Assessment Report of Costa Rica's Food Safety Control System for Fresh Fruit
7.0 Implementation of food safety controls and government oversight at the farms, packers and exporters
The assessment team focused on verifying the implementation of the following GAP and GHP/GMP elements:
- general requirements and infrastructure
- training and skills development
- traceability and recall
- validation procedures and sampling
- standard operating procedures
- flow diagrams
- other records to support the implementation of their food safety programs
The assessment team visited three farm and packing facilities. The products for these facilities included melons, papayas and pineapples.
The CFIA team observed that the facilities were committed to the implementation of food safety practices and, that they have 3rd party food safety certifications, such as Global GAP. Although these were a common requirement for trade, they are not a government requirement.
The CFIA team noted the following about the three facilities.
- Infrastructure was generally appropriate for the activities conducted and included systems in place to control exit and entry of workers, visitors, and wildlife
- Operators had sanitation and hygiene controls in place in the fields and packing facilities
- The majority of employees are long-term employees or return on a seasonal basis. Employment is solicited through the local communities
- Employee entry procedures (hand washing, no jewellery, wounds etc.) were clearly posted in strategic areas (entry point of the farm, packing facility etc.). Employees were required to wear PPE during production
- Employees were trained on general topics every year such as hygiene, internal procedures, good handling practices of agro-chemicals, use of PPE etc. and on additional topics like specific procedures as required
- Employee hygiene was monitored and documented routinely, for example, at start up, after breaks etc. Procedures are in place to remove employees if they don't meet the general health/hygiene requirements and, to retrain staff if appropriate
- Appropriate washroom facilities were present with sufficient supplies
- Operators had implemented documented sanitation and pest control programs
- Operators implemented detailed traceability systems which allowed them to trace a product back to the farm and lot of origin, and in many cases, to the picker, packing line, implements used etc. Mock recalls are conducted at least once a year to test the effectiveness of their plans. Records demonstrated that although the procedure is implemented, there are some areas for improvement to ensure that operators are able to respond to real life situations
- Pesticides and agro-chemicals were stored in secure areas accessible only by designated trained staff. Controls were in place for the disposal of empty agro-chemical containers. Agro-chemicals were handled only by trained staff
- Operators conducted regular internal audits of their food safety program as required by their 3rd party food safety certification
- Food safety controls were in place for the sanitation of transport trucks
- Operators implemented annual surveillance plans and maintained detailed records for the analysis of water, workers' hands, surfaces, product, soil etc. Plans varied between operators but generally included analysis of basic microbiological indicators (fecal coliforms, Salmonella spp. and Escherichia coli and chemical contaminants (heavy metals, pesticides etc.). Samples were taken by the facility's trained personnel, external contractors, or an accredited laboratory contracted to conduct the analysis
All the packing facilities visited had a sanitary permit, but the period of validity varied from 1 to 5 years. Facility staff indicated that the MOH may visit their facility for other reasons such as inspecting Zika virus controls or, if they receive a complaint about the facility. However, no evidence of such visits were observed at the facilities (verbal only).
Several operations also have on-site medical staff. If they determine that an employee should not work, the employee is referred to the local municipal clinic where treatment is provided. Employees cannot return to work until they have been cleared to do so by the local clinic and/or the resident medical personnel.
The packing facilities visited were major exporters to countries including Canada, USA, Japan and Europe. The facilities were aware of the export requirements of their products including registration with PROCOMER and the single window system. The facilities had an exporting code as required by MAG and were aware of the requirements for obtaining a certificate for export.
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