Greenhouse growers push food safety messages
Published on 12/21/2009 11:55am By Andy Nelson
When food safety scares arise, the food safety message that comes so naturally to greenhouse vegetables - something along the lines of, "We're grown where critters can't get at us" - often falls on deaf ears, greenhouse shippers said.
"I think it's one of the biggest points about greenhouse production that has not been communicated well with the public," said Dino Dilaudo, sales manager for Leamington, Ontario-based Westmoreland Sales. "In my mind we're the safest of all products, whether you're talking organic or conventional."
Westmoreland stickers every tomato it ships with a PLU number that can trace the product all the way back to the grower, Dilaudo said.
Consumers also could benefit from more education about the safety of greenhouse-grown vegetables in terms of chemical usage, Dilaudo said.
"It's in growers' best interest to reduce pesticides - it saves us money," he said. "Ninety-five percent of pests are controlled
biologically. The average consumer wouldn't know that it's much safer than conventionally-grown outdoor product."
And greenhouse-grown, Dilaudo added, needs no herbicides.
Getting the word out to customers and consumers about the food
safety-related virtues of greenhouse versus field-grown vegetables is a priority for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group, said Aaron Quon, the company's greenhouse vegetable category manager.
"We spend a lot of time on marketing initiatives, educating consumers, educating produce managers," Quon said. "We work very closely with our customers on it."
One tactic Oppenheimer likes to employ is bringing in growers to do in-store demos, Quon said.
Not all greenhouse growers, however, are anxious to tout the virtues of greenhouse at the expense of field-grown.
Ciruli Bros. LLC, Nogales, Ariz., ships both greenhouse and field-grown vegetables, and it doesn't want its customers thinking one is safer than the other, said Chris Ciruli, a partner in the company.
"Greenhouse is certainly a controlled environment, but we need to have the same level of confidence in both (greenhouse and field-grown)," Ciruli said. "We like to look at food safety as just a basic way that you operate, whether it's a greenhouse or a field."