Monday, February 28, 2011 by Lee Mannering
Last week on his audio blog, PMA Chief Science & Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker discussed operational perspectives of product sampling, particularly in-field raw product testing. He noted that some businesses have implemented in-field or pre-harvest testing programs instead of testing and holding finished product. These testing programs rely on field sampling two to seven days prior to harvest, which permits enough time to sample the field, test the product, and get the results back from the lab so that a “negative” result can essentially “clear” the field for the scheduled harvest date.
“If testing does reveal a ‘positive’ there is time to perform confirmation tests. If these also come out positive, the affected product is not harvested and public health is not compromised in any way. As a side benefit, since the contaminated product remains in the field, the event can be studied and perhaps the cause of contamination can be determined,” Dr. Bob added.
However, there are challenges to in-field pre-harvest testing. For example, delaying harvest to permit product testing may impact a grower’s flexibility to hit a specific harvest window in a tight market. In-field testing also leaves open a potential window of vulnerability. Also, pre-harvest or raw product testing requires active and complete communication between growers, shippers and processors. Test results obtained by any party sourcing raw products from common fields or lots must be shared in a timely fashion prior to harvest.
For more thoughts on raw product testing, visit the Ask Dr. Bob blog. Tomorrow, the next post in this series will explore how data from testing programs can be used.