California wholesaler bolsters food safety practices

08/17/2010 02:14:26 PM
Don Schrack

Buena Park, Calif.-based Cal Fresco LLC has expanded its food safety procedures and put increased pressure on suppliers in the wake of a California Department of Pesticide Regulation-imposed $10,000 fine.

Random testing on some Mexican vegetables sold by Cal Fresco found residues of pesticides not registered for use on the commodities, according to the agency.

“We have addressed the issue in every way, shape and form possible,” said Fernando Vargas, the company’s president and owner.

The residues found were at very low levels and did not pose health risks, but the produce was ordered to be removed from trade channels, which is the agency’s standard procedure for any product found to have been treated with unregistered chemicals.

Cal Fresco, which has been PrimusLabs certified for nearly eight years, has tripled the frequency of the company’s random testing of imported products, Vargas said. In addition, it is requiring growers to submit pre-harvest samples for testing. All samples are submitted to the state agency for further review, he said.

A Mexico-based grower cooperative has been a supplier of fresh produce for Cal Fresco for many years, he said. Many of the growers are small operators, and the contamination, Vargas said, stemmed from pesticide drift of chemicals applied on crops adjacent to one grower’s field.

Cal Fresco immediately notified the cooperative that it no longer will accept products from that grower, he said.

If a grower ships any product where results indicate the presence of non-registered chemicals, the grower’s produce will be required to undergo additional and more frequent testing, Vargas said.

The company is cooperating fully with the state, Vargas said, and has discontinued marketing cactus leaves.

“As we have since the company was founded 10 years ago, we follow everything by the book,” Vargas said.



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