Don Edgar says New Limeco LLC didn’t know where to start when it initiated its food safety program three years ago. The Princeton, Fla.-based grower-shipper had an audit that year and “failed miserably,” said Edgar, the company’s operations manager.

Things certainly changed quickly.

After the failed audit, the company hired a food safety consultant and spent $250,000 upgrading its 60-year-old facility. By the end of that year, New Limeco had passed a PrimusLabs audit with a 90.

In 2009, the company scored a 98 on a Good Manufacturing Process audit, hired a food safety coordinator and developed a Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point program for its avocadoes.

Last year, PrimusLabs certified that the company’s domestic avocadoes meet Global Food Safety Initiative standards with a superior rating of 97.9.

“We’ve impressed ourselves,” Edgar said.

“We truly have a food safety program in place now. That’s the only way you can get those kinds of scores.”

New Limeco didn’t stop there. PrimusLabs is in the process of performing ranch and harvest audits on the company’s domestic avocado farms.

Primus already has completed five of the groves, was in the process of doing five more in mid-March and was expected to do the remaining 15 by December.

New Limeco, which also imports an extensive line of tropicals, recently acquired its GS1 company prefix certificate and license for creating barcode numbers.

Edgar said the recent passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act and a deadline looming later this year for the Produce Traceability Initiative have made traceability a priority.

The company recently selected ScoringAg to provide its record keeping and traceback needs.

“One thing is for sure, people are looking for a comprehensive traceback system,” he said.

“We looked at all this and did quite a bit of research. ScoringAg is one of the neatest things I’ve seen. It’s Web-based, so we don’t have to have equipment here.”

Edgar said the systems can tell New Limeco and its customers when and where an item was harvested, who picked it, how it was packed, when it shipped, where it went and information about the transportation provider.

“The receiver gets information from their receiving dock all the way back to the farm,” said Edgar, who added that it cost the company just $500 to join ScoringAg.

“This program will allow small farms and small businesses to stay in business and meet traceability requirements,” he said.