The Maui County Farm Bureau (MCFB) will present the second annual Maui Ag Day with a focus on “Understanding Food Safety Certification” on Friday, Aug. 26, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Hāli‘imaile Pineapple Company located at 872 Hāli‘imaile Road.
The trade show, panel discussion, tour and parking are free and open to the general public.
The day opens with the trade show and continental breakfast. At 9 a.m., the event will feature a Food Safety Certification Panel Presentation by three Maui farmers who have completed the Food Safety Certification process: Heidi Watanabe of Watanabe Processing, Geoff Haines of Pacific Produce and Brian Igersheim of Hāli‘imaile Pineapple Co. At 10:30 a.m., tour of Hāli‘imaile Pineapple Company facilities and pineapple fields. A Grown on Maui lunch will be provided to MCFB members at 11:45 a.m.; non-members may purchase lunch.
MCFB feels it is important to host a food safety certification discussion, because each year, an estimated 48 million people in the U.S. get sick because of foodborne contamination from E. coli and other bacteria. This acute personal suffering parallels a loss of millions of dollars for businesses.
Currently, our state ranks highest in the country, per capita, for the treatment costs of foodborne illness at a cost of $2,008 per person per incident.
Market demand is increasing for a new form of accountability from farmers and food producers.
Food producers can obtain the certifications by implementing well-defined practices and passing hands-on audits. The practices involve careful and continuous documentation of farm standard operating procedures, and the certification is renewed annually.
“We decided to work towards certification as early as 2006, when our wholesaler customers began to request that suppliers become certified,” said Haines, co-owner and manager of Pacific Produce Inc. in Kula. “There are various types of programs to work toward depending on the nature of your operation.”
Haines added that, “It’s a lot of work.
But Haines also believes it’s well worth the effort. “The traceback program helps to keep employees accountable for quality work. They have stepped up to it and helped make it happen. Plus, we are able to keep delivering to one of our largest accounts.”
Certification rules are specific, and their implementation comes at the farmers’ expense. Certified Maui farms must absorb the costs to compete successfully with Mainland producers. And at local markets, farmers markets and even on isolated vegetable stands, their prices must compare with non-certified Maui farms.
Because food safety certification affects each one of us, as well as farmers and ranchers, small and big markets alike, clear documentation of accountability and traceback programs are logical steps.
To learn more and to meet farmers who have completed the food safety certification process, attend Maui Ag Day. For information, call 243-2290 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.