Who is Handling My Produce?
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What can a shipper or grower who is exporting fresh produce from outside of the United States do to reduce the chances that that operation could be falsely accused of contaminating product?
The history of misidentifying the product vectoring human pathogens is well documented. At times, that misidentification of a commodity can continue for months, damaging the consumers’ confidence in the safety of the commodity, which may result in a serious decline in market prices.
Once the commodity has been identified, researchers focus their attention on the source of the contamination. With a supply chain as complicated as fresh produce, finding the actual source is no small task. To narrow the investigation from the commodity to the origin of the contaminated product takes time. In the process, entire nations, regions, or nearby farms can be unfairly implicated. Even distinguishing between contamination that occurs during production rather than during handling can be a challenge. To regulators caught up in the heat of the investigation, the importance of distinguishing between contaminations at the farm level as opposed to clean product contaminated during off-farm handling processes may seem trivial. Correctly identifying the source is compounded by everyone’s primary focus on protecting the consumer. Under time pressures, regulators are pressured to make educated guesses. At times, those educated guesses damage innocent farms, farmers, and shippers.
In a matter of a few short days, a brand that has been developed over decades or even lifetimes can be severely damaged or destroyed. In an effort to stay true to their business models, buyers attempt to avoid these crises by knowing more about the food safety practices of their suppliers. Knowing if suppliers have a quality pack, reliable supply, timely delivery, reasonable pricing are all routine skills for the buyers’ merchandizers and distribution centers. Knowing how a supplier grows and handles a product requires a different set of questions. Most buyers have resorted to requesting third-party safety audits of their customers’ operations.
Reviewing third party audits to be better informed regarding an operation’s safe handling practices is an approach not limited to buyers. Shippers and farming operations that have developed stellar reputations over decades or generations are well within their rights to want to know more about how their product is being handled. Regulators don’t limit their expectations to one step back. Instead, their expectation is at least one step back and one step forward. So it stands to reason that requesting an audit from a party directly handling your fresh produce is as justified on the supplier’s side as it is on the buyer’s side.
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About the Author: Nadia Pasco
“Who is Handling My Produce? Part 1 & 2”
Nadia Pasco is the Chief Executive Officer of Azzule Systems, a position she has held since 2008 when the company was founded. Nadia is a strong leader with an unparalleled passion for the industries that Azzule serves. She is a hands-on leader, involved with the day-to-day business concerns of clients and an understanding their specialized needs. Under Nadia’s leadership, Azzule’s approach blends a passionate and entrepreneurial spirit with practical and innovative solutions to help clients be successful.
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