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Recently, one of our nation’s largest wholesale food store chains voluntarily recalled more than 350 frozen fruit and vegetable products due to possible listeria contamination. Consumers have every right to be concerned, and the food industry must remain vigilant.
On a daily basis, produce growers across the country make certain that food safety governs all aspects of operations from field to table. While news reports about foodborne illness are disturbing, it’s important to understand that our industry is committed to always delivering the safest products.
Addressing Critical Food Safety
As commercial growers, our number one priority is to ensure the freshness and safety of the nation’s produce supply. We accomplish this with constant oversight that extends from planting and harvesting to packaging and shipping. Through the years, our industry has risen to challenges that result from developments in the production process, changes in the environment and even the emergence of new bacteria and toxins.
Contamination can affect all types of food products from ice cream to cold cuts, but fresh produce comes under special scrutiny. While commercial growers practice and encourage self-regulation, our industry also strongly supports improvements in FDA safety rules that went into effect in 2015. Since then, we’ve seen significant modernization throughout commercial farming, packing, warehousing and shipping operations.
Adhering to the Highest Standards
Many California produce growers incorporate third-party lab testing, certification and auditing into daily operations. This ensures that our industry is held to the highest standards and relies on scientific approaches to maintaining in-house food safety programs. Our state’s produce companies adhere to best agricultural practices as defined by the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
In addition to strict policies developed by each grower, some commercial farming operations are certified through the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA). Formed in 2007, the organization furthers food safety in the industry through audits by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. LGMA is viewed as a strong supplement to established in-house safety programs.
Supporting Our Best Line of Defense
Ultimately, food safety depends on the men and women involved in its production on a daily basis. Ensuring the safety of fresh produce forms the core of employee training across the industry. From planting seed for baby iceberg lettuce to packaging fresh romaine hearts, highly trained and motivated teams constantly oversee the safety of all processes, products and equipment.
Produce growers here in California routinely monitor and independently audit employee performance. This constant oversight ensures compliance with all practices and procedures detailed by each company’s specific food safety program. Employees understand that they’re the first and best line of defense against product contamination. Their ongoing record of success for ensuring the freshness, quality and safety of field produce is a continual source of pride.
Our Industry Commitment
Here at Hitchcock Farms, we join other commercial farming operations in an industry-wide commitment to exceeding mandated standards and adhering to proven processes that ensure food safety. We work very hard to deliver fresh, healthy products across the nation every day.
As technology and agricultural practices continue to evolve, we look forward to helping develop and implement the latest advancements in commercial growing operations. We know that this strong commitment to food safety from field to table is shared by produce growers all across our industry.
Karen Campbell brings solid industry expertise to her role as general manager for Hitchcock Farms. Her foodservice career started after her graduation from CSU Fresno with a degree in Agricultural Business Management. Beginning in 1994, Karen put her skills to work in both sales and business management for a local grower-shipper company.
Karen joined the team at Hitchcock Farms in 2015 where she’s successfully filled and expanded the role of general manager. She also enjoys working closely with local and national chefs and foodservice professionals developing new ideas that keep the industry moving forward.