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On-Farm Food Safety

Listen to the audio file while watching the slide show (9.2 MB) from COABC's successful "Your Farm's Water Quality": A 'Grower's Group Network' Conference Call held Aug 18, 2009

As many food-borne illnesses associated with fresh produce can arise from the use of contaminated water, growers need to be aware of their water quality challenges and learn how to manage their production with the water they have available.

The session covered:

  • Why is good water required
  • What are common sources of contamination
  • The BC Approved Water Quality Guidelines for different agricultural uses
  • Testing of water
  • Protecting water quality

The Guest Speakers were:
Elsie Friesen, Food Safety & Quality Specialist, BCMAL. Elsie is a Certified Public Health Inspector with a diploma in Food Science, a degree in Environmental Health Science Technology, and a Master's Degree in Education. Coming from a farming family and community, Elsie also has practical agricultural experience.
Steven Gallagher, lead farmer of Nathan Creek Organic Farm, Langley, BC. Steven is a mixed vegetable grower who has recently had to deal with water quality issues and has installed an extensive filtration system on his farm.

Facilitator: Rochelle Eisen, Organic Extension Agent for BC

- Relevant information to this topic can be found under the Water headings (below)

Say thank you to our Grower Group Network Sponsors at your next opportunity


Overview information
Good Agricultural Practices Guide (BC Ministry of Ag.)
Common Causes of Food-borne Illness (CFIA)
Food Safety Begins on the Farm (Cornell)
An auditor shares the dirt on food safety (The
Food Safety on the Farm – An Overview of Good Agricultural Practices (U of Florida)
Code of Practice for Minimally Processed Ready-to Eat Vegetables (CFIA)
Water Testing
Water Quality Criteria for Microbiological Indicators (BC Min.of Env.)
Collection of Drinking Water Samples for Coliform Testing (BCDC)
Various Water Sampling Instructions (from North Island Labs - pertinent everywhere)
* Water Testing Services html or pdf (A 2009 Cyber-Help exclusive)
Water Treatment
Treating Irrigation and Crop Wash Water for Pathogens (BCMAL 2003/ PDF 850KB) *includes guidelines for pathogens in irrigation water.
New Horizons for Slow Sand Filtration (Dr David Manz /PDF 287KB)
Filtration: how does it work? (PFRA/.fla - flash player needed)
Polishing Methods To Improve Water Quality (PFRA/.fla - flash player needed)
Water Well Disinfection - Chlorination Method (BCMAL /PDF 3.3MB)
Hydrogen Peroxide Dilution Chart
Water Protection
Protecting Water Quality on Organic Farms (ATTRA 2002 /PDF 350 KB)
Protecting Wells from Contamination
(Alberta Ag.)
BC Ground Water Protection Regulations
What [BC] Private Well Owners Should Know (BCMOE / PDF 221 KB)
Best Management Practices - Robocow (PFRA/.fla - flash player needed) It's a bird. It's a plane. No, it's RoboCow. Able to leap tall silos in a single bound, this animated environmental advocate uses her ground-scan radar vision to detect on-farm perils. Like the best of all superheroes, she maps out solutions to hazards like improperly stored chemicals, pesticide run off and stream contamination.
Water Quality
Use federal guidelines for drinking as well fruit and vegetable wash water, but for irrigation/livestock drinking refer to provincial until federal new guidelines are released. Be sure to record which guidelines you have been referring to in your farm records.
Dec 2010 - Revised BC Water Quality Guidelines and Water Quality Objectives are under development in the meantime the 2006 version (link below) is considered the working version. Check MOE`s Water Quality webpage for updates.
British Columbia Approved Water Quality Guidelines (BCMOE 2006) for both irrigation & livestock drinking water
direct link to Water Quality Criteria for Microbiological Indicators (BCMOE 2001)
direct link to Water Quality Criteria for Nutrients and Algae (BCMOE 2001)
direct link to all Water Quality Criteria including metals (BCMOE 2001)
Health Canada Water Quality - Reports and Publications (includes all current guidelines)
direct link to Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality (Health Canada)
Presumptive (yes/no) do-it-yourself water testing kits (Bluewater Bioscience)


On-Farm Food Safety Factsheets and Checklists
Good Agricultural Practices for the Production of Leafy Greens (OMAFRA)
BC Berry Grower Good Agricultural Practices
Reducing Food Safety Risks in Apples (WSU)
Mushroom Food Safety (BCMAL/PDF 500 KB)
Various Food Safety and Quality Factsheets and Publications (BCMAL)
Poultry Litter Composting For Food Safety & Soil Nutrient Management (UBC Agroecology 350 KB pdf)
CFIA's extensive Guide to Food Safety which goes way beyond the farm gate. Quoting from the FAQ on the guide `The Guide specifically discusses how to design, develop and implement effective and preventive food safety control systems. This will help to enhance food safety. It will also help to prevent foodborne illness, foodborne injury and food spoilage.'

Canada-Wide Commodity-Based On-Farm Food Safety Programs
Canadian On-Farm Food Safety Program listings
With regards to the eight Canadian Horticulture Council's "On-Farm Food Safety Producer, Storage Intermediary and Packer Manuals", COABC horticulture crop producers should contact the COABC office to secure the necessary access code.
Relevant Regulations
CanadianFood Inspection Agency - regulated sectors (CFIA)
Fresh Fruit &Vegetable Regulations, Part I.1, Health & Safety (CFIA 2009)
Reference Listing of Accepted Construction Materials, Packaging Materials, and Non-Food Chemical Products (CFIA)

Pertinent Federal (Canadian) & Provincial (BC) Regulations
Organic Dairy Farming in Canada

Farm Equipment
Marketing Your Product
Organic Prices (fruit and vegetables)
Small Scale Food Processing
Pest Management
Soil (Canada, USA) and Water (BC, Alberta) Testing Labs & Services

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