That includes every aspect of the company’s operation, from harvest to pack to distribution, he said.
“We want to be able to guarantee and certify to our customers that the product they are getting is safe,” Dowhan said.
Food safety certification is expensive, said Phil Henry, president of Henry Avocado Corp., Escondido.
Nonetheless, “We have to comply with the standards of retailers and foodservice distributors,” he said.
Complying with food safety standards is difficult whether a grower produces organic or conventional product, said Steve Taft, president and chief executive officer at Eco-Farms Corp., Temecula, Calif.
It’s not impossible, though.
“It just takes more of people’s time to make sure we have everything set,” he said.
Melban thinks the demand for GAP certification only will increase with time.
“There’s been for a few years, increasing chatter from the retail community and the foodservice community in terms of requiring GAP certification,” he said.
Some already have drawn a line and set a date when they only will accept GAP-certified fruit, he said.
Index Fresh has hired a food safety coordinator Nnaemeka Ike, who is dedicated to food safety and who works with growers to help them get GAP audited, Thomas said.
“The vast majority of customers ask us about our food safety programs,” he said.
Safety standards have evolved significantly over the years.
“What we’re doing today is entirely different from what we were doing 20 years ago,” Thomas said.