Sprout growers seek to strengthen customer trust - The Packer

Sprout growers seek to strengthen customer trust

04/01/2013 04:27:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

“I think we continue to learn additional protocols and standard operating procedures that need to be implemented in sprouting operations.

“Our hope with this is to identify protocols sprouters can implement in their operations so we can begin to rebuild confidence in the product line and help the customer base understand sprouts can be grown and supplied safely.”

During the Web seminar, Stephen Grove, manager of industry projects at the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology, said the Sprout Safety Alliance is comprised of 45 members that include growers, seed producers, testing companies and retailers as well as state and federal governments.

He said the alliance’s goal is to distribute training programs to as much of the industry as possible.

“We want to especially target small growers who need special attention in implementing the best practices,” Grove said.

“The educational and outreach working group has already starting taking the curriculum on the road. They’ve already held some pilot training sessions.”

David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., said the FDA in 1999 worked with sprout growers through a sprout task force that developed industry guidance for sprouted seeds.

“They don’t need more science to figure out how to do it. It can be done today. Some folks out there are doing it today. I feel sorry for those growing sprouts safely and still suffering from the sprout industry’s poor consumer reputation,” Gombas said.

Almost unique to a produce commodity, sprouters can test irrigation water for pathogens, Gombas said.

Through the 100% sampling, growers can test for salmonella, pathogenic E. coli and listeria. If any of those are discovered, growers can discard the sprouts and start over, making sprouts the safest they will probably ever be, Gombas said.

The sprout rules in the Food Safety Modernization Act are nearly 100 pages, Johanson said.

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