Produce growers’ adoption of third-party food safety audits varies by primary marketing channel
Produce growers reported that retail and foodservice buyer requirements—most common in fresh and fresh-cut produce marketing channels (for example, heads of lettuce versus bagged salads)—have largely driven the adoption of food-safety practices. Commercial buyers increasingly require third-party food-safety audits in order to reduce risk of foodborne illnesses. According to a 2015–16 USDA survey, adoption of third-party audits varied by growers’ primary marketing channels (see chart note for definitions). Among growers who reported having a primary marketing channel, those who sold mainly to fresh markets had the highest rate (39 percent). However, with an audit rate of over 50 percent, growers who sold to “mixed” (multiple) marketing channels—each with possibly different food-safety requirements—exceeded the audit rate for growers who belonged to any primary-marketing-channel category. In the survey sample, 17 percent of produce growers sell primarily “direct to consumers,” 29 percent to processors, 2 percent to the fresh-cut market, 26 percent to the fresh market, and 26 percent to mixed markets. This chart appears in the ERS report, U.S. Produce Growers' Decisionmaking Under Evolving Food Safety Standards, released in June 2019.
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