The Centers for Disease Control estimated late last year that 48 million people — or one-sixth of all Americans — suffer from foodborne illness each year, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said there are 350 outbreaks of foodborne illness each year in the U.S.

Those glaring numbers might explain, in part, why Canadian greenhouse growers aren’t shy about touting their safety measures.

According to Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, all of the province’s greenhouse growers, packers and marketers are required to be third-party food safety certified. Shippers must be registered with the Food and Drug Administration and bonded as well.

George Gilvesy, general manager of Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, Leamington, said the association promotes its certification requirements through advertising, consumer and retailer education and at trade and consumer events.

“Under the stringent controls and climate we grow in, we are relatively insulated from the unfortunate circumstances of conventional field producers,” said Kyle Moynahan, salesman for Jem-D International, Leamington. ” As a company, we are involved in training and learning the latest advances in food safety and are actively participating and supporting the Produce Traceability Initiative.”

Director Mark Slater said Erie James Ltd., Leamington, is working toward becoming PTI compliant and recently upgraded its packing lines with print-and-apply labelers that are capable of putting lot codes on each package.

“Our team stays involved in the latest challenges that face our industry — both in Canada and in the U.S. — by serving on numerous committees, participating in industrywide conferences, workshops and seminars,” Slater said. “We believe in a proactive approach to keeping our supply chain secure.”

Matt Mastronardi, vice president of sales and marketing for Pure Hot House Foods Inc., Leamington, tries to help retailers educate their customers about the benefits of produce grown in a greenhouse environment.