This article explains four key areas producers should focus on to mitigate the need for excessive corrective action.
The cannabis product development cycle from seed to sale can be tedious. With so many environmental considerations throughout the cultivation process and the complex makeup of the cannabis plant itself, contaminated flower (crops that fail quality indicator or pathogen testing) are a standard item of the industry that every grower and processor must consider in their growing process. process.
In the event of a failure, an organization may have the opportunity to remediate the product. With a continuing lack of federal oversight over the cannabis industry, debate exists around the topic of remediation: when to remediate and how to implement upstream strategies to minimize the need for it.
To be clear, contamination will occur despite your best efforts and a remediation option is a necessary step in any quality control program, as it can sometimes be the easiest route to maximizing the yield of a crop. That being said, remediation cannot be an automatic, blanket solution to poor growing practices, as some organizations adopt a policy of 100% remediation of their crop in an effort to eliminate the risk of defective products. While the proactivity of this approach is understandable, rehabilitating an entire crop can take time and is mostly unnecessary, as it is rare that 100% of the crop requires rehabilitation. As the industry works to identify best sanitation practices, it makes more sense to focus on situations where sanitation can be used to maximize results, as well as mitigation measures for risks that producers can take to ensure that more products meet compliance standards.
When remediation makes sense
Remediation should be integrated into any well-developed quality control program. Depending on the situation, corrective action may need to be applied to a failing culture, but should not be instituted without a clear and concise plan for its implementation. In other situations, remediation becomes a much more preventative measure, such as when working with growers who grow outdoors or in growing facilities with unregulated environments. Take the Upper Midwest as an example; there are many growers in Michigan and New York who farm near the shores of the Great Lakes and are subject to wind currents bringing microbes from the lake surfaces. Depending on the season, air filtration systems may not be adequately designed to handle increased microbial load. We see similar situations in Florida during hurricane season; Facilities can lose power for days or even weeks, and corrective action may be the only way to save a crop that has been overexposed to higher humidity levels. Growers may also wish to minimize the use of pesticides on their crops, and thus, sanitation becomes the first line of defense in maintaining crop viability.
Preventative actions to minimize the need for corrective action
To mitigate the need for excessive corrective action, there are four key areas where growers should focus their efforts with a quality prevention plan:
1. Facility design flow
This is an area where you really can’t be too granular, and the overall goal should be to minimize the path of human contact and microbes. The flow of your operation should be linear: starting with the grow rooms, progressing to the harvesting areas, then through the drying and curing rooms. For example, people should not walk through the harvest room to get to drying. It is also imperative to have established protocol for individuals entering any part of the facility, including details on uniforms and personal protective equipment (PPE) to fully optimize your procedures.
2. Environmental monitoring
When it comes to microbial contaminants, you can’t fix what you don’t know, which is why an extremely thorough monitoring plan for your air, water, surfaces and equipment is essential. Paying attention to how often items such as water filtration systems are cleaned and monitoring where and when airflow is allowed into plants from open doors goes a long way in minimizing exposure to water contaminants. your culture. Contaminants like Aspergillus are prevalent everywhere and without strict monitoring processes, you significantly increase your risk of exposure.
3. Cleaning and disinfection process
This one seems obvious, but again, this is one place where you can never be too granular. Good standards of cleaning and sanitation will go a long way to minimizing the risk of contamination. Procedures such as using an alcohol wipe to sterilize growing tools between plants, adopting PPE fundamentals, and implementing best practices of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) procedures ) of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) go a long way.
4. An in-depth diagnostic partner
The common thread of all these preventive measures is the multipoint test. A multi-point testing plan used throughout the lifecycle of your crop is essential to maximize yield. When selecting a diagnostics partner, look for one that manages your quality indicator testing at every stage and can help you identify gaps in your process and monitoring efforts. This ultimately helps minimize the amount of harvest you will need to restore. Without a trusted testing partner, you won’t know what you don’t know and are much more likely to find yourself in situations where you fix more of your culture than is actually necessary.
Remediation is not a new concept to the cannabis industry and its implementation is going nowhere. Sanitation and mitigation processes are an essential part of the production of most perishable goods, from meat and produce to cannabis. Implementing a comprehensive quality program may seem like a lot of work and initial investment, but the end result is improved efficiency with resources and maximized product production. and, ultimately, a path to guaranteeing consumer safety. As the old saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure. »
About the Author
Patrick Bird is Senior Director of Scientific Affairs at bioMérieux. Direct correspondence with: email@example.com.