As fires have progressed this fall across a significant region of the Southern and Central California, members of the California Strawberry Commission are monitoring worker safety and food safety conditions.
Growers should monitor field conditions and consider the following points regarding ash in the fields:
- Do not use leaf blowers, vacuums or other equipment that will put ash into the air. Avoid getting ash into the air as much as possible.
- Workers should wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Workers should wash their hands and change their gloves as frequently as necessary to maintain proper hygiene.
- In areas affected by smoke and ash, workers must be provided with N95 respirator masks and be trained to use them properly as seen in this poster: https://www.dir.ca.gov/DOSH/wildfire/n95EngSpan.pdf.
For shippers, the following points can be used to respond to customer queries:
- The burn area is predominately forest vegetation.
- According to the State of California, the ash deposited by forest fires is relatively nontoxic and similar to ash that might be found in a typical fireplace.
- If present, any toxic contaminants in the ash would be at extremely low levels and unlikely to create an acute risk.
- As with any fresh fruits and vegetables, consumers should wash berries prior to consumption.
For a summary of fire resources and advisories, please follow this link: http://www.calstrawberry.com/Home/UPDATE.