5 for 5: Five Questions/Five Answers
Q & A with Raul Diaz, Continuous Improvement Manager of Grupo ALTA
When it comes to producing 5 million boxes of grapes in 8 weeks, food safety must be a priority for growers. For Grupo ALTA, Divine Flavor’s mothership grape grower, the company puts an emphasis on food safety certifications such as Primus GFS and Global GAP. Today we take a deeper dive as to what food safety protocols are in place and why food safety is a top priority for one of the largest grape growers in all of Mexico.
Q1: What is your role in the company as it pertains to food safety and security of the product we grow? Tell us some examples?
Raul: I’m the Systems Management Manager. I coordinate all activities referring to Food Safety, Security & Health, Social Responsability, C-TPAT and Sustainability.
I check that all food safety requirements are applied properly to prevent any situation that could represent a risk to the product or the costumers that consume our product. For example, we promote change to our practices, inputs, materials and facilities. We generate awareness through training and we are the ones who inform the company of changes in the industry in order to be prepared before they are mandated.
Q2: What are the 3 most important factors when it comes to food safety? Give examples and a brief summary of each?
Raul: When it comes to the important factors related to food safety, the 3 areas which automatically come to mind are continuous improvement, culture, and being proactive.
- Continuous Improvement. – We must reinforce our practices, facilities and knowledge, to improve what we have and do in our farms.
- Culture of prevention. – Working under a preventive way we reduce the possibility of occurrence of a situation that could compromise us or the industry.
- Work always looking for possibilities that could change or reinforce what we do in the produce industry.
Q3: Why is Primus GFS/Global GAP a highly recognized food safety standard amongst our industry?
Raul: These are protocols made to standardize food safety requirements in the industry. These standards are written and explained which addresses all the concerns of customers, consumers, governmental agencies, and our industry in general. Once a year all the farms must achieve these requirements to be recognize as a certified company under these protocols. It is important to mention that these programs are evolutive and updated frequently, which generated a continuous improvement in the farms.
Q4: What is one important factor of food safety most people don't think about and what we do about it at our farms?
Raul: We are constantly implementing improvement practices in the farms, because frequently, we need to reinforce or update the policies or requirements that the industry mandates. In addition to the GFSI/GAP/GMP audits we conduct annually, we also carry out internal audits which are performed at random. Failure to comply with these random audits mean we aren’t able to send product through our marketing arm, Divine Flavor, until the requirements and scores are at sufficient and adequate score.
Q5: If you could tell the consumer who worries about whether the product they purchase is safe to consume, what would you tell them?
Raul: Our teams here at the farm who oversee the areas of food safety, security, or any other regulations program, they are passionate about what they do, and they take pride in having the responsibility to guarantee all measures are carried efficiently and accurately for final products. Our management supports each department and ensures they have the experience before starting a position and after, makes sure they are constantly learning, training, and improving within their department. We are a company who continuously strives for perfection. As we are in the produce industry, it is our responsibility to make sure every product we grow is the same product we would feed our own family with. Grown with passion, dedication, and 100% customer satisfaction.
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