Food Safety

General Food Safety Information and GAPs

When growing food for consumption, you are responsible for the safety of your product.  All farmers want to serve their customers safe food, and many food safety measures are common sense, but you need to make sure everyone who works, or volunteers follow them consistently on your farm.  On farm food safety requires assessment, planning, and management in order to ensure consumer protection.  If you are in the beginning stages of considering food safety concerns on your farm, see the Step-by-step Introduction to Food Safety found at  This publication provides a quick overview of the steps to take throughout the growing season to prevent microbial, chemical, and physical sources of food borne illness.

For more in-depth information see Food Safety Begins on the Farm: Good Agricultural Practices for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, a Grower’s Guide from the Cornell Good Agricultural Practices Program. Good Agricultural Practices, or GAPs, are a set of guidelines and recommendations meant to improve the safety and quality of your produce. The GAPs regarding the safety of your product focus on preventing microbial contamination from soil, water, hands, and surfaces throughout the production and processing stages. On top of a short introduction on consumer concerns and an overview of foodborne illnesses, this publication discusses steps a grower should take towards minimizing risk of foodborne illness from preseason planning to postharvest handling. Record keeping and knowing the potential sources of illness e.g. manure, water, hygiene are also discussed.


On top of GAPs, cleaning and sanitizing procedures are an important component of preventing microbial contamination on your farm. On Farm Food Safety: Guide to Cleaning and Sanitizing out of the Iowa State University Extension includes an overview on cleaning and sanitizing during production, harvesting, and packaging. This publication also includes information on how to choose a sanitizer, and a sample form for both monitoring sanitizer effectiveness and a cleaning schedule. For specific information regarding sanitation during the postharvest production stage, see the section on Postharvest Management.

Urban Farm Food Safety Considerations

If you are interested in starting, or currently operate an urban farm, see the publication Brownfields and Urban Agriculture: Interim Guidelines for Safe Gardening Practices. This guidebook is a result from input of 60 experts in 2010 who gathered in Chicago to discuss “the range of issues which need to be addressed in order to safely grow food on former brownfield sites”. In other words, when talking about environmental contamination, how clean is clean relating to food production in urban areas? Three major issues came out of the discussion and are covered in this resource. They are: the history and past uses of the site in question, options for testing and cleaning up the site so one can garden safely, and the gap between clean up standards regarding health safety and the often lacking consumption related health standards.

Other Resources and Citations

Many state extension services and local non-profit organizations provide information and training related to food safety. To locate these, contact your local extension office, state university or state department of agriculture.

Ellis, Jason, Dan Henroid, Catherine Strohbehn, and Lester Wilson. 2004. On Farm Food Safety: Guide to Good Agriculture Practices (GAPs). Iowa State University Extension

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2011. Brownfields and Urban Agriculture: Interim Guidelines for Safe Gardening Practices. United States Environmental Protection Agency Step-by-step Introduction to Food Safety. Accessed at <>

Henroid, Dan, Catherine Strohbehn, Jason Ellis, Aubrey Mendonca. 2004. On Farm Food Safety: Guide to Clean and Sanitizing. Iowa State University Extension

Krokowski, Kristin. 2014. To Eat or Not to Eat? Less-than-Perfect Garden Produce. University of Wisconsin-Extension

Rangarajan, Anusuya, Elizabeth A. Bihn, Robert B. Gravani, Donna L. Scott, and Marvin P. Pritts. 2003. Food Safety Begins on the Farm: Good Agricultural Practices for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, a Grower’s Guide. Cornell Good Agricultural Practices Program