On an annual basis, Safe Food Alliance searches for an outstanding example of a plant that exudes excellence from every food safety perspective. For 2017, the prestigious Pinnacle Club Plant of the Year Award goes to Northern California-based Carriere Family Farms, a global walnut company. The family-owned business located in Glenn, California, demonstrated a commitment to continuous improvement by ranking as a top scoring facility when the Safe Food Alliance team conducted unannounced member GMP and Food Safety audits during the year.
The competition was stiff as many facilities vied to compete as the reigning safe food facility.
Safe Food Alliance conducted over 300 audits this year alone! Not only did Carriere achieve success as a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Certified facility, but they exceeded food safety requirements company-wide. Certainly, they serve the industry well as an outstanding example of how to lead in a comprehensive regulatory environment of increasing demands.
As they received their award in July, the Carriere Family Farms team made it clear that food safety is central to its company culture: According to Matt Doyle, Chief Operating Officer,
“Our Food Safety program is rooted in compliance to standards and to the acceptance of them by our customers. In addition, rigorous training programs are in-place to ensure all employees are properly trained about procedures. Our employees are the most important part of the quality program and education (including GMPs & HACCP training) is vital to their understanding and maintaining of our high standards.”
The family business fosters a dynamic Food Safety Culture by promoting Food Safety as a team effort shared by everyone in the company. This assures that all employees are empowered to make decisions when they feel that Food Safety has been compromised or can be improved. To remain vigilant, employees are regularly updated on Food Safety standards and expectations through monthly updates and constant communication about compliance standards. Education through individual training classes, tailgate meetings, all-hands meetings and Operations updates informs all employees.
“We are a global company that strives to be the best and most trusted family owned business in Northern California,” says Doyle. “We provide the resources needed to produce the highest quality product on the market. This means superior product quality and customer service, and the most effective link between agricultural production and the global market place. Achieving and maintaining these standards of quality and performance is part of all of our employees’ goals, including the quality team.”
Carriere Farms prides itself on being a member of the Pinnacle Club. It strives to be a brand known for its safety and quality, meaning that each time a customer buys a case of Carriere Family Farms walnuts they can expect consistent, high quality product that meets or exceeds their expectations.
“The Pinnacle Club is a group of committed packers and handlers that have Food Safety and Quality as a top priority,” explains Doyle. “They are diligent when it comes to quality and how they train their employees to meet the high standards of the Pinnacle Club.”
So, what is the driving force that makes a company excel in food quality and safety? According to Doyle, it’s a continuous commitment to being the best everyday: “In my opinion, we are always striving to get better. Food Safety compliance is not only a requirement but a part of our overall culture that we work daily to maintain.”
For Carriere Family Farms, a commitment to producing the safest food possible means investing in the time, training and resources needed to meet customer requirements globally. In today’s vigilant and ever-tightening regulatory environment, no one can afford the cost of not committing to providing safe food to families. Consumers trust that food companies are producing the cleanest food possible. If this trust is violated, then consumers are immediately engaged in using social media to express their opinions about a company or an incident. Carriere Family Farms embraces this commitment and understands the severe consequences of not making safe food its number one priority:
“Food Safety is no longer an option… it must be a way of life for all employees from top to bottom,” emphasizes Doyle. “Costs are no longer measured in hours but instead measured in safety related issues and avoidance. If we can eliminate Food Safety related issues, we can also be rid of the massive cost of fixing issues and the ultimate cost of a loss of brand reputation.”
Communicating the importance of producing safe food to suppliers/customers is critical to making food safety and quality a priority throughout the food chain. If everyone from farm to fork participates in delivering the safest food to consumers, then achieving success is optimized and a stellar reputation among customers and consumers can thrive. At Carrier Farms, everyone is dedicated to doing the right thing not the easy thing.
“It is a component of every aspect of our process when working with suppliers,” says Doyle. “We emphasize the expectations of using high quality products that not only meet but exceed Food Safety requirements. Through ongoing meetings, newsletters, and direct communication with our customers, we focus on the promotion and continuing education of our food safety programs.”
Carriere Farms is committed to using DFA, Safe Food Alliance and Safe Food Certification’s services because of its solid reputation throughout the walnut industry as the leader in working with USDA enforcement services.
“We have partnered with Safe Food Alliance to utilize their industry knowledge and expertise about commodity grading, food safety, and latest rules and regulations,” adds Doyle. “We are currently SQF Level 3 certified through Safe Food Certification services and we are planning to incorporate our inshell operations into our GFSI certification program. We rank Safe Food Alliance as an outstanding ally at guiding us through regulatory and cultural changes and incorporating them on a day to day basis to maintain a solid reputation.”