Alta. greenhouse co-op gets safety-certified

A southeastern Alberta co-op of greenhouse tomato, pepper and cucumber growers is the first to pick up certification from a national food safety program for the industry.

Red Hat Co-operative, which packs, grades and markets produce on behalf of about 50 greenhouse growers, is the first member of the Canadian Horticultural Council to successfully complete its On-Farm Food Safety (OFFS) certification program.

The certifications “will help us demonstrate to our customers that we are committed to food safety,” Red Hat general manager Lyle Aleman said in a CHC release.

Based at Redcliff, Alta., just northwest of Medicine Hat, the co-op centrally grades and packages its members’ produce at a 55,000-square foot facility that includes a 19,000-sq. ft. cooler.

Red Hat ships to wholesalers and retailers across Canada and into parts of the U.S., and says it can provide daily shipments of fresh-harvested produce to retail chains within the Prairie provinces.

The certificate was presented at the CHC’s recent annual meeting in Calgary.

The council’s OFFS program consists of national food safety standards and a certification system for safety in production, storage and packing of fresh fruit and vegetables.

The certification component of the OFFS program, launched in September last year, is open to suppliers who need to demonstrate to their customers that they are following the CHC On-Farm Food Safety Manuals.

Those are eight “crop-specific” manuals containing comprehensive guidance based on a rigorous hazard analysis using HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) principles.

Program participants must pass a third-party audit based on those manuals. QMI-SAI Global, an international certification body headquartered in Toronto, provides the audit and certification services for the CHC.

Over 250 producers have enrolled in the program to date and the council is “encouraged by the number of producers enrolled in the certification program so far,” Heather Gale, the council’s national program manager, said in the CHC release.

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