The first ever fresh produce good hygiene practice guide has been launched to support producers of watercress grown in flowing water, with practical advice on how to comply with food hygiene legislation and related requirements.
UK Watercress growers have collaborated with the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) to develop The Industry Guide to Good Hygiene Practice – Watercress which is not only a guide covering the primary production of watercress, but the first guide covering the primary production of any fresh produce or crop to be drafted in line with the FSA’s guidance.
The Guide provides information on legal obligations for producers of watercress and what they need to do to comply with food hygiene law, as well as other aspects such as good practice, which are not legal requirements, but are likely to contribute to the overall achievement of food safety.
Watercress growers are not obliged to follow the Guide, but they are encouraged to use it on a voluntary basis particularly as local authority enforcement officers are required to take account of its contents when carrying out an inspection of a business.
The Guide is available to download for free from www.watercress.co.uk/about/seed-to-shop/
The Guide applies to watercress that is grown commercially in flowing water and covers hygiene standards for the primary production of fresh and unprocessed watercress. The crop is grown in specially constructed beds with gravel bases, however, the risks of contamination are similar to those related to other outdoor grown leafy crops such as wildlife and pests, but a particular focus is required on managing the risk associated with potential contamination of the water source.
The Guide has been compiled by the Watercress Industry Working Group with representatives from The Watercress Company, Vitacress, Hairspring Watercress, the FSA, Dorset County Council Trading Standards, Winchester City Council Environmental Health and AHDB. The Guide was written by Dr James Monaghan from Harper Adams University.
AHDB Horticulture Chairman, Gary Taylor, said: “We hope, from an AHDB perspective, that this Guide is taken up by watercress growers, so they continue to produce high quality watercress and have access to vital guidance backed up by detailed research and knowledge.”
Charles Barter, Chairman of the NFU Watercress Association concludes: “The Industry Guide to Good Hygiene Practice – Watercress is an invaluable tool for all primary producers of watercress grown in flowing water, the traditional farming method. Contained in one easy to read booklet are all the key considerations for ensuring a safe and hygienic production process. No watercress grower should be without it.”