The United Fresh Produce Association announced the release of the 2011 version of The Food Safety Programs and Auditing Protocol for the Fresh Tomato Supply Chain, more commonly referred to as the Tomato Metrics. The re-issue of the Tomato Metrics is the latest in a process initiated in October 2008 to harmonize food safety audit standards for the fresh tomato supply chain, with the goal of ultimately replacing the multitude of similar yet different audit standards with a single one. The document, available in both English and Spanish, can be downloaded free of charge by clicking here.

“The 2009 Tomato Metrics were developed by a wide range of fresh tomato stakeholders, representing growers, shippers, repackers, processors, retail and foodservice organizations,” said the Florida Tomato Exchange’s Reggie Brown. “FDA, USDA and state officials were present throughout the process, and these revisions were developed with that same spirit of inclusion and transparency, with all stakeholders having an opportunity to comment.”

The Tomato Metrics began in July 2008, with the second edition of the Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for the Fresh Tomato Supply Chain, as a basis, endeavoring to establish "requirements" that were as specific as possible, but keeping in consideration different needs based on region, sub-commodity (e.g., round vs. Roma vs. grape or cherry tomatoes), operation size and equivalent growing or handling practices. Every effort was made to base these requirements on current science, but working group participants accepted that these requirements would likely change as future research provides better information.

“When the decision was made to move forward with a harmonized preventive food safety standard and audit for the fresh tomato supply chain, the team recognized that the end product must remain a living document and would be subject to amendment as science warrants,” said Ed Beckman of California Tomato Farmers.

“The 2011 version takes into consideration the need for more extensive pre-plant and pre-harvest assessments, especially related to CAFO's. The product remains a joint effort of the entire supply chain and it's rewarding to all involved that the resulting protocol is becoming a requirement of major buyers in the United States. California Tomato Farmers remains committed to the harmonization of food safety protocol and the adoption of a single audit, universally accepted by all customers.”

The tomato industry reconvened late in 2010 to review the performance of the Tomato Metrics, and concluded that the effort was achieving its goal of harmonizing food safety audits for the covered operations, including greenhouse, open field production, harvest and field packing, packinghouse and repacking and distribution. During the meeting, the industry representatives considered recommendations for changes to several of the documents, and accepted several of the recommendations, which are reflected in the reissue of the Tomato Metrics document.

The Food Safety Programs and Auditing Protocol for the Fresh Tomato Supply Chain is available in both English and Spanish, and can be downloaded here. Additional information is available by contacting Erin Grether, United Fresh government relations coordinator at 202-303-3400, ext. 402, or egrether@unitedfresh.org. Spanish translation versions were provided courtesy of Confederation of Agricultural Growers Associations of Sinaloa.