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Whole Foods Market now a GLOBALG.A.P. retail member

Whole Foods Market, the leading progressive grocery chain in North America, became a GLOBALG.A.P. retail member in August. Founded in 1980 and headquartered in Austin, Texas, it currently has over 420 locations throughout the USA and Canada. It expanded into the United Kingdom in 2004 and now operates 9 stores in England and Scotland.

Whole Foods Market became a GLOBALG.A.P. retail member in August.

With over 420 locations in North America, the Texas-based grocery chain focuses on providing a wide range of natural food, health and household products to consumers and now also operates 9 stores in England and Scotland.

According to a  GLOBALG.A.P. press release, Whole Foods Market requires that all produce vendors and their suppliers operate using risk-based food safety plans created after performing a risk assessment to identify potential food safety hazards.

Additionally, it requires that vendors of high-risk produce (such as salads, melons and green onions) have a 3rd party food safety audit, preferably to GFSI-recognised schemes, including GLOBALG.A.P’s Integrated Farm Assurance (IFA-Crops-Fruit & Veg) and Produce Safety Standard (PSS).

Last year the chain introduced Responsibly Grown, an innovative, tiered rating system that assesses growing practices based upon their impact on human health, environmental sustainability, water conservation and worker welfare. It labels fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers as ‘good’, ‘better’ or ‘best’ to help shoppers make more informed choices, and prohibits some of the most hazardous neurotoxins still allowed in agriculture.

“GLOBALG.A.P. has worked with Whole Foods Market to benchmark its IFA standard to the Responsibly Grown system to identify overlapping requirements and simplify compliance for IFA-certified producers. We are currently exploring ways to further develop a streamlined audit process for growers seeking IFA certification and a verified Responsibly Grown rating,” GLOBALG.A.P. said.

Whole Foods Market’s Responsibly Grown team leader Robin Foster said Responsibly Grown was launched with the goal of addressing some of today’s most critical agricultural issues and to reward growers taking major steps to protect human health and the environment. “We’re proud to be working with partners like GLOBALG.A.P. to address these important issues, benchmark achievements and raise the bar across the industry,” Foster said.

GLOBALG.A.P. sustainability consultant Roberta Anderson said the partnership with Whole Foods Market is a great example of GLOBALG.A.P.’s commitment to developing efficient, pragmatic approaches to food safety and sustainability assurance. “The more we can do to acknowledge similarities in standards, the better we can eliminate unnecessary duplication of efforts, saving both time and money for growers,” she said.

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Spinneys, the Premier Supermarket Retailer in the Middle East, Joins GLOBALG.A.P. as a Member

Spinneys, the Premier Supermarket Retailer in the Middle East, Joins GLOBALG.A.P. as a Member.

Fine Fare Food Market LLC, which operates Spinneys, the premium supermarket retailer in the Middle East, has become the first in the region to join GLOBALG.A.P. as a retail member. This is in line with the company’s strategic decision to support a sustainable sourcing policy in order to benefit their farming partners, the environment, and their customers.

The company operates hypermarkets and supermarkets in Qatar, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and, through a franchise agreement, 30 stores in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). GLOBALG.A.P. Membership confirms the company’s commitment to supporting initiatives that assure sustainable and safe products for consumers.

By December 2015, Spinneys UAE plans to import only GLOBALG.A.P. certified fruits and vegetables from South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Kenya, and Europe. In 2016, the retailer will expand its sourcing policy and work with producers from other countries, including Sri Lanka, Australia and USA, to help them achieve GLOBALG.A.P. Certification.

“We welcome Spinneys as a member in our GLOBALG.A.P. Community,” said Kristian Moeller, CEO of GLOBALG.A.P. “This move will make GLOBALG.A.P. certified produce available also to consumers in the Middle East ‎and opens up a very interesting market for certified producers.”

First established in 1924 by Arthur Spinneys in the suburbs of Alexandria Egypt, Spinneys sold high quality fresh produce, grocery, and baked goods at a fair price and in a fresh and friendly shopping environment. By 1960, it had grown into a chain and succeeded in opening additional retail outlets in Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan and supplying food for petrol exploration teams across the Gulf region.

Spinneys opened its doors in Lebanon’s old Beirut Souks in 1948, followed by additional stores in various parts of the country in the 1970s, but unfortunately the stores closed due to the civil war at that time. Thirty years later, Spinneys pioneered the concept of a hypermarket in Lebanon and re-opened its doors in 1998 through one big store and seven other standalone outlets, in addition to regional expansion in the Middle East.

Spinneys was ranked one of the world’s 50 best grocers by UK based retail magazine The Grocer in 2013.

source: GLOBALG.A.P. media release

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HPSS Standard, the new pre- and post-farmgate solution

“We are pleased to introduce to the U.S. market our new Harmonized Produce Safety Standard (HPSS) solution: HPSS is an innovation in audit standards which includes the entire pre- and post-farmgate Harmonized Standards in a single combined checklist” remarked GLOBALG.A.P. Vice President of Operations Jonathan Needham.

GLOBALG.A.P., the internationally trusted farm certification standards organization, and the United Fresh Produce Association gathered leading US retail chains and producers, last Thursday June 11, to debate “The Sense and Nonsense of Farm Certification”. The participation of the FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor and other government representatives indicated the high degree of concern for food safety in the US as well with supplying countries.

Taylor gave his view of the role of on-farm audits in the coming era of the landmark FSMA legislation. The participants gave very positive signals that standards harmonization and the reduction of audit duplication between buyers, producers and shippers are possible and necessary, in order to ensure food safety and reduce audit fatigue. Auditing was viewed as an opportunity for improvement and collaboration through the supply chain, rather than a cost. Furthermore, harmonization is also considered a facilitator of international trade and can help to secure other parameters like labor compliance and sustainability practices.

HPSS – The New Harmonized Standard Introduced in the US

“We are pleased to introduce to the U.S. market our new Harmonized Produce Safety Standard (HPSS) solution: HPSS is an innovation in audit standards which includes the entire pre- and post-farmgate Harmonized Standards in a single combined checklist” remarked GLOBALG.A.P. Vice President of Operations Jonathan Needham. Augmented with additional GLOBALG.A.P. control points, HPSS offers the market the first GFSI-level interpretation of the Harmonized Standards, providing an excellent food safety solution for American producers. HPSS is an evolutionary step in audit fatigue reduction for farmers, and a simple, effective tool for retailers/distributors to protect their consumers, industry partners and brands.”

“The ProduceGAPs harmonization initiative is very important for us, it is very positive that the private sector responds with food safety practices” declared GLOBALG.A.P.’s President Kristian Moeller. He suggested that the US needs to differentiate on food safety criteria, noting that his organization is aware of more than different 400 food safety standards in the world, with 160 registered at the United Nations. He added that the new Version 5 of GLOBALGAP includes both food safety and sustainability standards. “We have included on the new version the critical checkpoints from McDonalds” specifies Moeller. Reggie Brown from the Florida Tomato Exchange questioned how to achieve audit harmonization, considering the different standards of the industry and the preferences for either FDA or private sector auditors. He remarked that the US industry is generally very safe, but occasionally problems occur, and a harmonized tool is needed for audits, plus traceability to ensure food safety for all.

For Peter Hill from Alpine Fresh, HPSS is the solution for standards harmo- control worldwide nization, as it achieves both GAP and food safety goals. Alpine Fresh is looking for a single audit solution, since it is both supplying the domestic market and shipping in 9 different countries. “If you make things too complicated the farmers will find out how to get around it” noted Hill. As 50% of the produce marketed at Alpine Fresh is sourced from associated growers, there is a need to educate farmers in order to meet the GFSI specifications, the main standard required for packhouses. Kerry Bridges, Walmart food safety manager, pointed out that the adoption of GFSI is the first step requirement for all the suppliers. “We observe that the new GFSI farmers have indeed improved the level of food security”. She further noted a significant decline in food safety recall situations since the implementation of GFSI standards.

“At Costco we do not require GFSI certification, but 92% of them are certified” declared Milinda Dwyer, food safety manager at the second-largest US retailer. The chain continues to develop its own food safety protocols and does not yet accept the Harmonized Standards due to the differences in qualifications found among auditors. Jorge Hernandez, head of food safety at US Foods, the secondlargest American food distributor, urged the need for the industry to work together on a global standard in order to facilitate trade with different parts of the world.

Beyond Food Safety – Social Welfare and Sustainability

All parties agreed on the need to enforce a better control on labor practices, both in the US and abroad. Ken Peterson from the US Department of Agriculture commented that labor requirements also help to provide s afe products, allowing workers to maintain healthy practices. Nonetheless the government audits are too limited and concern only 1-3% of the farms every year. The need for audits on social welfare is also a necessity abroad, as too many places in the world still have no labor regulations (the same applies for sustainable farming). The GRASP “add-on” of GLOBAGAP could be seen as a first “baseline” for a global solution, since the same auditor would also check the compliance with the social standards of the country. Retailers Costco and Walmart also considered social welfare a B-to-C issue, as consumers can be aware of the social practices of the country of origin via the press. Reggie Brown from Florida Tomato Exchange also noted that social dumping abroad generates unfair competition with domestic farmers. Gavin Bailey, head of social issues at Walmart, reported that more than 600 audits were conducted of their suppliers in Mexico alone last year, but this is may be insufficient. For Bailey a combination of public and private audits are necessary to track social welfare. 

This article appeared on page 38 of the July-August 2015 edition, number 138, of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read more of that edition here:

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GLOBALG.A.P. version 5 launched in Almeria

The new GLOBALG.AP version 5 comes after nearly 400 changes, including reinforcement of microbiological risk monitoring and the responsible use of water.

The new GLOBALG.A.P version 5 has just been announced and presented worldwide. Almeria was chosen for its debut last May. In June 2015 and June 2016, producers may choose to certify the current version (ver.4) or the new one (ver.5). As of July 2016, it will be mandatory to certify version 5.

World launch

This is a new version of the standard, which comes after nearly 400 changes, including reinforcement of microbiological risk monitoring and the responsible use of water. The standard for plant propagation material has also been integrated into the crop standards, so the certification process will be simpler”, explains Ignacio Antequera, head of the technical team and large accounts at GLOBALG.A.P.

Farmers will have a one-year grace period to adjust to the changes, so even though it will take some time to learn the new requirements, the transition should take place smoothly. “The needs of producers and the demands of their customers were a constant reference throughout the review process of the standard, which took over two years. Other interested parties also had their say, including certification authorities, national working groups and private associations, which all took part in development of the standard during the public consultation periods.

GLOBALG.A.P. – a global and sustainable mission

Maria Carmen Morales, head of Quality and Systems at Anecoop and member of the GLOBALG.A.P. Executive Committee, gave a presentation analysing ‘GLOBALG.A.P Management Committee Strategies and Aims’: “The mission of GLOBALG.A.P. members is to develop the incentives necessary to encourage farmers worldwide to adopt safe and sustainable practices that will make the world a better place for our children to live in. GLOBALG.A.P.’s goal is a worldwide link between food production and distribution that is safer for consumers, and laying the foundations for the protection of natural resources through good agricultural practices lets us visualise a sustainable future. A key factor in achieving this goal, among others, consists of nurturing values such as transparency, integrity and trust, which are reinforced by having producers and retailers as partners in this project.”

This is part of an article from the July-August 2015 edition, number 138, of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read it here:

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GLOBALG.A.P. updates farm, feed standards and regulations to Version 5

The biggest revision in the history of GLOBALG.A.P. now incorporates the latest research as well as government requirements including compliance with proposed rules by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as well as EU Food Safety Law.

The GLOBALG.A.P. Board has announced the introduction of the update to Version 5 of its Integrated Farm Assurance Standard for Crops and Aquaculture. The update follows a four year routine cycle of continuous improvement, and with respect to stakeholder involvement and impact, the current revision has been the most comprehensive amendment to date. It will have a direct and significant effect on all 150,000 producers around the world certified in accordance with GLOBALG.A.P.

The new version is applicable immediately as early update choice in parallel to the current Version 4 and will be mandatory for all new and recertification audits by 1st July 2016. The biggest revision in the history of GLOBALG.A.P. now incorporates the latest research as well as government requirements including compliance with proposed rules by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as well as EU Food Safety Law. This once again underlines the fact that, although GLOBALG.A.P. is a private standard, it strives to incorporate applicable public and/or governmental guidelines and responds to new trends and threats in the Fruit & Vegetables, Feedstock and Aquaculture industries. In particular the update also addresses the issue of microbial risks.

GLOBALG.A.P. board member Hugh Mowat, from Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc, said food safety has always been a key platform of the GLOBALG.A.P. Standard but ongoing food safety scares resulting from microbial contamination have seen it now take a proactive approach to strengthen existing controls. “These changes are science-based and will support growers by providing a safe framework within which to grow food, as well as protecting them in the event of an incident,” he said.

Guy Callebaut, vice-chairman of the Board VBT/BelOrta, grower, and GLOBALG.A.P. chairman, said major risks and trends in addition to food safety, such as the sustainable use of water, have been addressed. “With this comprehensive revision and our global spread we have strengthened our position as a global reference standard for good agricultural practices. We are also continuing to work against the trend of double standards and to contribute to the harmonization of standards in order to create incentives for farmers around the world to undertake safe and sustainable production,” Callebaut said.

Update also reflects public input

About 2,000 comments came in from all continents during two public consultation periods. These were reviewed by technical committees in extensive, time-consuming consultation to assess applicability and implementability.

Ignacio Antequera, technical key accounts, GLOBALG.A.P.said the major effort of Revision V5 would not have been possible without tremendous time commitment of all our committee members. For the last 4 years they invested a total of more than 2,600 expert hours. More than 110 organizations were represented in more than 70 days of meetings and webinars. I sincerely wish to thank all the stakeholders for their time and effort they have put in to make this revision a success.”

Read more about Version 5 and download the IFA Standard Documents for V5 here.

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United Fresh & GLOBALG.A.P. important industry conference June 11 in Chicago

“The Sense and Nonsense of Farm Certification”  United Fresh and GLOBALG.A.P. invite the fresh produce industry to challenge the business case of the certification industry.

GLOBALG.A.P., the world’s largest and most trusted farm certification standards organization, and United Fresh, the nation’s leading produce trade association, invite United Fresh Convention (June 8-10) attendees to stay in Chicago for an exciting one-day conference, Thursday, June 11, with leading agricultural industry and government representatives.

The “TOUR 2015” event from 9am–1p.m. in the McCormick Place Convention Center features a keynote address by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor on the FDA’s view of the role of on-farm audits in the coming era of the landmark Food Safty Modernization Act (FSMA) legislation.

Audit fatigue reduction also on the agenda

The first session examines food safety harmonization and audit fatigue reduction. Moderated by United Fresh’s Senior Vice President of Food Safety, David Gombas, the session’s panelists include Alpine Fresh’s Peter Hill; Costco’s Craig Wilson; Florida Tomato Exchange’s Reggie Brown; Moreland Fruit Farm’s Fred Finney; Walmart’s Kerry Bridges; and Wegmans’ Bill Pool.

Going beyond food safety

Up next, GLOBALG.A.P. explores the rising trend of going “Beyond Food Safety” with a look into sustainability and worker welfare concernsEnvironmental consultant Robert Denny will moderate this session with panelists Gavin Bailey of Walmart; Mary O’Rourke of the U.S. Department of Labor; Chris Waldrop of the Consumer Federation of America; Driscoll’s Strawberry Associates’ Tamara Muruetagoiena; and Costco’s Craig Wilson.

Future role of third-party audits in farm certification

The third session looks ahead to the future role of third-party audits in the changing landscape of farm certification, and includes such panelists as the USDA’s Ken Peterson; the Equitable Food Initiative’s Peter O’Driscoll; SQFI’s LeAnn Chuboff; Equicert’s Michael Hari; and sustainability consultant Roberta Anderson.

Key issues for the sector

“These are critical issues for our industry, so I encourage you to consider extending your stay through Thursday’s conference.” said United Fresh’s CEO Tom Stenzel.

GLOBALG.A.P.’s President Kristian Moeller noted: “We greatly value our partnership with United Fresh and are pleased to offer our first North American TOUR event in conjunction with their convention.”

For more information about the program and to register, visit
Note, registration for this event is separate from registration for the 2015 United Fresh convention.