Making spices safer

By Tony Bedard, CEO Frontier Natural Products Co-op

I’m often asked how we make sure our spices are safe and of high quality. These questions spike every time there’s something negative about spice quality in the news — sensible or sensationalized. We understand your concerns and are glad to answer questions regarding our Frontier and Simply Organic spices.

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In fact, I believe aggressive programs like the ones we have at Frontier are the key to improving the overall trust in spices.

We take quality and food safety issues very seriously, and we’ve taken a number of simple, but significant, steps to avoid the kinds of problems that raise safety and quality questions — and inspire bad press.

Here’s what we do:

  • Buy direct. Buying direct from responsible, sustainable sources — certified organic whenever possible — provides an important advantage in food safety and quality. Having personal contact with suppliers builds reliable relationships that are often missing when buying from middlemen. Direct buying allows meaningful supplier evaluations and approval, along with opportunities to facilitate changes at the source that improve quality and food safety.
  • Handle product carefully. When clean, high quality spices arrive, they must be handled properly from receiving to shipping to keep them that way. Our facilities comply with third-party audited GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) standards — and our spices are packaged under the same GFSI certification. The careful attention to details at every stage of product handling that’s necessary to maintain GFSI certification is essential for food safety.
  • Steam sterilize. A key safeguard of product safety is sterilization to eliminate pathogens such as Salmonella. We employ a state-of-the-art steam sterilization system that allows us to offer safe spices to our customers and meet all food safety standards without using ethylene oxide or irradiation. This system is ideal for us because most other sterilization methods, including irradiation and ethylene oxide (ETO), cannot be used on organic products. Also, the highly controlled process of steam injection in a vacuum allows sterilization to be done effectively with short exposure times and at lower temperatures — so there is minimal impact on the natural taste, color and aroma of the product.
  • Test rigorously. Sophisticated and persistent testing is necessary to monitor the results of all the above programs and make certain they are working. Testing of supplier samples and shipments as they arrive can eliminate potential problems with quality or contamination before they develop. Retesting products as they are handled and processed confirms that the food safety standards are effective. And spices undergoing sterilization are given further testing at an ISO-certified laboratory to confirm the absence of pathogens.

We’re proud of our food safety and quality programs. We demand high quality specifications from our suppliers, comply with third-party audited food safety standards, steam sterilize and do extensive product testing to ensure our customers get safe, high-quality spices.

Tony-BedardAbout the author: Tony Bedard joined Frontier Natural Products Co-op more than 20 years ago as head of Operations and was named CEO in 2002. As the CEO of Frontier, Tony is a strong advocate of corporate social responsibility that has led to dozens of community building projects around the world. Outside of work, Tony has personally led medical and humanitarian delegations to El Salvador and Haiti for the last 10 years.

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