Good Fruit Grower

January 15

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Page 28 of 47 Good Fruit Grower JANUARY 15, 2015 29 tested different materials and showed the importance of having adequate contact time between the fruit and the control materials. Bins carry dirt from the orchard floor into the packing house. A major change Morgan made was to separate the flumes from the dump tank, in order to reduce pathogen pop- ulations on the apples. Now, when the fruit comes out of the dump tank it goes into clean water in the flumes. As they carry the fruit to the brush bed, the flumes make a loop to maximize exposure of the fruit to the chlorine in the water. At the brush bed, the fruit is scrubbed, then sprayed with a high-pressure wash, before being dropped back into the flumes to be transported to the packing line. "Pathogens are doing their best to make it into our buildings, and our job is to beat them back as best we can," said Morgan, who avoids using recycled water. Another change Double Diamond made, resulting from their test results, was to have larger openings in tanks so they can be cleaned more thoroughly. In the past, tanks were not designed with cleaning in mind, he said. "They were more designed for draining and some rudimentary washing out of what might be in the bottom of them. We went back to the manufacturers and had them cut us bigger openings in the bottom so we can clean them every day." Morgan would like to see packing lines designed with more concern about food safety and thinks best practices will be identified and addressed in future packing line changes. Double Diamond is certified under Safe Quality Food (SQF), which is a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) based system for both food safety and food quality. HACCP is a useful approach for almost any business because it involves analyz- ing every activity to assess what could go wrong and the likelihood that it will, Morgan said. "HACCP can allow you to run your business more cost effectively by identifying problems earlier and being systematic about it. It's extremely expensive to find problems on the shipping dock. You have all the costs into it, and there's probably a truck waiting. It's a bad time to figure out you have a problem—though it's better than the customer figuring it out for you. Most efficient Morgan said his food safety system is not designed just to pass audits. "I'm doing it because it's the cheapest and most efficient way for me to deliver a quality product to my customer. People don't understand. They fight it. They want to rail about it and complain, when the reality is it can be a very useful tool for improving your business." However, he is concerned about how the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act might impact the industry. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is finalizing the regulations, which he fears will become increasingly challenging. "If you have a problem, they'll look at everything you do, and they'll find something, and you'll have broken a federal law when they find out you were not in full compliance with the FSMA," he said. Morgan said fruit packers need to drill their workers so that the food safety measures are what they do without even thinking. "The goal should be to create a 100-percent effective system that's as simple as possible," he said. "It needs to be functional and as minimally intrusive as possible so people, during the normal flow of their work, can get it done. The more complicated and convoluted your systems, the more likelihood they will fail. "You want your food safety system to be reflective of what you're doing every day, and what you're doing every day has to work," he added. "Make it so much a part of your day that you would not think of not doing it unless the place was burning down and you're fleeing the building." • AUDITS CREEP BEYOND food safety W arren Morgan, owner of Double Diamond Fruit in Quincy, Washington, welcomes audits that can help him ensure the safety and quality of the fruit he packs. But there's a tendency for retailer audits to go down paths they were never intended to go down, something he calls "audit creep." Morgan estimates he goes through seven or eight audits a year. Some retailers audit for social responsibility. This involves checking the employer's pay records to find out how much the workers are paid. The auditor may also want to inter- view workers, without the presence of a supervisor or manager, to find out how they are treated. Morgan said he appreciates the auditing companies that separate human resource audits from food safety. "They are really separate issues," he said. "Let's decide if I'm supplying a safe product, and then you can decide if I'm a good guy. These audits start to pile up, and they have nothing to do with food safety. Unfortunately, some of the audits are starting to get gray and fuzzy around the edges." But Morgan will comply, nevertheless. "I'm not complaining," he said. "I have a choice, and I chose to do business with these people. I'm not concerned about what they're going to find out when they come to do these audits. Come talk to my people, look around and see if anyone's got anything bad to say. If my customer thinks it's important, it's not a waste of time." He understands that, in this age of social media, people buying his fruit might want to make sure he's not going to embarrass them, because they can be embar- rassed very quickly and on a huge sale. "I imagine when they do their risk assessments, one of the things that pops up is, 'What are our vendors like?'" —G. Warner

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