Fresh Produce Harvesting Equipment – A Review of Cleaning and Sanitizing Practices and Related Science

Susan M. Leaman, Justin Kerr, Sonia Salas, Afreen Malik, Trevor V. Suslow, Martin Wiedmann, De Ann Davis Biblographic citation: Food Protection Trends, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 126-143, Mar 2023 Volume 43, Issue 2: Pages 126–143 DOI: 10.4315/FPT-22-023

During produce harvesting operations, various types of tools, equipment, and containers have direct contact with crops. Best practices for harvesting equipment include routine cleaning and sanitation of food-contact surfaces and areas adjacent to food-contact surfaces. Studies investigating transfer of human pathogens to produce during harvesting operations have revealed numerous crop-contact points with the potential to serve as conduits for pathogen transfer, including harvesting machinery, knives, conveyors, cutting boards, harvest bins and cartons, and cleaning equipment. When these surfaces are contaminated with human pathogens, the pathogens can be transferred to crops during harvesting activities. Minimizing and controlling microbial hazards to prevent contamination of produce during harvesting operations in both indoor and outdoor settings presents challenges that require a transformative level of risk awareness and vigilance from all involved in management and operations. Although new technologies are being explored to improve equipment cleanability, prevention combined with robust cleaning and sanitizing methods remain the most critical maintenance aspects of harvesting equipment that is at low risk for contamination. As part of the produce industry’s continuous efforts to enhance the safety of harvested fresh produce crops, this review summarizes scientific findings that harvesting equipment operators can utilize to evaluate and further inform current cleaning and sanitation practices.

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