(April 9) FRESNO, Calif. — Fresh Quest Produce, Fresno, has received Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point program certification for its Guatemalan and Honduran melon packing facilities.

Scientific Certification Systems, Oakland, Calif., awarded HACCP certification to the Guatemala plant on March 26; the Honduran plant received certification Jan. 31, said Paul Raggio, Fresh Quest’s managing partner.

“A lot of people are making all types of claims and statements,” Raggio said. “Some firms do self-auditing, but I don’t know of any other company that has received third-party HACCP certification from a U.S. company as far as (offshore) cantaloupe and honeydews are concerned.”

An SCS spokesman said Fresh Quest’s initiatives are unique.

“To our knowledge, no one else in the region is offering food safety certification services similar to ours,” said Jeff Stephens, SCS’ communications director. “Although we are currently working with several other companies in the region, Fresh Quest was the first company to be certified. They are on the forefront of the industry.”

Raggio said the two-year certification process involved intensive employee training and even the establishment of employee laundry facilities to ensure workers wear clean clothes daily.

“The plants have different wash-and-dip tanks, like a carwash, for the melon baskets and cartons to go through,” he said. “Everything has to be washed and sanitized.”

Raggio said Fresh Quest has been tracking and tracing pesticide residues for years but wanted the HACCP certification, which involves ongoing surprise audits, to ensure melon buyers source product free of microbial organisms.

“There’s not that many of us down there,” Raggio said. “We’re down there on a monthly basis looking around and seeing what’s going on. We have made the commitment and investment to make it happen. We’re set up to provide our customers and their consumers the confidence of what we’re shipping is safe.”