WASHINGTON -- Fresh produce businesses can for the first time compare
third-party auditor services thanks to a working group spearheaded by the
United Fresh Produce Association.
The Audits Benchmarking Matrix, which was released April 30, allows users to
compare eight organizations that perform pre-farm gate audits, seven
businesses that perform post-farm gate audits, and four organizations
whose standards have been benchmarked by the Global Food Safety Initiative.
“The Audits Benchmarking Matrix allows interested parties to compare what
these companies say about themselves from the convenience of a desktop,”
said David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for
The ability to compare auditing services allows produce companies to have
trust in how auditors are selected and trained and how inspections are
conducted, he said, adding, “Trust is the most important factor in deciding
whether to use an audit organization."
The new matrix grew out of the 2009 Global Conference on Produce food
Standards, a United Fresh-sponsored two-day event that allowed some 300
produce leaders to hear from 16 auditing organizations on their audits and
standards. A working group, led by Gail Murray, consumer products senior
safety and quality manager for Disney, invited the audit organizations to
provide written responses to questions about their programs.
“We asked the same questions that customers would ask when trying to
select or decide to accept an audit program,” said Ms. Murray. _
The new matrix comes as the produce industry is feverishly developing
harmonized food-safety standards for Good Agricultural Practice audits with
the hope of creating one audit acceptable to all buyers. The produce industry
has long complained about the escalating cost and duplication among audits
used to measure compliance with GAPs.
Dr. Gombas said that a group of industry representatives are hosting their
fifth meeting in May, and a draft report is nearly two-thirds completed. The
Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative Technical Working Group is hoping to
complete a harmonized food-safety standard report by September.
At an April 19 meeting, members of the Steering Committee reaffirmed its
commitment to adhere to the GAP harmonization report.
“If you build it, we will use it,” Dr. Gombas said, referring to the Steering
Committee’s recommendations at the Las Vegas meeting.