Texas International Produce Association Introduces Mexico Papaya Food Safety Best Practices Guide
- by Kayla Webb
MISSION, TX - The papaya category is one full of produce aisle potential, as its unique eating experience combined with its healthy attributes make it a one-of-a-kind retail sales-driver. To help bolster the category as a whole, the Texas International Produce Association (TIPA) and United Fresh Produce Association collaborated for nearly 10 months with stakeholders, researchers, and U.S. and Mexico government officials to release the first edition of the “Food Safety Best Practices Guide for the Growing and Handling of Mexican Papaya."
“This has been an industry-driven, government-supported endeavor since the first days of the project,” said Dante Galeazzi, President and CEO of TIPA. “Following the outbreak in summer 2019, the largest U.S. handlers of Mexican-grown papayas realized they needed to come together to address the issue. We had several meetings and identified an opportunity that would be both impactful and achievable in a short period of time—improving protocols and practices for the growing and handling of papayas.”
The papaya industry in Mexico has long been adhering to common guidelines like GAPs, SENASICA’s SRRC, FDA’s Produce Safety Rule, and third-party audits. However, many of the category’s leaders wanted additional, commodity-specific measures, similar to those taken by the tomato and leafy greens categories, to be implemented. This was then when the beginnings of the “Food Safety Best Practices Guide for the Growing and Handling of Mexican Papaya” was born.
“We knew this project required expertise in the field of food safety,” noted Galeazzi. “That’s why we reached out to Dr. Jennifer McEntire with the United Fresh Produce Association.”
According to a press release, the idea was to create a document that aligned the entire growing and packing industry of papayas in Mexico under the same food safety protocols and, once that document was created, it would be distributed—for FREE—to the industry.
“It’s encouraging and motivating to be part of such a collaborative effort. To see this large, diverse group—including FDA, USDA ARS, SENASICA, industry workgroups, other trade groups, and the academics—participate in so many meetings and with a sense of urgency—it really speaks to our collective commitment to address the supply chain’s concerns and provide support by creating this document,” said Dr. McEntire. “Now, we must maintain momentum, encouraging education, implementation, and verification. Moving forward, we’ll utilize forthcoming research to improve this manual and the effectiveness of the best practices outlined herein.”
On April 14, 2020, TIPA and United Fresh hosted a final review with Mexican and U.S. stakeholders, government officials, and university researchers—with sessions in both Spanish and English. Now, with the release of the document underway, the next step for the project will be training seminars.
“As a grower, packer, importer, and distributor of papayas from Mexico, I cannot begin to state the importance we felt as an industry in getting this document together and distributed quickly,” shared Juan Carlos Martinez, CEO of Chula Brands.
Lance Peterson, President of Super Starr Internatinal, added, “We want consumers to have confidence in our products the way we do, and we felt creating a higher standard for our industry was a necessary action. I am pleased with this document and I look forward to working with the many incredible partnerships we’ve built over the course of this project, especially as we take the next steps.”
As part of that next step, educational courses will be conducted in Spanish and targeted at growers and packers of papayas in Mexico. Planning and development is already underway for the education portion, and training is tentatively scheduled to begin via live virtual instruction in the next 30 to 60 days.
For more information or to access the “Food Safety Best Practices Guide for the Growing & Handling of Mexican Papaya, First Edition,” visit the TIPA or United Fresh websites. And for more ground-breaking fresh produce news, stick with us at AndNowUKnow.