Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Food, Nutrition, and Culinary Science
Angela M Fraser
Strawberries are the fifth most demanded fruit in the United States, with most eaten raw. Fresh strawberries are prone to on-farm contamination as evident by the number of foodborne disease outbreaks attributed to their consumption. Between 1997 and 2017, 32 strawberry-related outbreaks were reported, sickening 933 U.S. Americans. Proper implementation of risk management practices (RMP) can decrease strawberry exposure to foodborne pathogens. Most U.S. strawberry farms consist of very small-size operations, presenting unique challenges for implementing RMP. On-farm environmental assessments on small strawberry farms can be used to identify factors associated with RMP implementation. Two objectives guided this research: (1) determine the relationship between environmental characteristics (i.e., physical attributes) of produce farms and RMP and (2) determine the physical attributes of very small to small-sized strawberry farms (two acres or less) in the southeastern United States (SEUS) for implementation of RMP.
A systematic literature review was first conducted to determine the relationship between the physical attributes of produce farms and implementation of RMP. We followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses principles to conduct our search. A total of 36 studies were included in our final analysis. Our quality assessment results showed that studies on this topic needed to be more rigorously designed and executed (e.g., powering sample sizes and training data collectors) to yield better quality evidence. Agricultural waters were the most common physical attribute assessed, with many farms reporting the use of unsafe water sources. Hygiene aids, such as accessible handwashing facilities, were also reported to be lacking across many farms. Animal intrusion measures were the least commonly assessed physical attribute. Only one study tested the relationship between on-farm physical attributes and implementation of RMP, reporting a positive relationship between accessible handwashing and worker hygiene practices.
Additionally, an on-farm environmental assessment of strawberry farms, 2 acres or less, in the SEUS was conducted to collect data about farm physical attributes to implement RMP related to -- worker health and hygiene, agricultural water, animal control, biological soil amendments, harvesting and packing, storage and transportation, miscellaneous, and post-harvest handling and sanitation. Farms were assessed using a checklist and by creating a map of each farm layout. Descriptive statistics were performed to determine frequency of physical attributes. Compliance scores of physical attributes were calculated using a scoring system for each RMP. The analysis included 20 farms in 10 SEUS states. The common characteristics of these strawberry farms were the use of the plasticulture method, the use of the U-pick method, the use of mixed cropping system, and the use of seasonal and H-2A workers. The most common physical attributes were drip system for irrigation (n=20), adequate bathrooms and handwashing stations (n=19), and animal control prevention measures (n=18). Nearly all (n=19) did not have a body fluid spill kit. Also, over half (n=11) did not have a safe irrigation water source. The compliance score analysis results showed that more farms had physical attributes related to control of animal (90%, 18), but more attention should be paid for the food safety signage (55%, 11) on farms.
Jayawardhana, Dilhani Nisansala, "On-Farm Environmental Assessment of Very Small to Small-Sized Strawberry Farms in the Southeastern United States" (2021). All Theses. 3503.