(Nov. 25, 1:30 p.m.) VERO BEACH, Fla. — Though fresh citrus hasn’t been a center point in recent food safety scares, Florida grower-shippers are taking proactive steps to make sure the products they ship stay safe.

Riverfront Groves LLC in late October successfully completed an audit, making the grower-shipper GlobalGAP certified for its groves, said Dan Richey, Riverfront’s chief executive officer.

Riverfront was also moving to achieve British Retail Consortium Global Food Standard certification at its packinghouse. Riverfront was awaiting certification in late October.

“Being vertically integrated, we can address all issues of concern to the trade, be it traceback or ability to recall,” Richey said. “We have all those measures in place and have total control of the product from growing to packing to marketing on the international side of the business.

Richey said the vertically-oriented growing and shipping company understands the marketplace is becoming more demanding of those types of certifications. He said his operation is proactive and committed to doing all the things necessary to position itself to have an advantage on the marketing side of its product.

Though oranges and grapefruit aren’t as safety-sensitive as some other fruits and vegetables where consumers have to eat the peel, IMG Citrus Inc. believes it is critical to provide a product that is as safe or safer than other produce, said Matt Kastensmidt, national sales manager.

IMG was the first Indian River grower-shipper to receive a gold certificate from British retailer Tesco’s Nature’s Choice program, Kastensmidt said. The certification, from the world’s fourth largest mass retailer, signifies that the grower-shipper is an authorized Tesco safe shipper.

The certification also acknowledges a company for its sustainability practices, Kastensmidt said.

“We have been very proactive,” Kastensmidt said. “To quote the country song, ‘we were country when country wasn’t cool.’ We were safe when safety wasn’t cool, before safety became a key industry thing. IMG has been way ahead of the curve on that.”

On sustainability, Kastensmidt said IMG has invested a lot of money into its production capacity and equipment to minimize unnecessary use of chemicals and fertilizers and has tried to reduce its use of pesticides. IMG, he said, uses digital soil mapping technology in its groves and uses spray systems that spray only groves, not the air.

“A lot of what we do here is in response to demands from our customers, especially in Europe, where sustainability has been more of a key catchword than here until recent years,” Kastensmidt said. “That put us ahead of the curve on the domestic market, having done that for our export markets.”

Bill Jarvis, director of sales and marketing and European sales manager for Premier Citrus Packers LLC, said proper food safety practices remain critical.

“You have to have total traceability,” he said. “That will be the difference between those who can do well. It’s hard for those that don’t have everything under one roof to provide that kind of assurance. We have total control of our product from grower through final packing and shipping.”