Certified Certified Organic Produce … no that is not a typo
Posted by by Bea James, senior manager of organic, natural and sustainable programs
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
For the last seven years we have provided our customers with certified organic produce departments. What this means is that we are offering certified organic produce that is handled in a way that only a certified organic store can guarantee. We are selling certified organic produce in a certified organic department, making our organic produce double certified. Pretty cool for all us organic food geeks.
Certifying our produce departments as organic has been our guarantee that we are maintaining the integrity of the organic farmer and making sure their hard work is valued and maintained from farm to fork. Each year every one of our stores is inspected by an accredited USDA third party organic inspection agency, and believe me this is no easy feat.
Here are just a few of the processes that our produce department must follow.
We require a copy of the organic certificate from the farm for each and every organic produce item that is sold. These certificates are kept on file and updated annually. This guarantees the produce that our customers buy are from inspected organic farms that are growing and handling their organic produce according to the strict USDA organic standards. So much paper work, but all for a good cause.
Every store clearly designates storage areas for organic produce in its cooler and back rooms. By separating out the organic and conventional produce, the possibility of conventional produce mixing with organic is eliminated. It also minimized the risk of an organic produce item being merchandised as conventional. Separation is critical so that commingling of organic and conventional is eliminated.
Handling and Preparation
All our organic produce is washed but never with conventional produce. Separate cutting boards and knives for organic produce are used and designated for organic produce only. After the organic produce is washed, it is then stored in clearly labeled organic storage bins and kept in its respective organic area. No mix up in the washing, prepping or storage of organic produce is assured.
In order for us to receive and maintain our certification we have to adhere to the strict USDA National Organic Program regulations for organic handling. For over seven years we have spent countless hours collecting and submitting documentation and opening all our stores to yearly on-site inspections. It’s time consuming, but we think it’s well worth it.
I invite you to select your next organic produce purchase with confidence knowing that you are getting the best in organic quality and authenticity. Everyone of our stores offer over 100 varieties daily, so I know you will find something organically delicious, just look for this seal.