Beginning Monday, all produce suppliers for Wegmans need to show they've passed an audit showing good agricultural practices, to reduce the potential for foodborne illnesses. The goal is to reduce microbial contamination incidents by focusing on the quality of water used for irrigation and harvesting, worker hygiene and avoiding fecal contamination from animals. Wegmans Food Safety manager for produce Bill Pool says the company also wants to know the history of the farm.
"An example might be if there's a dairy farm on top of the hill and you're growing lettuce on the bottom of the hill, you've got some challenges because of the runoff and things that are going to come down from the top of the hill. It's really taking a look at your farm and taking a look at what might pose problems and then putting in practices that mitigate or prevent those problems."
Wegmans began using its so-called GAPS - or "Good Agricultural Practices" system five years ago and several hundred growers have participated. Wegmans requires all suppliers to meet these requirements - even smaller farms - which are exempt from federal safety rules. Wegmans pays to train smaller growers to help them meet the safety standards.