(July 26) MONTEREY, Calif. — A leading foodservice industry fresh produce distributor is tightening food security.

Pro*Act is requiring its 52 member distribution centers to adopt food security plans by Octo-ber.

“We think food security assurances are vital for our customers,” said Norman Saville, Pro*Act board member and president of Saville Produce, Newport News, Va, which distributes produce to Virginia foodservice customers.

“Our job as distributors is to afford our customers the knowledge of efforts being made to prohibit any tampering of product or terrorist activity. Prevention of tampering is good business practice equally important to any terrorist activity.”

Saville headed a committee that developed the cooperative's food security requirements. He said the requirements were in part prompted by some Pro*Act members who sell produce to military bases receiving stricter security guidelines.

“Food security assurances are at the forefront of our customers’ minds,” James Catchot, Pro*Act’s president and chief executive officer, said in a news release. “All Pro*Act distributors are already required to maintain an excellent or better rating on their third-party food safety inspections. We believe taking that a step further to include plant and food security is essential.”

The president of Loffredo Fresh Produce Co. Inc., Des Moines, Iowa, a Pro*Act member that distributes produce to restaurants, hotels, colleges and hospitals in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Min-nesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin, compares implementing the food safety measures to writing a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plan.

“There are so many different facets and pieces of the puzzle you have to go through,” Gene Loffredo said. “It not only involves the warehouse but transportation and everything it takes to transport the product to the customer.”

Pro*Act requires yearly independent third-party auditing by ASI Food Safety Consultants, St. Louis.

The plans require each Pro*Act member to appoint a director of security to maintain the dis-tributor’s food security plan, which includes employee background checks, photo identification requirements and restricted access to food handling and storage areas.

Loffredo’s food safety and processing managers lead the company’s security plan. Loffredo said the 100-year-old company has upgraded security by installing digital cameras.

A number of Loffredo’s customers have expressed food security concerns, Loffredo said.

“We are the first one (foodservice distribution network) to do this,” he said. “We’re trying to be on the front end of the issue and let our customers know we’re doing everything possible to make sure the food they receive is secure and safe.”

Catchot was on vacation and could not be reached for further comment.