There’s no need to be concerned about the safety of table grapes imported from Mexico, grower-shippers say.
“We’ve got every food safety thing you can think of,” said Jerry Havel, director of sales and marketing for Fresh Farms, Rio Rico, Ariz.
The company’s product and growers’ facilities are certified by PrimusLabs.com, he said, and growers meet GlobalGAP standards.
The company’s growers also ship to European destinations, where food safety standards often are stricter than they are in the U.S.
“If you’re going to export a lot of grapes to places like England, you’ve got to be really up to speed from a food safety standpoint,” Havel said.
“We go through the same, if not more stringent certification, as everyone else does,” said Steve Yubeta, vice president of sales for Farmer’s Best International LLC, Rio Rico.
Many Framer’s Best customers ask about the company’s food safety programs, Yubeta said.
“Some of them want to see your certificates from your third-party audits,” he said.
Food safety also is a priority for Los Angeles-based Stevco Inc., said Jared Lane, vice president of marketing.
“All of our ranches are food safety certified,” he said.
The firm’s growers in Mexico are Primus certified and follow good agricultural practices, he said.
“All the T’s must be crossed and the I’s dotted to export to reputable U.S. customers,” he said.
Stevco requires all of its ranches to be Primus certified and product to be residue tested.
Most of the company’s customers ask to see the certifications, he said.
All of the growers that Reedley, Calif.-based Pacific Trellis Fruit deals with in Mexico meet strict food safety standards, said Dirk Winkelmann, international business development director.
“There are standard protocols that we have to achieve and monitor and make sure we’re in line with at field level,” he said.
Some of the firm’s customers require certification and documentation of those protocols, and some don’t, he said, adding, “It varies in the industry.”
Abiding by strict food safety criteria is a common practice in Mexico, said Miguel Suarez, owner of MAS Melons & Grapes, Rio Rico.
“I don’t think there’s any grower who doesn’t do it,” he said, though some growers have stricter programs than others.
It’s not uncommon for customers to ask to see growers’ certification at the beginning of each season, he said.
Growers for Nogales, Ariz.-based The Sykes Co., receive third-party certification and follow good agricultural practices, “all the way up to Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (certification),” said owner Bill Sykes.
“We’re NutraClean certified and Primus certified,” he said.
In the beginning, customers often asked about the company’s food safety programs, he said, but now, he only gets occasional requests for field reports.
Food safety and traceability are top concerns of the Giumarra Cos., said Walter Ram, director of food safety at the company’s Nogales, Ariz., location.
“Our Mexican growers have thorough food safety programs in place that are regularly audited by third-party U.S. firms,” Ram said. “The safety of our product from Mexico meets or exceeds U.S. standards.”
Giumarra also is able to trace all of its products to their sources, he added.
“We are up to date with all (Produce Traceability Initiative) requirements,” Ram said.