Mike Poindexter is a man with a plan.

His plan involves not only food safety, but provides for 80% growth in capacity at Poindexter Nut Co. in the next four years.

Poindexter, general manager of the Selma-Calif.-based nut growing/packing company, started planning about 2 1/2 years ago for the improved food safety systems that the company put in for the 2011-12 season. He opted for a pasteurizing unit from Napasol AG, a Swiss company, which combines steam and a vacuum to kill pathogens.

“Customers are also looking at labels and want some kind of assurance that the fresh foods they are eating are safe,” he said.

In the wake of peanut butter and tomato recalls in recent years, Poindexter said he started looking for a system that would allow him to get nuts to customers as fresh as possible. He found it frustrating to have a trailer loaded and then have to wait on test results before shipping it.

“Now with the pasteurization, we know we can go ahead and ship,” he said, adding that they they still test for pathogens, but with the pasteurization process they are able to ship product immediately rather than place it on hold waiting for lab results.

And, when there is confusion about the source of an outbreak, Poindexter said he now has proof that his nuts were not the source.

Poindexter said he believes more nut grower-shippers will add pasteurization to their food safety plans, especially since a federal judge has upheld the 2007 regulation requiring the pasteurization of almonds.

Poindexter works with about 280 growers who shipped about 19,000 tons of nuts through his facility for the 2011-12 season.

But with a waiting list of customers who want Poindexter nuts, the company is in the midst of expanding with the goal of quadrupling capacity by building a new plant. Groundbreaking is expected by the end of March, with Phase 1 of the expansion anticipated to be running by 2013.

Poindexter said the one Napasol unit should be able to handle some of the additional volume, but he will look to add more pasteurization capacity as the expansion proceeds.

Specialties Commodities installs Napasol pasteurizer

Specialties Commodities Inc., Fargo, N.D., began pasteurizing food products, including nuts and dried fruit, in a Napasol AG pasteurizing unit in February. Corporate officers at the importing company decided to add the food safety step, citing nearly 400 FDA recalls in 2011.

SCI’s quality director David Pedro said the Napasol unit’s vacuum/flash steam technique is relatively low stress for the product and similar to the autoclaving of medical instruments. It requires only a few minutes and does not involve radiation or chemical residues.