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COI membership increases, services in demand

Membership in Certified Onions Inc., a not-for-profit corporation that provides testing for chemical residue as well as pathogens on onions in the Treasure Valley area of Idaho-Eastern Oregon, continues to grow as food-safety protocols are expanded by buyers.

According to Kay Riley, general manager of member company Snake River Produce and president of COI, said in late November that members now number more than two dozen, with two new companies coming in during 2012.

“As far as testing, we tested between 75 and 80 percent of the onions in this area,” Mr. Riley said of the Treasure Valley. “That part of COI is really growing.”

Incorporated in 2009, COI was recognized at the March 2010 Oregon Department of Agriculture’s annual Progress Awards Banquet with the “Excellence in Marketing” award for commitment to food safety in both the domestic and international marketplaces.

Working with the ODA, COI tests for off-label pesticide use and includes maximum residue levels testing as well as pathogen testing. COI provides its members with third-party certification in both field and shed.

ODA procedures provide field identification, assigning location numbers and GPS coordinates.

Testing calls for pulled samples to be subjected to established hyper geometric tables, and if no detection is found, the product is certified.

If a test comes back positive, no certification will be allowed until retesting is completed and samples test negative.

Each onion color requires a separate sample form to include field identification, color and acreage.

Noting the recent suspension of pathogen testing by the USDA could increase demand for COI’s services, Mr. Riley noted that the operation might eventually expand into other commodities.