How to keep fresh produce safe to eat

Information on how to keep fruit and vegetables free from pathogens that cause human illness. 

The European Commission (EC) has been deliberating internally for some time on setting Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) for chlorate and perchlorate. 

Perchlorate

The EC intends to set an MRL of 0.05mg/kg for perchlorate in most fruits and vegetables, with Cucurbitaceae and kale being set at 0.1mg/kg and leafy vegetables and herbs at 0.5mg/kg.

Chlorate

The latest EC chlorate MRLs draft shows upped MRLs which, based on the data that we hold, should be achievable for most crops. Both chlorate and perchlorate MRL proposals will need to be voted on by EC Standing Committees. 

Chlorine compounds

If you are using chlorine compounds to disinfect waters for irrigation and produce washes, continue to do so. This will ensure you are not compromising the microbial integrity of your product.

Disinfectants must be used according to manufacturer instructions. 

Where high levels of contaminants are found as a result of government monitoring, it will be determined if the levels pose risks to the consumer. 

Guidance on ways to mitigate against exceeding chlorate and perchlorate levels - a review

Irrigation methods

Consider the interval time between irrigation and harvesting

This is especially important if you’re using non-drinking water.

If conditions are warm and dry, the levels of pathogens on leafy crops in the field can decrease to below the detection limit by the second week.

If conditions aren’t warm and dry, if you don’t disinfect irrigation water, it can lead to contaminated produce.

Soils retain pathogens significantly longer than leaves

Keep the droplet sizes from irrigation systems below 3.6mm.

Larger droplet sizes can significantly increase the contamination risk of soil splash on to fresh produce.

The droplet size cannot be controlled with rain-storm events, so it is vital that growers risk-assess growing conditions and inputs for high-risk category crops and take action to reduce contamination.