Courtesy Healds Valley Farms
Edinburg, Texas-based Healds Valley Farms Inc. produces 60% of the citrus out of the Rio Grande Valley, and started using the PrimusGFS mid-February. This young orange grove sits right behind the company's main office.
PrimusGFS is different from other GFSI-approved schemes because it applies along more of the supply chain, form farm level to processing level through harvest crew, ranch and packinghouse audits, said Stacy Stoltenberg, business development manager for Primus Labs.
Edinburg, Texas-based Healds Valley Farms Inc. has been working with Azzule for almost eight months preparing for the PrimusGFS audit, which was conducted at its Rio Grande Valley groves the week of Feb. 15. It is the first company outside of California to have the audits.
“We had already been with Primus on packinghouse audits and wanted to wait and see what they came out with,” said Brandon Mahan, food safety director.
One of the biggest differences with the PrimusGFS audits and other schemes is the importance it puts on having a solid food safety management system with buy-in from company executives.
“One of the biggest things in this audit is manager commitment,” Mahan said. “You have to have the resources you need to get it started and keep it going.”
The audit also includes either or both Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices, as well as a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system, in its three modules.
“A lot of previous audits mostly just concentrated on the shed,” Mahan said. “A lot of this new one is pre-harvest pesticide application and stuff like that.”
A group of retailers, including Wal-Mart, Kroger and Hannaford, continue to back the GFSI and are members of its board of directors. Those retailers, along with others including Target, H.E.B. and Supervalu, are asking for their suppliers to have GFSI approved audits by the end of the year.
“These companies are really pushing suppliers in certain directions,” Regusci said. “They’re moving their suppliers to a standard more appropriate for their business.”