California strawberry farmers and farm workers have adopted a new motto: I Pick Safety. For Me. For All.
Not just a saying or tagline, these words describe the culture that keeps the focus on every person’s role in protecting families—from the dedicated harvest workers who pick the berries, to kids and seniors, and to every strawberry consumer and community at large.
While COVID-19 presents new challenges, strawberry farmers in California have been recognized for years as leaders in food safety and operated under the strictest field sanitation and worker safety standards in the nation. As soon as the pandemic was identified, they went straight to work implementing even more ways to keep workers safe and healthy, based on advice from government and medical experts.
Increased Safety Measures
Since early March, California strawberry farms have received information to support on-site training along with informative materials, highlighting the Centers for Disease Control guidance, to post in common areas throughout ranches with steps to take to create a safer work environment and protect each other through daily activities.
More specifically, managers and supervisors are receiving increased illness prevention training (at home and work), adopting crew and schedule modifications to implement social distancing during harvest, increasing the amount of hand washing facilities and hand sanitizing stations available in the field, sanitizing field facilities and work stations more frequently and keeping a watchful eye on employee health.
Strawberry farmers and field supervisors are also implementing plans to quickly identify any workers who may be exhibiting illness symptoms and are being trained to help them isolate the individual to avoid spreading the virus to others. In California, most strawberry farm workers have paid sick leave as well as health insurance.
What Consumers Need to Know
California strawberries are picked and packed in the field by trained harvest workers with clean hands. The packed berries are then immediately loaded on a truck to the cooler before they are shipped to stores across the country.
The limited amount of handling, plus the increased training and attention during this coronavirus pandemic, built on already stringent standards, should reassure consumers that safety continues to be a priority for all, and that wholesome and delicious strawberries will remain available for families to enjoy.