Onion growers in the Treasure Valley of Idaho and Eastern Oregon have formed a nonprofit company to pay for independent food safety testing.


Nyssa, Ore.-based Certified Onions Inc. was incorporated on June 24, said John Wong, sales manager for Champion Produce Inc., Parma, Idaho, and secretary of the new company, consisting of 19 valley shippers.


Creating a non-profit to do food-safety testing for its member companies allows the industry to stay ahead of the curve on new food safety regulations, Wong said.


“We realized that we needed to recognize that there are changes coming in food safety, and we wanted it to be a non-profit so it would be transparent,” he said. “The reason behind this is not money but food safety.”


Certified Onions Inc. collaborates with the Oregon Department of Agriculture for its testing, said Kay Riley, general manager of Nyssa-based Snake River Produce and the new company’s president. The department’s inspection staff performs the food safety tests, which go to state labs for analysis, Riley said.


The Oregon Department of Agriculture is recognized internationally for its food safety testing programs, Riley said. There are some countries, he said, that won’t allow imports of onions, potatoes and other commodities unless they have been inspected by Oregon.


“We’re excited about how successful it’s been, and we think we can provide a great service,” Riley said.


About 80% of member companies have been tested thus far this summer, and no problems have been found, Wong said. Companies will be tested by the department every year, he said.


Certified Onions Inc. does not have its own physical space, Riley said. The Snake River conference room has been used for Certified meetings, and Nyssa-based Fiesta Farms is the mailing address for the company. Fiesta’s chief executive officer, Garry Bybee, is Certified’s vice president and treasurer.