The NFU Watercress Association has launched the industry’s first-ever hygiene guide to support production in flowing water with food safety compliance.
Launched at an event in central London today (22 November), the guide includes details on legal obligations, food hygiene laws and other aspects of good practice.
Watercress growers are not obliged to follow the guide, which is available online for free, but they are encouraged to use it on a voluntary basis, particularly as local authority officers are required to take account of its contents when carrying out an inspection of a business.
Commercial watercress is grown in specially constructed beds with gravel bases, and there is a particular focus on managing the risk associated with potential contamination of the water source.
Chairman of the NFU Watercress Association Charles Barter said the new guide is “an invaluable tool for all primary producers of watercress grown in flowing water”. “Contained in one easy to read booklet are all the key considerations for ensuring a safe and hygienic production process. No watercress grower should be without it,” he said.
The guide was produced in partnership with the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the AHDB along with representatives from leading producers such as The Watercress Company, Vitacress and Hairspring Watercress.
It is the first publication covering the primary production of any fresh product or crop to be drafted in line with the FSA’s guidance.
AHDB Horticulture chairman, Gary Taylor, said: “We hope, from an AHDB perspective, that this guide is taken up by watercress growers, so they continue to produce high quality watercress and have access to vital guidance backed up by detailed research and knowledge.”