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NEWARK, Del. -- Bryan Silbermann, president of the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) here, dished about the spinach E. coli crisis and other produce safety issues as the opening speaker at a half-day Produce Safety Symposium hosted by the Massachusetts Restaurant Association on Monday.
In an overview of produce safety developments over the past six months, Silbermann highlighted the lessons learned from the September spinach E. Coli crisis, how consumers now view produce safety, and what industry and government have been doing.
He also raised questions that foodservice operators should ask themselves about their produce sourcing practices.
Other experts who spoke at the event included Michael Jantschke, director of produce safety at Pro-Act; Andrea Fontaine, laboratory director at Food Research Laboratories; and Peter Christie, president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. Manny Costa of Costa Fruit & Produce was program moderator.
"Buyers must accept the vital responsibility they have in demanding rigid specifications that will not be shortchanged on a whim," Silbermann said later in a statement. "And we cannot forget that employees at the unit level must be trained to handle produce properly. Safety is everyone's responsibility, not just something to put in a box or bag and then take for granted."
Silbermann additionally provided information on the new California marketing agreement for lettuce and leafy greens, explaining how it will work, the parties involved, the development of metrics as standards for production, and expectations for the impending growing season. He also talked about PMA's recent decision to commit $2.75 million to produce safety, inclusive of research, communications, and training.
The Produce Marketing Association serves over 2,100 companies representing all segments of the worldwide produce and floral supply chains.
Sponsored by Costa Fruit and Produce, the event drew 150 foodservice executives.