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WATSONVILLE, Cal. -- Some 200 industry representatives gathered here at the first California Strawberry Food Safety Summit to hear a panel of prominent experts, industry leaders and regulators from the front lines of food safety.
"What a powerful statement, to see 97 percent of the industry here," said California Strawberry Commission (CSC) president Mark Murai. "We don't invest our time and our passion and our money to make people sick. California strawberries have not been the source of an outbreak, but we need to do whatever is necessary to prevent one from happening."
The large attendance spoke volumes about the commitment of the California strawberry industry to providing healthy, safe and delicious fruit to consumers, said Murai, adding that the event underscores his organization's commitment to food safety. "I want to be able to bring strawberries home to my family and know they will be eating nutritious, great-tasting fruit without any worries."
Event panelist Mike Villaneva, inspection manager/food safety section for the California Department of Food & Agriculture, said the California strawberry industry "is way out ahead in terms of food safety." Villaneva was one of six panelists who spoke about how state and national agencies investigate a food-borne illness outbreak and the tools that strawberry growers, processors and shippers can use to protect themselves against such a crisis, as well as what steps they need to take in case one happens.
Also on hand throughout the day at a "mini" trade show were representatives from companies providing food safety solutions such as food safety testing, monitoring and traceback products and services.
CSC supports and represents the California strawberry industry with programs in research, education, marketing and issues management. The commission represents an industry of over 700 growers, shippers and processors.