Ruiz Sales’ investment in technology has also been sizeable, but the return on investment is worth the cost. In the long run, Ruiz posits, the end result is almost always a more efficient and effective operation. “These are the kinds of benefits that can keep a company successful for many years, even in the face of massive changes like FSMA.”
Smaller fruit growers in the Northwest have told Borton’s Leavitt that the increase in FSMA and other regulations could drive them out of business. But for bigger companies like Borton (which recently merged with Chelan Fresh of Chelan, WA), FSMA creates opportunities—specifically, smaller growers who can’t afford to run their own tests to prepare for an FDA audit can turn to Borton and use the company’s in-house labs.
Leavitt also hopes that getting the government’s seal of approval will help further protect the integrity of Washington brands and generate new business for companies that meet or exceed FSMA demands. “Right now, it seems awfully burdensome and expensive,” he admits, “but we hope to get more steady business from the Walmarts and the Costcos of the world. They want a homogenous, consistent product and we want the market to have the safest, best fruit possible.”
Adapting to FSMA and its new regulatory era has not been easy for many companies, up and down the fresh fruit and vegetable supply chain. And with a number of produce-specific details yet to be ironed out, challenges remain. The good news is the hard choices companies are making now, including all the time and money invested in technology and other upgrades, will ensure they’re FSMA compliant and provide plenty of benefits down the road, from faster, more efficient processes to safer product.