FOOD SAFETY at Four Season Greens

Four Season Greens takes food safety very seriously all the time, but especially during the current pandemic. Staff working in our packaging areas are required to wear hairnets, gowns, gloves and masks. Equipment is meticulously cleaned both after and prior to use.

Due to the fast growth rate of sprouts and microgreens, extra precautions are taken. Our sprouting seed is purchased from Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds and is certified organic and guaranteed pathogen-free. As an extra precaution, we sanitize our seed prior to the sprouting process using food grade hydrogen peroxide.

Our lettuces are produced both aquaponically and hydroponically, without the use of pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides, in a winterized greenhouse. This enables us to grow all year round in a simulated outdoor growing environment, and virtually eliminates the possibility of contamination from pathogens in the environment.

All our produce is delivered in insulated carriers, from our walk-in cooler to our customers’ fridges.

We are regularly inspected by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, who also routinely collect product samples for testing.

In addition, FSG is a member of “Sprouts & Microgreens Canada”, a sub-committee of “Small Scale Food Processors Association”, which together with CFIA creates best practices guidelines for our industry. We are currently working towards 3rd party food safety certification.

Why do sprouts sometimes get “bad press”? What pro-active measures can home sprouters take to avoid bad sprouts?

Growing sprouts is like growing a baby, which doubles its weight in 6 months. As it metabolizes it creates a lot of waste (just ask anyone who has changed diapers!) But with sprouts, it is like an eight pound baby growing in just seven days into a 128 pound baby! A LOT of energy is expended in the process, with heat and a bio-film as by-products. Because heat is produced sprouts must be cooled down at least twice a day with cold water or spoilage will occur. The bio film produced is natural waste, and this needs to be rinsed away.

Sprouts also require adequate ventilation to help keep them cool, but not so much that they get dried out.

Another aspect of sprouting which requires vigilance is sanitization. If care is not taken to sanitize equipment then bacteria can grow, because bacteria likes to thrive in warm, moist environments. Seeds also need to be sanitized, as all seed naturally has bacteria on the outside.

Finally, as mentioned, high quality seed needs to be used to avoid spoilage. Reputable sprouting seed suppliers have their seed constantly tested by an independent source to ensure there are no pathogens or microbes.

So, there are a few points at which spoilage or contamination can occur, but that is all preventable when care is taken. Make sure seeds, inputs (water), equipment, growing environment, and of course your hands are clean, and you will not likely ever have a problem. To determine if there is a problem, look for stunted shoot growth, brown or grey-looking roots which are slimy to the touch, and a rotten smell. "If in doubt, throw it out".

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