In 2010, the California Tomato Farmers launched an online database to allow tomato buyers immediate access to food safety audit results. In 2011, they have teamed with Azzule Systems of California to develop a new on-line compliance and food safety data management tool that brings an unprecedented level of transparency for CTF member customers.
“Last year, customers using an online filing system could access CTF member history, contact information and USDA food safety audit certificates,” explains Ed Beckman, CTF president. “Our customers have asked for a detailed audit trail and that’s what we’re providing. Now, customers are able to view in real-time, full audits, on-site corrections, and detailed corrective actions.”
In addition to providing important food safety information to customers, the new database streamlines the auditing process for CTF members. “The audits themselves are more seamless since the government inspectors can now review standard operating procedures and other compliance documents prior to arriving on-site,” Beckman explains.
Over 80 retail, foodservice and wholesale customers are already using the CTF on-line system. Updates concerning audits and corrective actions are handled by the government inspectors and are done on a daily basis so customers have up-to-the-minute information. Security measures enable the government inspectors to control the process without the CTF or its members viewing the results until the audit is final and posted. Audits are reviewed by government audit supervisors and only supervisors can “lock” audits. Once locked, audits cannot be removed from the database.
CTF partnered with Azzule Systems of California to develop this online food safety database. “Our goal is to work with Azzule to continue to expand and improve this database for the benefit of our customers and our members,” Beckman says. “As we worked with Azzule, our emphasis was to establish a comprehensive Quality Management System that would allow not only an audit history, but also to allow the trending of grower performance, auditor calibration, and the ability to customize customer viewing based upon specific needs. Finally, our goal was to make that access easy and user friendly. I think we have accomplished that with the Azzule system.”
California Tomato Farmers is a cooperative established in 2007 by farmers who have a shared commitment to food safety, enhanced quality and sustainability. CTF worked with industry experts and university scientists to develop a comprehensive set of stringent food safety standards for field grown tomatoes that was published by United Fresh Produce Association and titled, “Food Safety and Auditing Protocol for the Fresh Tomato Supply Chain.” Compliance with these standards is mandatory for CTF members and is verified through regular, random and unannounced audits conducted by government inspectors and subject to government review throughout the audit approval process.
“CTF members are putting their credibility and commitment out there for every customer to see through this database,” Beckman says.