Bill Pool, manager of food safety for the Rochester, N.Y.-based retailer, says this is an expansion of the company’s initial U.S. Department of Agriculture Good Agricultural Practices plan, which went into effect back in 2008.
“We decided a couple of years ago that we were going to require GAPs across the board for fresh produce,” he said.
The three-phase system started with the “higher-risk” items such as leafy greens, tomatoes, melons, herbs, peppers and green onions. National growers were the first to be required to comply, followed by small growers, Pool said.
The company expanded to what it calls “Tier 2” items — cooking vegetables eaten raw such as cauliflower, carrots and broccoli, specialty lettuces, and mushrooms with a deadline for GAPs in September 2012.
Now, Pool said, Wegmans will require all growers, regardless of size, to have a GAP audit by this September for all other items, including “low-risk” foods such as onions, potatoes, apples and citrus. This does not affect foraged items such as truffles or fiddlehead ferns, he said.
This type of action has been on the horizon for a while, Pool said.
“I don’t think any grower ought to be shocked that a retailer requires documentation that they have practices and procedures in place,” he said. “It doesn’t make a bit of difference if it’s an organic product or a conventional product. Growers have to have some kind of baseline, some kind of minimal standards across the board.”