Good Fruit Grower

May 15

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Great expectations Costco's addendums include items not covered in most food safety audits. by Melissa Hansen M ega retailer Costco Wholesale has high expectations when it comes to food safety and requires more from its suppliers than most, says Milinda Dwyer, Costco food safety representative. Dwyer, based in the company's headquarters in Issaquah, Washington, shared the details of Costco's food safety program with a room full of Washington tree fruit industry members during a food safety seminar at statewide tree fruit talks in December. She answered questions and throughout her talk expressed a willingness to find common ground to issues, especially those stemming from Costco's infamous "addendums." Dwyer works closely with produce suppliers, certifying bodies, auditors, and others to ensure that all products sold by Costco are safe. Costco is the second largest U.S. retailer, seventh in the world, and has 67 million members worldwide. More than 600 warehouses generated $93 billion in total sales for the 2012 fiscal year. Costco's main expectation of suppliers is that all who grow, harvest, pack, and further process the produce must have an annual food safety audit from an approved third party certification entity. For an audit to be acceptable, it must be numerically scored; 85 percent is the minimum score accepted. Other expectations include: —Audits are to be conducted as close to the anniversary date of the last audit as feasibly possible. —The same auditor cannot visit the same site more than three years in a row. —Product recalls or other serious findings require a new food safety audit be conducted. Milinda Dwyer Costco also requires that the online Azzule data management system be used to upload audits and details of corrective actions. "Data management is a huge issue for companies such as ours because there is so much data to manage and keep track of," Dwyer said, adding that the secure Web site allows suppliers to upload information and meet Costco's timelines for data entry. In 2011, Costco received more than 6,200 food safety audits from small and large businesses. When an audit requires corrective actions, the supplier has 14 days to submit (upload) information on what steps were taken to comply with the corrective action. "We take corrective actions very seriously," she said. "It's where the rubber meets the road. We want to know how and when you fix what was identified in the audit." Addendums It's been Costco's addendums—additional items required by Costco that are not included in most audit schemes—that have caused the most friction between Northwest growers and packers and Costco's food safety department. Dwyer says that while 93 percent of all food safety audits for produce have the same requirements, Costco believes that a few important items are missing, thus the need for its list of addendums. The addendums cover topics like harvest crews, the growing area, and produce facilities, which include packing houses, cold storages, distribution centers, and such. The addendums also dictate when reaudits are required. Costco has deemed several items so egregious that a reaudit is automatic. —Milinda Dwyer "Items that come into contact with produce must be able to be cleaned and sanitized." Because Size Matters. Give your trees the nutrient solution that has repeatedly shown to improve both yield and quality of cherry crops. Caliper provides a unique combination of highly available plant nutrients. High in plant glycoproteins and providing plant nitrogen stabilization, Caliper improves plant chlorophyll production, especially in cool, wet conditions. This dry soluble micro-crystal formulation is easy to use, and can be applied in combination with existing foliar programs. To help improve fruit set and fruit size, contact your local Genesis Agri Products distributor for rates and timing. Distributed By: Genesis Agri-Products 2517 Old Town Road, Union Gap, WA 98903 Contact: Doug Anyan 509-949-9231 10 May 15, 2013 GOOD FRUIT GROWER

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