California Tomato Farmers (CTF) now have additional reassurance for their buyers that the tomatoes they purchase are grown in full compliance with stringent food safety regulations. A new database is now available on the CTF website that allows tomato buyers to view for themselves the food safety compliance and audit results of CTF members.
“This new database allows me to have a single point of access to audit information on all my California tomato suppliers. The portal provides a list of CTF members, CTF member company information, including company history and contact information and USDA audit certificates. This is information I previously had to collect independently,” Drew McDonald, vice president of national quality systems for Taylor Farms, said in a press release. “This level of transparency is extremely valuable because it allows buyers like us to know immediately that the tomatoes we are purchasing were grown according to the standardized set of food safety practices and were verified by the government. That is very reassuring.”
CTF is a cooperative established in 2007 by farmers who had a shared commitment to food safety and enhanced quality. The co-op worked with industry experts and university scientists to develop a comprehensive set of stringent food safety standards for field grown tomatoes that was published by United Fresh Produce Association and titled, “Food Safety and Auditing Protocol for the Fresh Tomato Supply Chain.” CTF says this is the first and only harmonized audit for the fresh tomato industry. Compliance with these standards is mandatory for CTF members and is verified through regular, random and unannounced audits conducted by USDA inspectors.
“CTF members felt it was important to add a level of transparency to our food safety programs,” explains Ed Beckman, CTF president. “This database not only shows compliance levels but also when corrective actions were needed and completed. Through this database, CTF members are fully disclosing to buyers how they are performing on audits and this level of transparency is unprecedented in the tomato industry.”
Database postings are handled by the USDA audit team and the database is updated nightly. Security measures enable USDA to control the auditing process without industry members viewing the results until the audit is final and posted. Audits are reviewed by USDA supervisors and only supervisors can “lock” audits. Once locked, audits cannot be removed from the database.
“CTF members are putting their credibility and commitment out there for everyone to see through this database,” McDonald says. “The CTF science-based standards, mandatory government inspections and transparent database is why Taylor Farms does not require any additional food safety audits from CTF members. They have set the standard.”
Buyers who would like more information about the CTF database can contact Beckman directly at (559) 261-2630.