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Bill Litvin, regional sales and national account manager for Giorgio Fresh Co., in Temple, PA, told The Produce News that the company offers organic whole and sliced white mushrooms, Baby Bella, whole and sliced Portabellas and Shiitake mushrooms in retail and bulk packs.

"We recently added sliced white mushrooms to our organic line," said Mr. Litvin. “Our organic mushrooms are all produced on our farms in Pennsylvania. Giorgio Fresh has [one of the larger single-site mushroom- growing operations] in the country, and we are the second largest mushroom grower in the United States.”

Giorgio Fresh's packing operation is SQF-certified to level 3 by the Safe Quality Food Institute. “SQFI is a division of the Food Marketing Institute, an association that conducts programs in public affairs, food safety, research, education and industry relations on behalf of its 1,500 member companies,” said Mr. Litvin. “Members include food retailers and wholesalers in the United States and around the world.”

Giorgio became a certified organic grower by Pennsylvania Certified Organic on March 11, 2004. The company’s organic customers are large and small retail chains, wholesalers and distributors.

Mr. Litvin said that there is word that the economy is now in a slow but consistent growth pattern. But despite the economic climate of the last couple of years, the company’s organic production has been stable and sales have increased steadily. He said that the company expects the demand for organics to continue growing in the future.

Giorgio Fresh grows all its non-organic mushrooms using integrated pest management techniques. Mr. Litvin said that this certified process uses various techniques to reduce the reliance on pesticides.

“IPM techniques are a sustainable method of growing, which uses shorter crop cycles, pest exclusion, biological controls, strict farm sanitation and sound growing practices that produce healthy, disease-resistant crops,” he said. “Our natural biological controls are derived from nature’s own pest-resistant compounds, and are quite friendly to the environment. Giorgio Fresh employees participate in ongoing training to ensure proper implementation of our IPM program.”

Giorgio Fresh is also certified by Mushroom Good Agricultural Practices for all its growing operations. The MGAP audit was developed by the U.S. mushroom industry, working through the American Mushroom Institute and in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The audit establishes guidelines to reduce the chance of foodborne pathogens and other possible food-safety concerns.

“All of our mushroom farms have passed the MGAP certification,” said Mr. Litvin. “We believe such audits are a necessary and significant step to improving food-safety standards across the entire agricultural industry.” Mr. Litvin also noted that he does not feel that the locally grown movement will have a significant effect on the organic trend in the future.

“While I think there is tremendous interest in some circles in the locally grown movement, I don’t think this movement will have any significant effect on the organic trend going forward,” he said.

(For more on organic produce, see the Jan. 31, 2011, issue of The Produce News.)