Monday, June 1, 2009

Florida avocado packers committed to food safety

Excerpts from a 5/29/2009 The Packer article written by Doug Ohlemeier

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Last summer’s salmonella scare sent tremors through the U.S. produce industry.South Florida avocado grower-shippers, like their fruit and vegetable counterparts, kept a close watch on the developing crisis and worked to make sure such a traumatic experience that devastated the U.S. tomato industry wouldn’t happen to them.

Visitors walking around the packinghouse and packing facility of Brooks Tropicals Inc. will immediately hear the screeching sounds of a fake hawk. The audio recording, played continuously over loudspeakers overlooking the plant, helps scare away birds.Metal fencing also protects animals from flying into the grading operation from the receiving area.

Brooks’ packinghouse and shipping facility have been Primus Labs-certified since 2008, said Bill Brindle, Brooks’ vice president of sales management.“We are very proud of our food safety certification,” he said. “Once you get there, you have to maintain it and it is a process where you do it continuously.”

Brooks’ packing line uses stainless steel, as recommended by food safety authorities.Brooks keeps its carton assembling area as well as cleaning utensils and other products separated from the packing area to prevent cross-contamination.

Brooks’ unmade boxes are stored shrinkwrapped to prevent dust contamination.Brindle said some of its retail buyers send field inspectors to inspect Brooks’ packinghouse to see how the operation handles its fruit. That’s the exception rather than the norm, he said, as most of its customers check on Brooks’ certification scores by signing onto the Primus Web site.

Brooks says it was the first in Florida to have a refrigerated packinghouse loading dock.