The USDA GAPs and USDA Harmonized Third Party audits require that worker break areas be separate from where saleable product is handled.
The GAPs audit states “smoking and eating are confined to designated areas separate from where product is handled.” An auditor completing a GAPs audit will look to see that the break area is indeed separate from production areas and that workers are using the area as they should be. If personal items, such as lunch boxes, food items etc., are found in the production area the auditor will deduct points from the total GAPs audit score. In some cases the auditor may deem the risk of contamination too great and may stop the audit.
The Harmonized audit goes a bit further to state “Operation shall have policy prohibiting smoking, eating, chewing gum or tobacco, drinking other than water except in designated areas. Such areas shall be designated so as not to provide a source of contamination.” An auditor conducting a harmonized audit will look for a written policy within the farm food safety plan stating that smoking, eating, chewing gum or tobacco and drinking other than water will take place in the designated areas. The policy should state where each of these designated areas are and how the areas are to be used. The auditor will then look at these designated areas to determine if they are being used in accordance to the farm policy. If the auditor finds a discrepancy in the policy or does not agree with the policy he or she can indicate that a corrective action is needed. Should the auditor find a serious concern for contamination he or she can stop the audit. This policy will be specific to the farm it is written for and should be detailed enough that workers will understand what activities are permitted at various locations at the farm. Each of the designated location should be marked with signage so it is obvious as to where the smoking and eating areas are.