Is produce grown in Canada and the US safer? The case for PrimusGFS

PrimusGFS certification programs ensure the safety of produce we import into Canada and the US, but what about fresh produce grown domestically? This post explains why Canam Fresh pursues PrimusGFS certification everywhere we farm.

Did you know that produce farmed in Canada and the US does not require formal food inspection? It might surprise you to learn that PrimusGFS audit certification currently only applies to produce getting imported into our countries, not domestic harvests.

In this post, we bust a fresh produce myth or two. Then we explain how Canam Fresh embraces certification programs, including PrimusGFS, to set the highest standard everywhere we farm, including Canada, the US and Mexico.

Let’s say you’re standing in a produce section of your favorite grocery store shopping for bell peppers. Some are grown locally, in Canada or the US, and others come from Mexico. When you think about it, which bell peppers are safer? And which are better for the environment? The answers that follow may surprise you.

Canadians and Americans generally have a high level of confidence in our food safety. When we see a produce item merchandised as “grown locally,” we just assume it’s safe to prepare and enjoy at home. However, produce grown in Canada and the US does not, in fact, require federal inspection, but those fruits and vegetables we import do, thanks to PrimusGFS certification and auditing.

Since 2000, an increasing amount of the produce imported into Canada and the US has been PrimusGFS-certified. Endorsed by more than 7,000 food industry organizations and associations and adopted by 22 countries so far, this auditing certification program strives to provide universal safety standards and benchmarks for every aspect of the fresh produce supply chain.


First and foremost, PrimusGFS benefits consumers by ensuring the quality and safety of the food they eat by addressing market concerns, such as the use of pesticides, exposure to germs, and worker exploitation. Food retailers and manufacturers who purchase fresh fruits and vegetables for sale or for use in their products recognize the value of a harmonized and safe supply chain, so they tend to support PrimusGFS.

Farmers benefit too. While some farms may view any regulation or certification efforts as unwelcome red tape, at Canam Fresh we recognize programs like PrimusGFS as an opportunity to standardize and elevate our operations by adopting best practices and discovering new technologies. Far from burdening us, better safety practices help us satisfy everyone’s needs and proactively protect our business.

A self-regulated honor system

In Canada and the US, every farming company defines its own safety standards in a self-regulated honor system. The result is a vastly inconstant industry landscape with some farms, like Canam Fresh, who enthusiastically embrace new safety measures and others who might not.

Keep in mind that an outbreak of harmful germs, such as Salmonella, E. coli, or Listeria, can easily bring a farm to its knees, causing major disruption and harm to employees, consumers, reputations, brands, and even industries. So, for practical reasons of business continuity and resilience, we believe that embracing safety measures is a must.

We have ethical reasons, too. We view safety as an important vehicle for delivering our values and commitment to corporate social responsibility. That’s why all Canam Fresh farms and logistics facilities—in Canada, the US, and Mexico—are fully PrimusGFS and CanadaGAP and GlobalGAP certified. Our packing page shares some of our safety practices, including how we use cold chain solutions as a safety foundation and continue to explore innovations in product coating, bioengineering, and so on.

What about the environmental impact?

PrimusGFS-certified produce is technically safer than “locally grown,” but still a lot worse for the environment, right? No. In fact, growing year-round in Canada and the US requires heated greenhouses. And heating greenhouses produces quantitatively more carbon emissions than farming crops in warm climates where they naturally grow and shipping them north by freight.

We learned this truth from direct experience analyzing and quantifying our own operations. We compared the carbon emissions of growing peppers offseason in Ontario versus farming and shipping from Mexico. This analysis helps explain why Canam Fresh owns and operates sustainable farms in Canada, the US, and Mexico then ships them everywhere throughout the year.

Will more farms in Canada and the US embrace PrimusGFS and similar certification programs—and view safety as an important area of innovation? We hope so. The Canadian and American farming industry cannot afford to fall behind technologically or ethically. In the meantime, the next time you reach for those bell peppers, make sure you give those products from Mexico and beyond a fair shake!

Let’s talk about what Canam Fresh can do for you!

Canam Fresh Canada +1 519-773-3250

Canam Fresh USA +1 520-394-6777

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