Beyond Risk Reduction: Designing a Comprehensive Certification Program for Gerber Food Products
The purpose of this proposal was to assist Gerber Products Company in the development of a credible, verifiable, sustainable farm program for the growing and processing of foods for infants and children. This program will allow Gerber to transition from an IPM program that is based primarily on a “do not use” list, the detection of residues, and limitations upon timing and application of agrichemicals, to one that is process-oriented, including conservation practices, and based on environmental performance. As a buyer of crops, Gerber is in a unique position to influence the adoption of sustainable production practices, provide a ready market for “sustainable” suppliers, and provide a greater likelihood for success. Gerber will require all its suppliers to participate in this program as soon as it is feasible.
Project goals and objectives
The original goal of the project was for the 80% of the 70 suppliers to Gerber of peaches, peas, snap beans, and carrots, to enroll in Protected Harvest’s certification program, and for 70% of those enrolled to meet or exceed established minimum certification requirements that enforce the systematic use of bio-intensive IPM, reduce impacts to soil and water quality, and reduce the use of fertilizers by 25%.
The revised goal accounts for 100% of the 5 suppliers to Gerber of peas (2,200 acres) and 100% of the 5 suppliers of snap beans (1,200 acres) to enroll in the certification program, with 100% meeting or exceeding established certification requirements.
Upon receipt of funding for only the first year of the two year project, the approach was modified, so that crop standards for snap beans and peas would be developed in year one. The revised goal accounts for 100% of the 5 suppliers to Gerber of peas (2,200 acres) and 100% of the 5 suppliers of snap beans (1,200 acres) to enroll in the certification program, with 100% meeting or exceeding established certification requirements.
In addition to completing final draft standards for both snap beans and peas, Protected Harvest staff and Gerber staff collaborated on the development of a “Gerber Company Plan” which asserts a commitment to stewardship and to Protected Harvest’s third-party certification program. The Plan requires that Gerber perform remedial action to mentor poorer growers towards improvement. As the growers improve, so does the statistical acceptance range thereby moving the compliance along the performance continuum. This system promotes continuous improvement, a requirement for certification. We also developed a series of approaches to the process of certifying a processing company.