A new group formed to enhance consumer and retail confidence in the Eastern cantaloupe supply chain will kick off with a round of meetings Feb. 11 in Atlanta for foodservice and retail buyers.
The newly established Eastern Cantaloupe Growers Association met in early January with cantaloupe growers and potential members hailing from Indiana down to southern Florida. Having solidified mandatory food-safety guidelines for the association, the group is now ready to unveil these standards to its produce purchasers.
The association requires its members to maintain GFSI-benchmarked auditing metrics if they intend to display the "ECGAT" seal. These metrics include specifications to water, soil amendments, sanitation and equipment cleaning standards that are above those mandated by GFSI benchmarking.
Certified members will also undergo at least one surprise audit during the year to ensure that they are following the standards set by the association.
Charles Hall, executive director of the association, said in a press release that the next phase for this group is promotion.
"We need retailers and produce buyers to understand the intentional investment in safety that these cantaloupe growers are making. These guys are pledging to go the extra mile not only for their own farms, but for the cantaloupe industry as a whole."