MINNEAPOLIS--()--Fears of E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria within the perishable product cold chain are very real, especially with highly publicized reports of food-borne illnesses from common products such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, and deli meat. Such outbreaks have serious consequences for both supplier and consumer.
“Stamoules Produce remains committed to finding the best and safest ways to counteract these challenges”
Mendota, Calif.-based Stamoules Produce has found a way to help reduce their risks while extending quality shelf life to the consumer. Stamoules, a leading national produce grower and shipper, utilizes Ingersoll Rand’s patented Environment Management System™ (EMS). A surface and air sanitation technology, EMS uses oxygen ions to cleanse ambient air, which improves the quality and safety of perishable products. EMS has been proven effective against E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria, in addition to the food-spoilage bacteria Serratia Marcescens and Lactobacillus. It also decreases the growth of Botrytis and neutralizes ripening hormone ethylene, further extending quality shelf life.
The company was first introduced to the EMS product in 2006, outfitting more than 1,750,000 cubic feet of its main facility with the technology, and effectively reducing bacteria and mold levels by 78 percent according to documented test results. Since then, an additional 1.6 million cubic feet has incorporated the EMS technology, including the rooms where Stamoules cools the greatest percentage of its corn, melons, and broccoli. According to Tom Stefanopoulos, vice president, Stamoules Produce, the company plans to gradually add the EMS system to its entire facility, which will total more than 7 million cubic feet when complete.
“We have experienced a reduction in mold on the produce we cool with the EMS technology, and we know that the sanitizing air minimizes the possibility of shipping our produce with bacterial contamination,” said Stefanopoulos. “Bathing our produce via forced air is much more cost effective than using chlorinated water and eliminates an expensive handling process. We don’t have a need to install bulky and costly equipment; we don’t need specially trained people to monitor the treatment water; we don’t have to dispose of the waste water; and there is no cost for in-house packing and product sizing.”
Leading research labs have shown the EMS technology to reduce microbial populations on stainless steel, plastic and tile surfaces by 99.9% and on product surfaces by 98.4% after just 30 minutes of exposure. “Any health outbreak, such as Salmonella, could have devastating effects on a produce grower,” continued Stefanopoulos. “Stamoules Produce is constantly looking for new technology to reduce the possibility of such an outbreak.”
A Pioneering History
Stamoules Produce has a long history of technological trend-setting and industry-leading practices. EMS is just one example.
The company also moves its products from the field to the cooler quickly to garner the greatest potential shelf life. “We have the cooling capacity to very adequately preserve the integrity of the taste and quality of everything we grow,” said Stefanopoulos. “That we do this consistently is very important to us.”
Because the Stamoules’ plant uses a great amount of ice for the preservation of its corn and broccoli, the company treats the water it uses to make ice with Parasan, which prevents potential contamination, and regularly tests the water for purity.
The company was a pioneer in the use of drop irrigation 10 years ago, saving water, increasing production volume significantly, and enhancing sugar and taste in its products through the introduction of micro-nutrients in the water. Stamoules also introduced ozone and air into its irrigation water to promote increased plant vigor, and employs tillage methods others “have yet to discover,” according to Stefanopoulos. Forward-thinking ideas and aggressive implementation have always been keys to the success of Stamoules Produce, starting out in 1927 when founder Spero Stamoules, a native of Greece, started the company – his American dream.
The challenges Stamoules Produce experienced in its early days included harsh economic times during the Great Depression and the untimely death of Spero Stamoules. Today, the challenges are food safety, environmental regulations and concerns, and fierce competition through a return to tight economic times.
“Stamoules Produce remains committed to finding the best and safest ways to counteract these challenges,” said Stefanopoulos. “Ingersoll Rand’s EMS technology is just one example of how we are trying to ensure the safe preservation of produce, the reduction of product shrink and the increased longevity of products. If we can do all that, we counteract rising food prices by allowing more time to consume produce before spoilage, and it gives us – and consumers – peace of mind that our products are safer to eat.”
Climate Control Technologies is a business sector of diversified industrial firm Ingersoll- Rand Company Limited, and provides equipment and services to manage controlled-temperature environments for food and other temperature sensitive products. The sector encompasses both transport and stationary refrigeration solution and includes the Thermo King® and Hussmann® product brands. More information about the EMS technology can be found at www.ems.ingersollrand.com.
Stamoules Produce is a grower-packer-shipper operation located near Mendota, Calif., that specializes in the production of five agricultural crops: cantaloupes, honeydews, broccoli, sweet corn, and bell peppers. The company grows approximately 17,000 acres of produce annually, and is capable of packing up to 450,000 square feet of produce at any given time. The company is led by Peggy Stamoules Stefanopoulos as president and Tom Stefanopoulos as vice president, along with their children Danny, Christopher and Elena. For more information on Stamoules Produce and their state-of-the-industry operations, please visit www.stamoules.com.