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N.J. Department of Agriculture Issues First Certificate Under New Food Safety Audit Program

For Immediate Release: October 23, 2002


Hope Gruzlovic




The New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) has issued its first certificate for food safety under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's new third-party audit program for packers, producers and retailers of fresh fruits and vegetables. The USDA's Federal-State Audit Program was modeled on a program developed by New Jersey.

"This voluntary food safety program ensures that participating producers are following good agricultural and handling practices, which provides important assurance to their regional and national buyers, as well as consumers," said New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus.

The certificate was presented to Gloucester County Packing Co. in Woodbury, which packs, stores and transports onions and potatoes for retail sales.

The Department's audit program certifies that participants are voluntarily implementing plans to ensure good agricultural and handling practices, and are adhering with the Food and Drug Administration's guide to minimizing microbial food safety hazards in fresh fruits and vegetables.

Under a third-party audit, certified NJDA auditing staff review all aspects of fresh produce production operations. These include elements affecting crop production, such as water source and well maintenance; washing and packing procedures; field worker sanitation and hygiene; field harvesting and transportation; storage containers and pallets; warehouse pest control; cooling, ice and refrigeration units; transportation and loading of final product; and the ability to trace back products to their source.

Audit results are valid for one year.

Packers, producers and retailers interested in participating in the voluntary program should contact Larry Hardwick at (856) 453-3870.