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Fruit packer and shipper E.W. Brandt & Sons, Inc., based in Parker, Washington, has a comprehensive quality control program that allows the origin of its fruit to be traced within seconds should a recall be necessary.

Each box that the company packs has a unique barcode, known as a license plate, according to Amy Eversole, quality assurance and food safety manager. The barcode allows the company to access all pertinent information about the box of fruit, such as variety, grade, pack, size, grower, lot number, box weight, and date and time of packing. If necessary, the company can also identify the person who packed a particular box.

In 1999, Brandt’s was the first business in the United States certified under the SQF (Safe Quality Food) 2000 program. It has since become certified by EurepGAP and now participates in nine audits, with some concentrating on the packing house, others on field operations, and yet others on both. In most cases, these audits are required by retail customers who buy fresh fruit. However, some are demanded by processors, and one is called for by a government entity that supplies the foodservice sector.

Eversole said the company’s quality control and quality assurance program is an ongoing effort to improve the quality of Brandt’s products. The quality assurance department works separately from production to ensure an accurate and unbiased assessment of all products throughout the production process.

The department assesses quality at nine checkpoints, beginning in the field before the fruit is harvested and ending when the fruit is loaded on the trucks headed to retail customers. These checkpoints allow the company to always be aware of the quality of the products moving through the facility, as well as to track fruit through the system, Eversole said.

Although no recall has been necessary so far, Eversole said retailers who visit the plant have been impressed with the food safety program.