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Getting ‘Locally Grown’ Up To Standard

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, March 6, 2007

We received a message from a smaller independent chain in the Midwest looking to find ways to make sure its local growers, which only supply seasonally and are mostly very small, are doing the right thing as far as food safety goes.

It is not an easy challenge because these small growers have neither the money nor the staff to just fly in auditors and change operations to meet the highest food safety standards, such as those established by the British Retail Consortium. I turned to Bob Stovicek, who holds a PhD and is President of Primus Group, a leading third party auditor, to ask how we could help in a situation such as this.

The Pundit was bowled over at the resources Primus makes available at no charge to help these growers. Here is what Bob suggested:

If retailers direct their suppliers (growers) to the Primus web site, they can:

  1. Develop their own operational Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) at no charge (formats in Word allowing customization or in PDF as a training exercise). They can return at any time and alter the manuals. http://www.primuslabs.com/dd/index.html
  2. Perform self audits on themselves at no charge (the results will be e-mailed to their attention with a benchmark for what we see throughout the industry) http://www.primuslabs.com/fs/self.html
  3. Can access the audit SOPs as well as the guidelines to audits (excellent training for growers and handlers).
  4. Contact someone to work with his suppliers from our Affiliate list. There are Affiliates in Ohio, Michigan, etc. Primus is not involved in this so he can negotiate a price or the suppliers can negotiate a price directly with the Affiliate directly. (http://www.primuslabs.com/tpa/auditors.asp)

This is all provided without Primus generating any revenue.

Hopefully at sometime in the future, if the buyers or their suppliers want their performance made more available to a wider audience, Primus or the Affiliate will encourage them to formalize the audit (audited by a Third Party as an official audit) and submit it into the Primus data management system. We will make some money on the submission and transfer of the audit to buyers specified by the supplier.

To date we don’t believe that there is any system more cost effective than this but it does take some effort. The growers may have to visit a library or get one of their service providers to help. The Pundit once told me that our programs were geared for the more sophisticated end of the industry. That may be true, but I have a massive respect for a farmer’s innovativeness.

Full disclosure time: I grew up in Ohio, and I know they can handle what they will come across on the site. Most of it is prepared to be grower-friendly.

Then again, if some money is available, one of our staff members can fly out, consult, and provide all kinds of assistance.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is world class.

Perhaps others also have things to offer and, if so, we hope you’ll write and tell us so we can get word out to the industry at large.

But Primus deserves some major kudos for offering so much without demanding a cent. It shows that Bob Stovicek and Primus are genuinely interested in enhancing the safety of the food supply.

There are a lot of small growers. If we simply demand all kinds of things, we will force them to consolidate. Primus is saying we can help them just as they are. It is a real contribution to the trade, and every retailer that runs a locally grown program should click the “Send This Story” button at the bottom of this piece and send it on to someone who is responsible for working with those local growers.

Maybe everyone can’t meet the highest standards, but everyone can develop their own SOPs and everyone can do a self audit and submit it to their customer. We should demand nothing less.

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