Few would dispute that the concept of composting green waste to create soil improvers, growing media etc. is a good thing.
However, the experience of utilising such products is not necessarily so good.
Contamination of the compost, particularly with plastics, but also things like hypodermic needles, engine parts, oil filters, mdf of unknown composition, rat carcases, etc. can make it off-putting to use.
Contamination by things not so easily seen can be just as bad, if not so quickly apparent. Weed seed burdens continue to be at unacceptably high levels, even in many PAS100 certified green waste composts. There also remain continuing reports of herbicide residues causing problems – particularly, but not exclusively, aminopyralids.
A new and unlikely champion of quality control and improvement in green waste composting has entered the arena: the National Council for Metal Detecting (NCMD). Apparently the amount of metal residue in the waste is causing them problems and concerns…
It is probably good to have input from such an unlikely perspective. Anything that helps to improve the quality and safety of composted green waste has got to be a good thing.
Hypothetically speaking, if someone fell ill as a result of a food-borne pathogen (perhaps e-coli or clostridium) after eating your produce and the finger of blame was pointed at you, how confident would you be that you were in the clear? And how easily could you convince the authorities of this?
Nobody likes unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy, but in a situation where your production processes are being called into question, having a robust set of procedures in place with appropriate records and documentation will be your first and strongest line of defence.
In the UK, if your produce is going to one of the major retailers, they will insist on you having appropriate production, harvesting and storage protocols in place before they will buy from you. This may seem like an unnecessary burden and cost, but it protects you as well as the retailer and ultimately the consumer.
Those who sell via other routes (e.g. to wholesale, direct to the consumer or via independent retailers) will seldom be asked to produce evidence that “due diligence” has been used at all stages of producing their crops. While this is a “nice” and “friendly” approach that often relies on trust, it will be of no use at all if something goes wrong.
Putting food safety quality control processes into place doesn’t need to be overly complex, nor does it have to be costly. There is no particular reason why you should use a paid for accreditation system if you don’t need or want to. The advantage of using one of the recognised accredited systems is that they are “fit for purpose”. That provides an enhanced level of confidence to both you and your buyers. But if you want to set up your own system there is nothing to stop you, and any kind of system is better than none.
Even with the best systems in place, things sometimes go wrong. Having a food safety quality control system in operation is not a cast-iron guarantee for your produce. What it does do is demonstrate that you have considered the risks and put into place measures to address them. Doing that is a legal requirement as a primary producer: but without documentation how can you ever demonstrate that you were acting with due diligence?
Don’t take risks with your business or your customers’ health: put a food safety quality control plan into place and into practice now!
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