvesting, such as celery, broccoli and cauliflower.
Furrow irrigation – irrigation system by which a crop field is partly flooded with water, and some parts of the plant may not be in contact with water.
Good manufacturing practices (GMPs) – general practices to reduce microbial food safety hazards used in sorting, packing, storage and transportation operations.
Gravity irrigation – water that moves through soils under the influence of gravity. It is distinguished from a pumped supply of water.
Gray water – wastewater, collected separately from a sewage flow that originates from a clothes washer, bathtub, shower or sink, but it does not include wastewater from a kitchen sink, dishwasher or toilet.
Ground water – water below the land surface in the saturated zone.
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) – a system that identifies, evaluates and controls hazards that are significant for food safety.
Hydrocooling – a cooling process accomplished by flooding the produce with large volumes of chilled water, normally in a hydro-cooler designed specifically for that purpose.
Hygiene – the science of health and the prevention of disease. Conditions and practices (such as handwashing) promoting or preserving health.
Manure aging – storage and management of manure, often reaching heat pasteurization temperatures, similar to composting but in a less controlled manner.
Manure tea – liquid preparation made using manure as a starting material, used as a foliar application to combat plant pathogens or supplement plant nutrients.
Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) – product safety information sheets prepared by manufacturers and marketers. An MSDS lists the ingredients in a hazardous product, its manufacturer, its hazards to safety and health and precautions to follow when using it. These sheets can be obtained by requesting them from the manufacturer. Some stores, such as hardware stores, may have material safety data sheets for products they sell.
Microbial hazard – occurrence of a microorganism that has the potential to cause illness or injury.
Microorganisms – include yeasts, molds, bacteria, protozoa, helminths (worms) and viruses. Occasionally, the term “microbe” or “microbial” is used instead of the term microorganisms.
Mobile packing unit – a piece of equipment that moves slowly through the field allowing workers to harvest and pack produce as it progresses.
Mulch – any nonsynthetic material, such as wood chips, leaves or straw, or any synthetic material included on the National List for such use, such as newspaper or plastic that serves to suppress weed growth, moderate soil temperature or conserve soil moisture.
Municipal water – water that has been treated to satisfy water quality municipal standards for consumer use.
Operator – the person or persons who have day-to-day responsibility for the production, harvesting, washing, sorting, cooling, packaging, shipping or transportation of fresh fruits and vegetables, and responsibility for management of all employees who are involved in each of these activities.
Organic matter – the remains, residues or waste products of any organism.
Organic production – a production system that is managed in accordance with the National Organic Program and regulations to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.
Overhead sprinkler system – overhead application of water to a crop by any of a wide range of systems, such as center pivot. The entire plant is wetted.
Packing facility – in many instances fresh produce is harvested in one location and transported to a central facility for cleaning and packing into market containers. The size of the packing facility can range from a small on-farm shed to a large commercial plant.
Pathogen – a microorganism capable of causing disease or injury.
Pest – any animal or insect of public health importance including, but not limited to, birds, rodents, cockroaches, flies and larvae that may carry pathogens that can contaminate food.
pH – the measure of acidity or alkalinity of a food product. It is expressed on a scale from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Below pH 7 is considered acid (citrus fruits, for example) while above pH 7 is defined as alkaline (peas and corn, for example).
Potable water – water that meets the quality standards of drinking water.
Primary production – those steps involved in the growing and harvesting of fresh fruits and vegetables such as planting, irrigation, application of fertilizers and application of agricultural chemicals.
Processing water – water used for postharvest treatment of produce, such as washing, cooling, waxing and product transport.
Produce contact surfaces – surfaces of equipment with which fruits and vegetables come into contact.
Reclaimed water – water from industrial or domestic sources has been treated through a wastewater facility to reduce microbiological, chemical and physical contaminants, according to its intended use.
Risk – an estimate of the likelihood of occurrence of a hazard.
Risk assessment – the scientific approach to determine magnitude of a risk. It involves 1) hazard identification (information about the pathogen/toxin and the food in question), 2) hazard characterization (severity and duration of disease, dose-response), 3) exposure assessment and 4) risk characterization (combines the above information to give a complete picture of the risk). Results in a risk estimate that is an indication of the level of disease (for example, number of cases per 100,000 per year) resulting from a given exposure.
Runoff – rainwater, leachate or other liquid that drains overland on any part of a land surface and runs off of the land surface.
Sanitize – to treat clean produce by a process that is effective in destroying or substantially reducing the numbers of microorganisms of public health concern, as well as undesirable microorganisms, without adversely affecting the quality of the product or the safety of the consumer.
Sewage effluent – water that results from treating wastewater (for example, after preliminary, primary, secondary or tertiary treatment).
Slushed ice cooling – the packing of produce where alternate layers of ice and the commodity are placed in a shipping box or crate. A preferred cooling method for many types of extremely perishable produce items that not only removes heat rapidly when first applied to produce but continues to absorb heat as it melts.
Soil amendment – soil conditioners (materials that make the soil more suitable for the growth of plants with a carbon/nitrogen ratio greater than 30) or fertilizers (materials that supply essential elements to improve productivity of plants with a carbon/nitrogen ratio of less than 20). These materials may be made of lime, gypsum, sulphur, compost, woodwaste, peat, manure, fertilizers or nonagricultural waste.
Spoilage – a process whereby food quality and/or food safety is rendered unacceptable through microbial or chemical reaction.
Subirrigation – water supplied to the soil (from ditches or through underground tile lines, perforated pipe lines or by natural subsoil moisture) in sufficient amounts to maintain a water table sufficiently close to the soil surface to supply adequate water quantities for crop needs.
Synthetic – a substance that is formulated or manufactured by a chemical process or by a process that chemically changes a substance extracted from naturally occurring plant, animal or mineral sources, except that such term shall not apply to substances created by naturally occurring biological processes.
Vacuum cooling – a cooling system where the product is put into a vacuum chamber and the atmospheric pressure is lowered. As water evaporates, the heat of vaporization quickly removes heat from the product. Commonly used for leafy vegetables, such as lettuce.
Wastewater treatment – process by which raw municipal wastewater (for example water from domestic or industrial sources) is treated to achieve a certain level of chemical and microbiological quality (that is, reclaimed water). It commonly consists of a sequential series of processes: preliminary, primary, secondary, disinfection and advanced processes. The preliminary process consists of the physical processes of screening, comminuting, grit removal, flocculation, odor control, chemical treatment and pre-aeration. The primary treatment is a physical treatment process to remove settleable organic and inorganic solids by sedimentation and floating materials by skimming. The secondary treatment utilizes an aerobic biological treatment process by which microorganisms oxidize the organic matter – for the removal of organic matter, and, in some cases, nitrogen and phosphorus. A significant amount of heavy metals, biochemical and chemical oxygen demand, and suspended solids are removed. The disinfection process is the most important process for the destruction of microorganisms. Chlorine is the most common disinfectant used, although ozone and ultraviolet light may also be used. Advanced wastewater treatment are used when a high quality reclaimed water is necessary, as for irrigation of food crops eaten raw. They comprised a filtration, nitrification, denitrification, phosphorus removal, coagulation-sedimentation and carbon adsorption.