Q4. What are Frontera Produce’s food safety requirements and traceability systems? Have any changed since this outbreak?
In the case of Jensen Farms, our traceability system was able to track every pallet of cantaloupe that we marketed, by integrating the farm’s harvest and shipping information with our sales database. Frontera is committed to the industry-wide Produce Traceability Initiative, which encourages all companies along the supply chain to capture and read traceability data. By integrating this information, we were able to capture the traceability data from the farm to the direct shipping point.
Regarding our food safety requirements, we require that all suppliers commit to following federal government food safety guidelines appropriate to their individual operations. These may include: FDA’s Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices. Suppliers’ packing facilities and growing fields are required to undergo and pass third-party audits. Finally, since 2009, we have been working with all our growers to move to third-party audits that comply with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). Our implementation timetable is for all of the produce we market to be 100% GFSI compliant by the middle of next year, and we are on track to meet that goal.
In the wake of this experience, we are examining, among other things, the role of audits. Third-party audits are an important and useful tool, but they are obviously not fail-safe. Audits provide baseline information on conditions at the time they are conducted. So we are looking at possible changes that might further enhance food safety. One area of focus is whether additional steps are needed to validate the audit findings regarding food safety protocols that are in place. Validation could be in the form of a follow-up audit, or perhaps other measures that will help provide additional assurance of food safety compliance.
This is an industry-wide issue that all of us must deal with, so we are also talking with others in the produce industry and sharing our experience so that we can further our collective knowledge and understanding.
Q5. Are your standards/GAP guidelines for Jensen Farms the same as other domestic and imported cantaloupe suppliers? All your suppliers?