Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What one supermarket does for food safety

What can a super market do to make sure their produce is not tainted? What an awful subject, a topic that would never have occurred to me 5 years ago.

Concern for me started with the E. coli outbreak in spinach in 2006. A double whammy that involved tainted organic spinach. Organic anything is suppose to be good, right? Horribly, 6 people died a little wiser.

What are grocery stores doing about it?

Here’s the scoop on a regional chain called Wegmans (NY, NJ, PA, MD, VA). During my previous life in NJ, I shopped Wegmans. It’s shopping as an experience. It’s being able to buy meals instead of just ingredients, or the best ingredients for a great meal.

These are some excerpts from an interview with Bill Pool, manager of agricultural product and research for Wegmans in Fresh Cut 4/09 magazine.

Wegmans has in place a good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and has had it in place since 2005. Suppliers of raw product are expected to take the training program especially if they supply the 5 vulnerable commodities: leafy greens, tomatoes, netted melons, herbs and green onions.

Webmans uses USDA GAPs as a benchmark for its growers. The USDA covers water quality, personal health and hygiene, field sanitation, proper toilets, hand washing, manure control and more.

Other grocery stores have GAPs in place, such as Publix a southeastern chain of grocery stores.

I think it’s important to note that Wegmans does not make a distinction between conventional and organic produce. Often times organic enterprises are assumed as having resolved all food safety issues before they can be labeled ‘organic’.

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