Safe practices emerge as industry business necessity - The Packer

Safe practices emerge as industry business necessity

09/28/2012 05:03:00 PM
Coral Beach

Trevor SuslowSuslowSuslow spoke about common questions smaller growers have about wash water during a recent Web seminar sponsored by the Center for Produce Safety and the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del.

The underlying message through Suslow’s presentation was the need for growers to be unrelenting in the monitoring and execution of their food safety plans.

Patricio agreed with that sentiment. He said that at Westside Produce he and his sons Garrett and Blake continuously work with growers to reinforce the importance of food safety.

They visit fields and talk to workers to make sure the produce Westside ships is being produced with food safety as the first priority.

That attitude toward food safety is increasingly what trading partners in the fresh produce industry should expect from buyers, Payne said.

“Retailers and quick-serve restaurants realize they have liabilities and therefore they want to make sure the produce they receive is safe,” Payne said.

“They are concerned about protecting their brands.

“A lot of them are finally realizing how broad their supply chains are … realizing they need visibility and traceability.”

In addition to brand protection, the trend toward local is having an effect on food safety.

More than half of consumers participating in The Packer’s Fresh Trends 2012 survey — 57% — said they make a conscious effort to buy local produce.

The demand for local produce puts buyers behind the wheel, and they are increasingly steering their suppliers to food safety. A regional company, Cut Fruit Express Inc., Inver Grove Heights, Minn., is a case in point.

Imme Fernandez, director of food safety for the fresh-cut company, said Cut Fruit Express classifies suppliers by risks associated with specific commodities. The fresh-cut company requires suppliers of higher-risk commodities to have higher levels of food safety certifications.

Fernandez said Cut Fruit Express likes to use suppliers as close as possible to their facility, but all things being equal, they would buy from a distant supplier with good agricultural practices certification over a local one without it.

Affordable food safety

Now that federal legislation (the Food Safety Modernization Act) and numerous recalls have food safety in the spotlight, many say getting smaller growers to implement best practices is a huge challenge for the fresh produce industry.

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