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Up to speed on food safety?


CanadaGAP certification satisfies about 90 per cent of suppliers’ requirements. By Judie Steeves


C


onsumer food recalls are the industry’s worst nightmare, but food safety certification programs are now available to help prevent the contamination of food that can result in such costly recalls.


The largest program in Canada is the independently-operated, not-for-profit CanadaGAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification program providing food safety standards and certification that is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standard required by most retailers. It was developed by producers, for producers.


Chairman of the board of CanAgPlus, the corporation that owns and operates the CanadaGAP program, is currently Jack Bates of Tecarte Farms of Delta. The Bates family farm produces blueberries, as well as milk and potatoes. Although certification by the CanadaGAP program is not required in this country, it is a requirement of most retailers, so growers have fewer options for marketing their fruit if they are not certified.


CanadaGAP executive-director Heather Gale says there are 637 tree fruit and table grape growers in B.C. who are enrolled in the program and most are certified, while there are 1,000 enrolled across Canada in the fruit and vine category.


She feels a substantial portion of the industry in B.C. is already participating, except for some small growers, since all major retailers ask that their producers be certified.


There are other food safety certification programs operating in Canada, including GlobalG.A.P., PrimusGFS and SQF or Safe Quality


18 Food.


One of the auditors for the CanadaGAP program in B.C. is Joe Lariviere, who is also an industry consultant. He warns one of the challenges for producers is being aware of the slightly different requirements under different food safety programs.


While most retailers require GFSI standards, some take it a step further and add their own restrictions to that standard, like


membership warehouse club Costco, which last year required that growers permit them to do on-farm water testing twice a year, and require contamination risks in the


Joe Lariviere is an auditor for CanadaGAP, which can help growers meet the international food safety standard.


field be reduced by use of only certain types of personal water bottles by pickers, amongst other additions. Some packers have their own requirements as well, notes Lariviere.


However, he says CanadaGAP certification satisfies probably 90 per cent of suppliers’ requirements. With CanadaGap, the majority of producers are audited annually during harvest, he explains. It’s a scheduled audit, as opposed to one that is unscheduled, driven by a complaint or concern. However, the producer is contacted beforehand for even an unscheduled audit. The next step is unannounced audits.


Lariviere has a few tips for growers regarding compliance with the CanadaGAP program.


He says the most common reason for failure of an audit is employee hand- washing, so he recommends that growers ensure there are hand-washing facilities set up that are convenient for pickers to use. These stations should be well-stocked with soap, potable water and paper towels.


Employee compliance can be a problem, he admits, particularly when


British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2017


there are a lot of employees, such as at harvest time. However, it’s important to invest the time to train employees on when and how to wash their hands, and make sure clean, well-stocked facilities are handy to where they are picking or working.


Paperwork is a challenge for some growers, although with the CanadaGAP program forms are made available for growers, to help them comply more easily with such requirements as keeping spray records and maintaining records of washroom cleaning.


It’s particularly a problem when English language skills are not strong, he notes.


Several forms must be filled out annually, while others are ongoing forms, such as chemical application records, harvest and shipping records. Lariviere recommends growers use the checklist provided with the program to ensure all documents are filled out. It’s a waste of energy to put on the proper sprays or ensure the bathrooms are cleaned regularly, but then to simply neglect the quick and easy task of making a note of what was done, after it’s been done.


“It’s about a change in attitude and


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