Food safety continues to be at the forefront of the minds of Mexican watermelon importers.

Jimmy Henderson, owner of Warren Produce LLC, McAllen, Texas, said that while watermelons may not have the stains on their food safety records that other fresh produce commodities do, watermelon importers still have to step up to the plate.

“Food safety is a trend you have to recognize,” he said. “Even with a low-risk fruit like watermelon, the concern is there.”

Third-party certification and other food safety measures have become par for the course for the imported watermelon industry, just like for any other produce industry, Henderson said.

Even with a relatively low-risk commodity, he said, you have to be vigilant. What holds for other commodities holds, by association, for watermelons.

“Everybody needs to do what they can,” Henderson said. “It filters down to us. Good practices are good practices,” regardless of the commodity.

Food safety also has become a higher priority for Edinburg, Texas-based Bagley Produce Co., said Jeff Fawcett, sales manager — Global Food Safety Initiative verification in particular.

“Our focus this year has been on getting our GSFI’s” done, he said Jan. 17. “Mexico was rough. We finished two weeks ago.”

Before Bagley began the GSFI certification process, Fawcett admits that he was skeptical.

“On the outside looking in, a lot of it just doesn’t make sense,” he said. “One inspector would pass you, and the next one wouldn’t.”

Having gone through it, though, Bagley sees the benefits.

“It tightens things up, helps with your organizing,” he said. “The fields are cleaner, and people are more conscious of what to focus on. And once you get it done, it’s just maintenance.”