Tag Archives: Food Safety

Watch Richard & Tracy on KITV-News Tonight; & Some Photos

Richard's segment on KHON news last night was interesting! Always something new.

If you didn't catch the piece, titled, "Local farmer turns to natural cleaner to kill bacteria," you can watch it here:

Richard Ha on KHON-2 News

Lara Yamada of KITV came by and she interviewed us there, as well. Here she is with Tracy. This segment will run on tonight's KITV News.


Here's Richard speaking to Olena Heu. This was at Alan Wong's Pineapple Room at Ala Moana.


Olena Heu interviewing Alan Wong.


With Vincent Kimura, of the Innovi Group.


Olena tested her cell phone, and then some tomatoes, for bacteria, and then again after treating them with ozone. Watch the segment to see what she discovered! Really interesting.


– Leslie Lang

Watch Richard on KHON Tonight (Wed) at 5 & 6 p.m.

Richard and his daughter Tracy were interviewed today by Olena Heu at KHON in Honolulu. The segment will be on the KHON News tonight at 5 p.m., with a shorter version of the interview at 6 tonight.

They were interviewed about food safety, which has been in the news lately. Tune in and hear about current food safety practices at Hamakua Springs, and how they are experimenting with ozone for food safety right now.

A transcript of the interview is here.

KHON streams its newscasts live here, if you want to watch live at 5pm HST.


Anaheim, the Wonderful World of Produce

Richard Ha writes:

My daughter Tracy and I went to the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) trade show recently. Tracy is in charge of the farm’s Food Safety and Marketing program.

There were 21,000 people at this event, in Anaheim for the trade show from 60 countries.

It’s a great place to meet people and keep up with new trends in the produce business.

Ca tomato farmers

Are you familiar with the new FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)? It’s the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years, and was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. It aims to ensure that our U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to, instead, preventing it.

Ca tomato farmers

We have always taken food safety very seriously. We scored the highest Food Safety inspection scores ever this year – 100 percent for banana and tomato field operations, and 98 percent for our banana and tomato packing operations. But still, we are always looking for ways to learn more and improve. So PMA 2012 was timely.

Ca tomato farmers

Tracy commented on how fast technology is moving. QR (Quick Reader) codes are something with great marketing potential. They can hold thousands of times more data than traditional barcodes. Any customer with a cell phone camera and a QR app can instantly visit your website, hear an audio or see videos. Download a QR code app and you can get right down to the farm level. We are intrigued by the possibilities.

QR reader

At PMA we saw there is a marketing push toward children, in order to get them eating more healthfully. There were hundreds of different combinations of products and packaging that were kid-oriented.

For kids

We came away with all kinds of ideas. It’s very exciting.

Ca tomato farmers

And a short video of the action:


Master Gardeners Visit Hamakua Springs

Richard Ha writes:

The master gardeners came to visit Hamakua Springs yesterday. I told them their entry fee was that they had to listen to my pitch about the Big Island Community Coalition, through which we advocate for lowest electricity rates in the state.

We all laughed, and then I handed them flyers to post everywhere they can.

The Master Gardeners, solely as volunteers, help staff the University Extension Service. Somone pointed out that when they are not there, the Extension Service office is empty.

It was great to talk with people who grow things and have hands-on experience with insect and disease issues. They peered under leaves and asked lots of questions. Many of them grow tomatoes, so we had a lot in common. We feel a special closeness to them.


Master Gardeners decided to do their vegetable shopping while on their tour.

My daughter Tracy
explained our Food Safety program, which involves nearly 60 line items for the field operation and 60 more for the packing operation. Everything is documented.

I pointed out that
smaller growers have a very difficult time both farming and maintaining the
detailed paperwork necessary to become Food Safety-certified. The Food Safety program evolved as large retailers pushed the liability down the chain. It is neither good nor bad – It just is.

Someone asked how long we have been at Pepe‘ekeo and why we chose this location, and I explained that we started looking at different possible locations 20 years ago. Plantations were closing down, the market was on O‘ahu – there were many factors in play.

What it came down to were the physical resources. At Pepe‘ekeo, which is located close to a deep water port, there is deep soil, and most of all, there is an abundance of water. Our average annual rainfall here is close to 140 inches per year. More than 1/4 of the volume of water that goes to the Ewa plains on O‘ahu flows downhill through our farm alone. And there is a 150-foot elevation difference in the water flow.

That water was free, and would be free for as long as we could imagine. We made our decision based on free water.


Hamakua Springs is Food Safety Certified

The farm had its external food safety audit yesterday.

“We don’t hear officially for a week or so, but I know we did pass,” said Tracy Pa, Richard’s daughter, who – among other responsibilities – handles the farm’s food safety certification process.

I asked her how she knows.

“Because the auditor couldn’t believe how clean our place was,” she said, “and how orderly the records are.”

There are two different audits – one for the farm, and another for the packing house. “It’s all about worker protection, safety and cleanliness,” said Tracy.

For the farm audit, she said, you even have to show documentation about what the land was used for before you got there.

“Everything has to be documented,” she said. “We are on land that was previously sugar cane land for 90-100 years.

“There’s a cleaning schedule for when to clean your harvest bins, you have to sanitize your knives every day before you use them, we wear disposable gloves when we’re working, and they’re discarded once they touch some surface other than the food itself. They take water samples and test the water quality.”

“These days pretty much everyone requires it,” she said, “like Costco requires it to sell anything to then, and more and more supermarkets, too.”

But back when the farm first received “Food Safety Certification,” in 2003, it was not the norm. “We were ahead of the game,” she said. “It was very unusual then, and everyone looked at us as if we were crazy because we were spending a few thousand every year to get audited. And it’s a lot of paperwork on top of whatever else we’re doing.”

It was primarily as protection for their workers that they started pursuing Food Safety Certification, which they received every year.

These days, “the employees are proud when we pass,” she said. “When it’s over and you tell them we did a good job, they give a sigh of relief.”


We Are Confident In Our Food Safety Procedures

Someone reports finding a slug on lettuce he bought that had our label on it. He says he bought it on Sunday at the Pahoa Farmers Market.

But we do not sell our lettuce at the Pahoa Farmers Market, and do not have vendors selling our product at any Farmers Markets. Apparently, and unknown to us, someone must have bought our lettuce and resold it. We did not have control over that lettuce. It could have been contaminated when out of our control. It’s also possible someone packed other lettuce into our container/label. There’s no way to know.

We only sell our products at Farmers Markets ourselves. If you see our product at a Farmers Market, come up and say hi. We’ll say hi and introduce ourselves, and you’ll be talking to me and/or members of my family.

For many years now we have been very proactive about slugs and slug-borne diseases. I have written about this here before.

We do not grow our lettuce in dirt. Instead, we grow our lettuce on floating rafts. The lettuce roots gets their nutrients straight from the water. This helps us to maintain a barrier from slugs.

We were the first company in the state to be third-party Food Safety Certified. We could have been satisfied with that, and just relied on our food safety certification (which is voluntary, and adds a lot of labor and cost to our operation, but is important to us). But we are serious about doing everything we can to protect our customers, so we took it one step further.

Although there haven’t been any cases of the slug-borne “rat lungworm disease” reported in Pepe‘ekeo, where our farm is located, we voluntarily instituted a program to cut the potential lifecycle of the rat lungworm (the carrier of the rat lungworm disease).

Because the disease lifecycle requires the rat lungworm to live part of its life in a slug and part in a rat, we developed a program of slug baiting and rat baiting/trapping to make sure that the cycle was cut. So on our farm, even if a slug got by us, the chance of it being infested with the disease is unlikely.

We sympathize with the person who found a slug, but we have carefully doublechecked our procedures and are confident they are working as planned.

I don’t blame him for feeling frustrated. But the world is changing and we need to be thinking of how we will help each other face the uncertain future together. We need to make strornger communities, we need to make more friends and we need to stay closer to our families. In an uncertain future, it will be the aloha spirit that will help us cope with an uncertain tomorrow.


Food Safety Legislation

There is food safety legislation in the pipeline, which would have increased costs to smaller farmers when they are the most vulnerable.

Let’s encourage new and small farmers to become larger farmers. Let’s not kill them off before they can get started.

Remember: Food Security has to do with farmers farming. If farmers make money, farmers will farm.

A revised amendment by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. (see below), which exempts smaller operations from some requirements under the legislation, was included in the final bill presented for debate. I think this amendment, which helps small farmers, is reasonable.

From today’s New York Times:


A Stale Food Fight


Published: November 28, 2010

THE best opportunity in a generation to improve the safety of the American food supply will come as early as Monday night, when the Senate is scheduled to vote on the F.D.A. Food Safety Modernization bill. This legislation is by no means perfect. But it promises to achieve several important food safety objectives, greatly benefiting consumers without harming small farmers or local food producers.

The bill would, for the first time, give the F.D.A., which oversees 80 percent of the nation’s food, the authority to test widely for dangerous pathogens and to recall contaminated food. The agency would finally have the resources and authority to prevent food safety problems, rather than respond only after people have become ill. The bill would also require more frequent inspections of large-scale, high-risk food-production plants…. Read the rest here

Both national produce trade associations and 17 other fruit and vegetable industry groups said, on November 18, that they were forced to oppose the Senate food safety bill because of the Tester language being folded into the main bill.

Tester Amendment – Qualified Exemptions

Food facilities would qualify for an exemption from the preventive control/Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point provisions in section 103 of S. 510 if:

            • They are defined as a “very small business” under FDA rule making or under certain conditions:

            • The average annual monetary value of all food sold by the facility during the previous three-year period was less than $500,000, if the majority of the food sold by that facility was sold directly to consumers, restaurants or grocery stores in the same state or within 275 miles of the facility.  Source: Senate Health Committee

When things go wrong on large, industrial-sized farms, lots of people are affected. If something goes wrong on a tiny farm, few people are affected. We need resilience and redundancy in our food supply; we should not depend on a handful of large farms.

This is why we need to support small farms.