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Giant Nevada Onion Grower/Packer Says He 'Ahead of Loop' in Food Safety

Nevada onion farm claims to be ahead of loop when assuring food safety, traceability

T.J. Burnham 1, Editor, Western Farmer-Stockman

September 22, 2010

2 Min Read

Peri & Sons, one of the world's largest onion growers-packers in Yerington, Nev., was early in developing traceability for field to store for its 4,200-acre crop.

"We've done a lot to assure the food safety of our crops, and we know we have to do a lot more," says President David Peri.

With federal standards expected to demand total traceability of food crops by 2012, "we've spent a fortune in order to comcomply," he states. "I believe we're well ahead of many in the industry on this issue."

The farm also produces a 1,500-acre leafy green crop, where regulations are the most stringent among U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules. "If we comply there, we can comply with anything," says Peri.

"We've spent the last five years putting all kinds of  food safety practices into place at Peri & Sons," he says. "For that reason, we're not that concerned with the new FDA regulations that are coming.

"We're proactive and we're already in 100% compliance."

The bid for proactive food safety was spurred on at Peri & Sons with the 2006 with E.coli in spinach. That year, Peri & Sons was only in its second year of producing spinach crops in the high Nevada desert. Although none of the E.coli was traced to Peri's farm, the outbreak "really opened our eyes to what we had to do" in getting traceability and food safety practices beefed up, he says.

No less than three of Peri & Sons employees are spending all of their time on the company's food safety and traceability programs, Peri claims. "When we're finished fine-tuning this program, we'll be able to trace our onions back to the row in which they were harvested."

Peri & Sons follows a Good Manufacturing Practice program for cleaning and sanitizing all of its product, making sure equipment and workers are up to GMP standards. Storage processes are continually monitored and cross-checked to assure quality and food safety, explains Peri.

A Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plant is also in place.

Additionally, the firm uses Good Agricultural Practices programs which includes records on the history of the land  and monitoring of water, soil, fertilizer and chemical applications. Chemical application usage is tested and certified with regularity, he adds.

Also tuned into the Food Security Bioterrorism Act of 2002, Peri says the firm complies with standards throughout to guarantee safe inputs (water, management, visitor monitoring, etc.)

Awarded what Peri calls "the most honored pesticide residue guarantee in the marketplace," he says the firm's NutriClean pesticide free certification is highlighted by their onions meeting standards 10-1,000 times more stringent that is required by law.

The Clean Food Standard is "embraced" at Peri, he notes, and organics meet the National Organic Program Standards guidelines.  Sustainable Agricultural Practices Standard rules at Peri are also enforced, as are Fair Labor Practices for workers, and Sustainable Agricultural Practices Standards "aggressively" pursued.

Read additional Peri & Sons articles in the October Western Farmer-Stockman.

About the Author(s)

T.J. Burnham 1

Editor, Western Farmer-Stockman

T.J. Burnham has covered western agriculture for 42 years. A University of Michigan journalism program grad, he worked for The Sacramento Bee for 15 years before moving into specialty farm magazine writing. He has been on the Farm Progress staff for 10 years.

"A lot of my uncles back in Michigan were farmers, but my interest was primarily to become a hot shot city desk reporter. Once I was given a job at the Bee on the metro desk, they told me that they’d hired too many new reporters, and half of us had to go. However, they said there was an opening in the newspaper’s ag division, and if I worked there until the probationary period was over, I could be reassigned to general reporting. I took the job, but by the time the probation period was ended, I found I enjoyed covering ag so much that I never asked to go back to the city side.”

T.J. joined Farm Progress as a California Farmer reporter, then became editor of the Western Farmer-Stockman. He has earned a reputation in the West as a strong source of direct seed information, and has affiliated Western Farmer-Stockman as the official magazine of the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association.

His wife, Sally, writes for the magazine and helps with bookwork concerning freelance writers from the eight western state arena which the magazine serves.

T.J. likes hiking and fishing, and dabbles in woodworking projects. He also enjoys gardening and photography.

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