Michigan producers continue to tweak, and in some cases overhaul, their food safety and traceability programs to comply with industry regulations and requirements.
“Food safety issues are our No. 1 priority,” said Todd Miedema, marketing director and principal at Miedema Produce, Hudsonville, Mich. “Our industry has been very food safety conscious, and for the past couple of years it’s really been a focal point.”
The most important thing is to keep the consumer safer and to increase consumer confidence in fresh produce, Miedema said.
“If we can trace back in a better, more timely fashion, we’re also making it a safer environment for us to do business in,” Miedema said.
For Hudsonville-based Superior Sales, the tactic has been to stay a step ahead of the industry when it comes to food safety.
“We continue to try to stay ahead of the game on the food safety front,” said Todd DeWaard, sales manager. “We strive to keep our growers to the highest levels of certification and employ one person full-time and another part-time year-round just to handle all the changing regulations, as well as handling all of our growers in these regards.”
Bruce Heeren, vice president of Belding-based Michigan Fresh Marketing, said the company plans to add bar code labels to its packaged cartons this season as part of its efforts to meet Produce Traceability Initiative standards.
Dave Miedema, president of Byron Center, Mich.-based E. Miedema & Sons, said his company has been preparing for GFSI-approved audits.
“It’s all good, but it’s a lot of paperwork,” Dave Miedema said. “It’s a lot more of my time, but we feel we have to do it.”
Dave Miedema said he’s a little nervous about the proposed national leafy greens initiative, which would act as a national marketing order for leafy green products, as is done in California and Arizona through the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. Dave Miedema is a past president of the Leafy Greens Council, and said during his time on the board, the group did not back such a marketing order.
“We’re not against food safety, but we just felt if there was something that Primus and these others (auditors) could administer instead of the USDA…we’re wondering if there are going to be enough auditors,” Dave Miedema said.
Dave Miedema said a national marketing order would likely put many small leafy greens growers out of business.