Vineland Growers’ Cooperative and 17 Niagara fruit growers will receive funding through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to implement improved cleaning and sanitation procedures at their pack houses. “The objective of cleaning and sanitizing is to remove the nutrients that bacteria use to grow, and to eliminate the bacteria that are present,” explained Vineland Growers’ president Mike Ecker.
This will help to raise product quality and safety, increasingly expected by major Canadian retailers and international customers. It will also boost the shelf life of tender fruits, enabling local growers to ship their produce greater distances and access new markets.
According to Ecker, cleaning is the most costly part of on-farm food safety, so for the co-operative to be able to access funding for the project helps make these improvements more accessible to its members.
The new food safety program includes enhanced sanitation, environmental monitoring, training of staff, and achieving group food safety certification. An internal auditor will be trained to ensure growers are maintaining proper records, traceability and cleanliness practices.
Tregunno Fruit Farms, Niagara-on-the-Lake, is one of the first co-op members to implement new cleaning equipment and microbiology testers, in time for the 2018 harvest season. The co-op itself will be adding a state-of-the-art bioluminescence monitoring system to ensure that the growers’ new procedures are effective in avoiding product contamination.