Edit

Distributors Hail Establishment of Center for Produce Safety



“Many of us applaud the PMA for taking this proactive approach to food safety. Having the PMA take the lead in food safety is what customers and distributors believe should be a major focus of the organization. This can enhance the safety of our industry, reassure the consumer's mind and help in reducing the need for overly burdensome regulation,” Peter Testa, president of Pro*Act member Testa Produce, Inc., Chicago, told ID Access.

Testa’s Pro*Act colleague, Manual Costa, president, Costa Fruit & Produce, Inc., Boston, and a member of the ID Editorial Advisory Board, observed: “The establishment of the center demonstrates a commitment on the part of the industry and the PMA to reduce and eliminate foodborne pathogen outbreaks relating to produce.”

“This can enhance the safety of our industry, reassure the consumer's mind and help in reducing the need for overly burdensome regulation.” – Peter Testa
“Pro*Act has been a staunch supporter of industry efforts to develop the science necessary to formulate effective food safety interventions in the produce industry. We have high hopes that the newly established Center for Produce Safety at the University of California, Davis, will enhance our knowledge of the safety of agricultural products and help us achieve our goal of improving public health. We are confident that the center will play an important role in safeguarding the integrity of the entire produce supply chain,” Michael Jantschke, director of food safety for Pro*Act, Monterey, CA, the distributor produce marketing group, indicated to ID Access.

Tim York, president of Markon, Salinas, CA, told ID Access: “The Center for Produce Safety is another important step taken by the produce industry to improve the safety of the food we produce and to insure consumer confidence in our products. The foodservice industry should applaud the additional steps taken by the industry to ensure a safe food supply, and remain confident that the issues the industry confronted last September are being addressed by the industry quickly and responsibly.”

Representatives from the country’s leading produce trade associations and California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura this week unveiled the Center for Produce Safety that will be housed at University of California, Davis, CA, Western Institute for Food Safety and Security (WIFSS), whose mission is to conduct research that enhances the safety and security of the nation’s food supply.

The creation of the Center for Produce Safety is the direct result of an industry-wide collaborative response to last fall’s fatal E.coli outbreaks, according to the organizers. The Produce Marketing Association, other industry association partners and government agencies since then has been focusing on investigating the cause of the outbreaks and expediting efforts to protect against the risks of future outbreaks.

“We have high hopes that the newly established Center for Produce Safety at the University of California, Davis, will enhance our knowledge of the safety of agricultural products.” – Michael Jantschke
The outbreaks, which killed three consumers and sickened 205 across the country, affected the entire produce industry, placing it under congressional, scientific and public scrutiny. Agriculture leaders and experts have said that for now there is no definitive way to prevent food-borne illnesses, but the goal of the center is to help the industry find ways to minimize the prospect of future food-borne illnesses, especially like the deadly E. coli spinach outbreak.

Earlier this year, California and produce growers/shippers agreed to a so-called voluntary “Marketing Agreement” that would compel the supply chain to adhere to standardized, verifiable produce safety handling procedures. This agreement was welcomed as a step in the right direction to allay consumers’ concerns about the safety of fresh produce.

The Produce Marketing Association (PMA), Newark, DE, has contributed $2 million to creation of the Center for Produce Safety. Taylor Farms of Salinas, CA, pledged to contribute an additional $2 million in cash as well another $1 million of research already planned by the company. PMA officials said it will work with the State of California, which also is contributing $500,000, and other leading industry association to secure additional funding for research and training initiatives.

Markon’s York believes that additional funding will be forthcoming from all sectors of the industry - production, transportation, retail, wholesale, and foodservice distribution.

Bryan Silbermann, PMA president, said the success of the produce industry depends on a collective commitment to public health.

“Our members, who represent every link of the nation’s produce supply chain, are committed to supporting robust food safety programs based on the best science available. The Center for Produce Safety will significantly advance the entire industry’s collective knowledge about food safety and help ensure consumers continue to enjoy safe, wholesome and healthy produce, every bite, every time,” Silbermann said.

“The foodservice industry should applaud the additional steps taken by the industry to ensure a safe food supply.” – Tim York
“The Center for Produce Safety will primarily focus on two critical objectives, according to the founders. First, it will serve as an unprecedented clearinghouse for all available research related to produce safety. This initiative is the first in the industry designed to capture all existing scientific data on food safety in one central repository. Second, the center will fund new scientific studies focused on developing new solutions that mitigate risks associated with the nation’s produce supply. Allocation of the center’s research investments and oversight of active research projects will be led by a governing body consisting of leaders from industry, associations, government and academia. Details of this body are currently under development.

State Agriculture Secretary Kawamura, commending the produce industry for this initiative, observed, “The Center for Produce Safety will lose no time putting together an aggressive research, training, and outreach agenda into how and where food borne illnesses arise in produce, and actions that can be taken to reduce these risks. The industry’s actions will help restore consumer confidence and demonstrate that the health and safety of consumers is their ultimate priority.”

Bruce Taylor, chairman and ceo of Taylor Farms, noted, “I consider the contribution Taylor Farms is making today as an investment in the future of our company and the produce industry. I encourage my colleagues across the entire supply chain to contribute at whatever level possible to ensure that the Center for Produce Safety is able to advance an aggressive research agenda that provides produce companies with the guidance needed to further enhance food safety efforts.”

Trending

More from our partners