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NEWARK, Del. -- Bryan Silbermann, president of the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) here reiterated at a hearing of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last Friday that the trade association is "committed to doing whatever it takes to protect public health and rebuild consumer confidence in the delicious, healthful products our members grow and market."
Silbermann joined representatives from government, regulatory agencies, retail, academia, transportation, and agriculture to provide testimony regarding state, industry, consumer, and science/research perspectives on the safety of fresh produce.
It was the second of two FDA public hearings about recent outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with microbial contamination of fresh produce.
At the hearing, the FDA sought information regarding risk factors for contamination of fresh produce associated with current agricultural and manufacturing practices, and possible measures by FDA that would enhance the safety of fresh produce.
Silbermann reiterated PMA's support in understanding what it is that industry can do to better meet the agency's needs and expectations moving forward, while "creating the tools so industry can quickly help narrow the scope of any future outbreak."
The trade group executive pointed to PMA's recent $2 million investment to launch the Center for Produce Safety at University of California in Davis. PMA worked on the center, under the umbrella of the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, as one of a number of partnerships and shared initiatives to enhance produce safety.
During his testimony Silbermann recommended improved communications to ensure that the public has accurate, specific, actionable information as early as possible.
"Rapidly narrowing the focus of an investigation is responsible to public health and mitigates damage to those in the affected industry that are not implicated, and should not be implicated, in an outbreak," said Silbermann.
Silbermann also recommended:
--Prioritizing food safety efforts based commodity-specific risk factors,
--Using clear language that differentiates products in question and does not portray all produce as risky,
--Creating a robust federal effort that is verifiable and applies to any products grown in the United States or abroad,
--Establishing a federal effort with commodity-specific protocols based on sound science and prioritized by risk, and
--Working with the industry on traceability tools that can quickly help narrow the scope of any future outbreak.