Two specialists from the Korean company Gene System installed a high-tech device called Genechecker™ in the packing facility laboratory on October 25. The instrument tests water samples rapidly via the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), a method proven to be a highly sensitive and accurate way to examine water microbiology using segments of DNA.
Bob Kovarovic of supplier Victory Scientific in New Jersey was on site to assist with installing Genechecker™. About the size of a blender base, the compact Genechecker™ is smaller and faster than the lab’s current machine, which is the size of a boxy microwave oven. For a couple of months, the new unit will run side-by-side the existing equipment to ensure its accuracy.
“This will be to work out any bugs, and to ensure that we get congruent results, at which point we will switch over to the new system completely,” said Food Safety Manager Megan Murphy
When it comes to food safety, no news is good news. It’s one of those things where, when everything is going right, nobody notices. But, when something goes wrong, it is suddenly front-page news.
At The Chef’s Garden, we want our food safety efforts to get noticed, but for all of the right reasons. For us, our pledge to follow strict, rigorous food safety standards is the most important thing we can put into every chef’s box.
After installation, the Korean specialists trained Murphy and Food Safety Supervisor Michelle Torres Rodriguez on the ins and outs of the new equipment, as they will be in charge of running it hereafter.
“We collect water samples multiple times a day for testing,” Murphy said, adding that the lab also tests the water at the final stop of the washing process. “We check it at the end because, if it is clean at the end, it was clean at the beginning,” Murphy said.
Kovarovic said a world of microscopic information can be detected from mere droplets of water, which is all the device needs in order to calculate results. “Science has gone from testing big vats to testing the tiniest amount,” he said.
Food safety is the highest priority at The Chef’s Garden, from the quality of our soil all the way to the safety of our fresh vegetables when they arrive at each chef’s kitchen. And, although words like pathogen, bacteria, listeria and salmonella are highly unglamorous, they are as crucial to The Chef’s Garden’s vegetables as flavor, color and texture. It’s a serious topic that you simply can’t sugarcoat. Microbial pathogens are real, and are one of the primary health risks associated with water and food safety.
As Genechecker™ analyzes wash water, it scans for more than 20 potential pathogens and contaminants to ensure they never touch The Chef’s Garden’s lettuces, greens, root vegetables and other crops. The rigid food safety protocol is all part of The Chef’s Garden’s continuing commitment to go above basic requirements, so we can confidently reassure chefs that everything they order from the farm is as safe as it can possibly be.
In addition to its accuracy, a PCR that uses DNA, such as Genechecker™, is quicker and more efficient at measuring water purity than previous systems. The existing equipment was up to the task, but it took about 45 minutes to analyze each test sample. The new instrument can do the same job in half the time, at four times less the cost.
“The lab is like a kitchen, and we found a better way to bake a delicious cake,” Kavarovic said.
From greenhouse and field, to packing and delivery, everything in every box that leaves our packing facility is inspected for safety and cleanliness. If it seems like overkill, that’s okay. We’ll take that as a compliment. Each and every step of our food safety process is the insurance policy protecting our chefs and their customers, so they can be confident that the products in their Chef’s Garden box are as pristine as possible, both inside and out from root to tip.
If it all sounds complex and super-sciency, that’s because it is. But, when it comes right down to it, the reason for this most recent equipment upgrade is super-simple.
“We’ll know faster that the water is safe,” Kovarovic said. “And it will save The Chef’s Garden money.”
Kovarovic said that The Chef’s Garden is a customer that is extraordinarily committed to food safety. “You guys,” he added, “are our shining beacon.”