[Market-farming] Ohio market farmer cited for washing rawproduce

BarbaraJ jbmckillip at mesanetworks.net
Thu Oct 29 16:09:27 EDT 2009

I sold mixed greens, mesclun, and spinach in bags at our farmer's market here in CO.  This was my first year as a market grower, so I'm no expert (and boy did I learn a TON this year), but I cut the lettuce early in the morning and put them in a large container full of cold well water.  The same water we all drink here, it has been tested by not in the past few years.  I then rinsed the lettuce, mesclun and spinach, and spun them dry in a large 5gallon spinner, in my kitchen.  My label says "field rinsed, please always wash before eating" as my disclaimer.  In fact, most people assume that I just rinse everything outside, but I go that extra step and spin it dry so that it keeps better all week. 
A few thoughts, 

1. getting well water tested is easy, although I'm am fairly safe due to our deep well that is in an aquifer.  (at least that is the way it has been explained to be, I'm no geologist).  I had our water tested when the well was put in and again when we had to replace a pump, both times no problem.  Does anyone know of any recommendations for how often well water should be tested?

2.  It is really hard to cut small lettuces for salad mixes without bagging them.  I'm wondering how folks do that.  I like to cut them small so they taste the best, but they are so tender, I can't imagine not rinsing and bagging them.  

3.  Do we need to pull the entire spinach plant and sell that whole?  Or do you pick leaves and put them into a bag unwashed?  I really don't want to do that.  I like to chill them in the well water since I think it's about 55degrees and it removes the field heat fast.

4. What about other vegetables like carrots, onions and radishes?  They are so messy and look so much nicer washed.  Is it possible that we will not allowed to do that anymore?  Or could it be a state by state or inspector by inspector decision?  

I'm wondering if there are ways around some of these "guidelines".  It is very frustrating, at the very moment in our history were we need more farmers of large and small scale, we see these onerous guidelines and laws cropping up.  I does make me feel paranoid and a bit persecuted at times!  

I grow naturally, I explain everything I do, customers are welcome to visit at any time and I post pictures on my website of the gardens, greenhouse, and chickens.  I do think, philosophically, that it should be up to the consumer to both know the source of their food and to exercise some common sense when it comes to washing and consuming their own (and their children's) food!

Thanks for the discussion,
Barb McKillip
Mountain View Meadows Farm
Elbert, CO

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Road's End Farm 
  To: Market Farming 
  Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2009 1:16 PM
  Subject: Re: [Market-farming] Ohio market farmer cited for washing rawproduce

  On Oct 29, 2009, at 1:06 PM, Marie Kamphefner wrote:

      Earlier this week it was brought to our attention that a vendor in Lake County [OHIO] was cited by the local board of health for selling “washed” vegetables and greens. The local health department official was enforcing a new interpretation of food safety rules that assumed washing greens with water was “food processing” and a farmer who was not a licensed “processor” washing them was making an “adulterated” (unsafe) product. 

  Was he selling them as "washed ready to eat"?

  Or was it just that he had rinsed them off to get the field dirt off?

  It's my understanding that those are two different categories and that for "washed ready to eat" you may indeed need a food processing license, at least in New York State. If you've just washed them to get the field dirt off, but are not telling the customer it doesn't have to be washed again when they get it home, that's different. It sounds as if the inspector may have gotten carried away and confused "washed ready to eat" with "rinsed the mud off". -- at any rate, I hope it's just that inspector!

  When customers ask if the produce is washed, I always say "New York State tells me that I have to tell you to wash everything! We just rinsed it quickly to get the mud/dust off. "

  As far as the water goes: certified organic growers are required to use for produce wash water only sources that pass an annual potable water test. As far as I know, there's no such requirement for conventional growers; but it's not a bad idea to get one. Many people have no idea that their household or farm wells are contaminated; their own systems are used to the bacteria that's in there, so they don't get sick themselves, and assume that the water is fine.

  -- Rivka; Finger Lakes NY, Zone 5 mostly
  Fresh-market organic produce, small scale


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