Coral BeachPacking line workers at Pure Hot House Foods Inc., Leamington, look like hospital operating room staff in their gloves, hairnets and lab coats. Jaime Moracci, president, said the company’s internal food safety regulations are “far over and above” those in the proposed produce rule from the Food and Drug Administration. LEAMINGTON, Ontario — There are 224 members in the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetables Growers Association who own growing operations ranging from 0.09 acres to almost 128 acres.
Those recently interviewed about the proposed produce safety rule in the U.S. had a uniform answer, regardless of the size of their operation: pathogens don’t discriminate based on size.
George Gilvesy, general manager of the association said all of the group’s members are required to participate in the organization and must meet strict food safety regulations no matter how many acres they have.
Gilvesy “You are as weak as your weakest link,” Gilvesy said. “That’s why so many believe the FDA’s exemption for small operations doesn’t make good sense.”
That sentiment was repeated again and again by owners, managers and safety officers from Ontario’s greenhouses.
Peter Quiring, founder and chief executive officer of Nature Fresh Farms, worked in greenhouse design before entering the growing end of the industry. He said has always given enormous attention to food safety.
“It’s the one thing that levels the playing field,” Quiring said.
Part of the Nature Fresh food safety plan involves traceability measures that allow the company to track its peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers back to the individual row they came from and what employee picked them.
Veillon Another key player in the Ontario greenhouse community, Mastronardi Produce Inc., Kingsville, has similar traceability measures in place, said marketing director Chris Veillon.
Such detailed traceability is not a government requirement, but Veillon and Quiring said food safety is one area where growers and shippers must take the lead.
Erie James Ltd. regulatory manager Stephanie Lariviere said food safety is vital.
For seven years Lariviere has voluntarily worked with a customs and trade partnership group of U.S. and Canadian officials.
Lariviere Food safety and food security must be a shared responsibility among the entire supply chain,” she said.
Lariviere said Erie James is SQF certified, which is recognized under the Global Food Safety Initiative, and added that she is an advocate for the harmonization of good agricultural practices in hopes that food safety issues can be prevented regardless of the country of origin of the produce.