WSU Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center

Postharvest Information Network

Sunday, March 24, 2019

WSU-TFREC/Postharvest Information Network/Food Safety: The Commercial Advantage

Food Safety: The Commercial Advantage

Why Implement a Food Safety Program

  • Increasing consumer concerns about the safety of the food supply
  • Increasing media attention being given to food safety issues
  • Governmental initiatives regarding food safety
  • Increased incidences of food-borne illnesses
  • Marketplace realities

Consumer Issues

  • Guarantee of safety of all foods purchased and consumed
  • Chemical hazards
  • Microbial contamination
  • Food handling
  • Food preparation
  • Regulation

Food-Borne Illness

  • Increased reporting of outbreaks of food-borne illness associated with fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Center for Disease Control (CDC) has identified fresh produce as a potentially high risk carrier of food-borne pathogens


  • The mainstream news media presentations have contributed to consumer concerns
  • Media presentations have created a backlash against United States agricultural products, especially fresh fruits and vegetables in some export markets

Regulatory Pressures

  • Consumer pressure and media presentations have fueled politicians with regulatory fervor
  • Several recent consequences have been the Food Quality Protection Act and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Good Agricultural Practices initiative
  • Zero tolerance efforts
  • United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association (UFFVA), Western Growers, Northwest Horticultural Council (NHC), and other industry associations are working overtime to keep the regulators grounded in reality, not hysteria

The Marketplace

  • We have a supply driven marketplace
  • A growing mass of consumers are highly sensitive to (and highly vocal about) food safety issues
  • Most consumers have strong concerns about the absolute safety of the foods that they offer their families
  • They expect total food safety from "farm to table"
  • We must meet our customers' expectations
  • Our customers face significant competitive challenges of their own, not the least of which is meeting their customers' rising expectations
  • Food safety is not an option; it is an imperative
  • The imperative has become third party validated and certified food safety programs
  • These are being mandated by an increasing number of retail, food service, and export customers
  • Fighting implementation of third-party audited and certified food safety programs is not a prudent long-term business strategy

If You Do It Right, Do It Right

Criteria for Food Safety Program Selection:

  • Program must have strong scientific credentials
  • Program must fully incorporate and apply Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles
  • Program must be a quality management system as well as a food safety program
  • Program has to be rigorous and comprehensive
  • Program must require thorough and practical formal staff training
  • Program must be leading, rather than following, the food safety/HACCP movement
  • Program must be able to withstand the most rigorous scrutiny, including consumers
  • Program must exceed domestic and international HACCP standards
  • Program must have international credibility
  • Program must have fully independent, highly reputable third party audit and certification procedures
  • Program must be realistically applicable to the commodity tree fruit industry
  • Program must be cost effective

SQF 2000

  • SQF 2000 (Safe, Quality Food) was introduced in 1995
  • Developed by AGWEST, Western Australia
  • SQF 2000 was developed upon a strong scientific foundation
  • It uses as its basis the internationally accepted HACCP standard, Codex Alimentarius
  • Developed for production horticulture and agriculture
  • Earliest applications were apple and grape growing and packing operations in Australia
  • SQF 2000 makes a practical link between food safety and overall quality assurance

SQF 2000 and Tree Fruit

  • Five Washington State tree fruit growers/packers/shippers are the first companies in North America to receive SQF 2000 certification.
  • Beginning in December 1998, these companies cooperated in all phases of the training and implementation process, including sharing of training costs
  • Formal certification audits were successfully completed in October 1999

SQF 2000 Today

  • At present, there are more than 1000 companies worldwide actively utilizing the SQF 2000 system in their regular business operations
  • SQF 2000 programs are practiced and recognized in more than 70 countries
  • SQF 2000 practitioners now include dairies, aquaculture, feed suppliers, and food processors
  • New program, SQF 1000, focused exclusively upon field and orchard production system
  • SQF 1000 implementation beginning Spring 2000

SQF 2000 Training

  • All SQF 2000 practitioners are formally trained and certified
  • Key management personnel from all five Washington State companies implementing SQF 2000 were required to complete four days of formal classroom training, design a hypothetical HACCP program, and pass a comprehensive examination
  • Other supervisors and staff received four to eight hours of specific program training

Third Party Certification

  • Independent, third party audits and certification for SQF 2000 are conducted by SGS International Certification Services (SGS)
  • SGS is an internationally recognized auditor with extensive experience in matters of food safety, quality assurance, and HACCP programs
  • SGS is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and has offices in more than 120 of the world's major cities
  • Upon passing the SGS audit, companies are assigned a unique certification number
  • Companies are then authorized to use the SQF 2000 shield containing their unique certification number for identifying products from their specific facility
  • Shield usage rights exist as long as companies maintain active certification
  • Companies are re-certified every six months for first three years, then annually

SQF 2000 Costs

  • Total cost of SQF 2000 training and implementation was approximately $8,500 per company
  • If formal training and site visits can be grouped and coordinated, direct costs can be effectively managed
  • SGS audit and certification costs average are approximately $1,200 per visit

The Commercial Advantage

  • Implementation of comprehensive, third party validated food safety programs does not confer any significant competitive advantage
  • Implementation guarantees only that program participants will be able to compete in the marketplaces of today and tomorrow

Steve Fox

Price Cold Storage & Packing Co.
P.O. Box 4078
Yakima, WA 98904

16th Annual Postharvest Conference, Yakima, WA
March 14-15,  2000

Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center, 1100 N Western Ave, Washington State University, Wenatchee WA 98801, 509-663-8181, Contact Us