Karst chat with Dave Gombas: on harmonized standards and the puzzling case of listeria on cantaloupe - The Packer

Karst chat with Dave Gombas: on harmonized standards and the puzzling case of listeria on cantaloupe

09/22/2011 03:33:00 PM
Tom Karst

Dave GombasI had the chance to chat on Sept. 21 with Dave Gombas, senior vice president for food safety and technology at the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association.

11:00 a.m. Tom Karst: What are you working on this week?

11:00 a.m. David Gombas: I was pilot testing the harmonized standard to see if it works in a greenhouse as well as in the field, and it does.

11:01 a.m. Karst: So the Produce GAPS Harmonized Standard is in place?

11:02 a.m. Gombas: Some companies are already using it. It just recently got finalized, and now we have to have auditors trained to calibrate so they all do it the same way. That’s the next step. The field standard was finalized at the of July.

11:02 a.m. Karst: So the next step would be to train the auditors?

11:02 .am. Gombas:  We want to bring all the audit organizations together so they are using the tool the same way, whether that is USDA, GFSI, or anybody. Any audit organization that wants to come to the table and use this standard. Information can be found here.

11:03 a.m. Karst: What has been the highlight of the process of GAP harmonization since you first began working on it in 2007?

11:04 a.m. Gombas: “The real highlight of the process has been the openness of the whole process. Harmonization has been tried  many, many times by really good people, but yet it has never succeeded. Why not? We sat down on the technology council to figure out what has gone wrong in the past, what to not  repeat. It was about the openness of the process. You have a group of six or seven really smart people sitting in a room figuring out what standards their suppliers are required to follow, and the suppliers aren’t part of the meeting.  Or  you have suppliers getting together figuring what the standards should be and trying to push it up to the buyers. That doesn’t work, either. This one, we just said everyone come to the table, and  we didn’t care what commodity it was, whether you were a buyer,  supplier, distributor, academic or government interest. We had 150 people sign on, large and small, members and non-members. And they all had a say in how it was developed When they had a say in it, we found an answer that everybody could live with. And we said, okay, they are buying in to it. I think that is what the big improvement is.

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