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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - A first-ever Produce Safety Summit was the highlight of last week's United Fresh Produce Association's annual FreshTech expo and conference here.
Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 300 during the opening general session, FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach discussed how industry and the agency could partner in the effort to keep the food supply free of contamination.
"The past will not be sufficient for the future," said von Eshenbach, noting that the FDA "must be not just a regulator, but a facilitator. We must be engaged in the full life cycle of product. Therefore, we must be more involved in the front end of the produce life cycle. We [FDA] will be more collaborative, engages and interactive. We will continue to work with organizations like United Fresh to do this; to ensure product quality and help people understand how fruits and vegetables benefit their health."
The commissioner applauded the industry for its past and present efforts to employ the most current research and scientific information toward reducing foodborne illnesses, but stressed that all points along the distribution chain, including imported product, must be incorporated into a food safety culture that is based on strong communication networks, implementation of guidelines and continuous research.
In other conference news, Jim Gorny, s.v.p./food safety and technology, United Fresh, led a food safety discussion among a panel of retail and food service representatives, among which included: Frank Padilla, a.v.p./g.m.m., fresh foods at Costco Wholesale; Gale Prince, director, corporate regulatory affairs, The Kroger Co.; Mitch Smith, director, quality systems, McDonald's Corp.; and Ed Thompson, v.p./quality assurance, Avendra, LLC.