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WASHINGTON, D.C. and NEWARK, Del. - The United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association (United) and the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) announced today that the two associations will work together, in concert with other produce industry stakeholders, to develop a produce industry food safety initiative that best serves the needs of the industry and the government.
The two associations specifically plan to involve a substantial number of regional organizations and commodity groups representing different sectors of the industry to provide input into the project. The initiative will be primarily spearheaded by Dr. Donna Garren of United and Kathy Means of PMA.
To kick off this effort, representatives from the produce industry, academia, and government will meet in Dallas, Texas, on June 9 to 10 to begin the work on commodity-specific programs. In preparation for this meeting, the two associations will begin immediately working together with all appropriate industry representatives to develop commodity-specific guidance for good agricultural practices, good manufacturing practices, and good handling practices across the entire distribution chain; and a more formal industrywide produce safety communication and crisis management plan, including both proactive and reactive elements.
Staff and members of both United and PMA will be involved in this joint effort, with Dr. Donna Garren, United v.p., scientific and technical affairs, serving as the staff leader in the development of new commodity-specific guidance in accordance with the specific requests of the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and Kathy Means, PMA v.p. of government relations, leading the development and implementation of a more formal media communications plan and network to address food safety issues related to produce.
"Food safety has long been a top priority for the fresh produce industry," said United's chairman-elect, Nick Tompkins of Apio, Inc. in Guadalupe, Calif. "Fundamentally, both the produce industry and the U.S. government share common goals to ensure the safest possible produce supply and to encourage consumers to eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day for their health. Maintaining good public health requires a commitment to both of these goals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have requested that the produce industry intensify its work to meet these goals on several commodity specific issues," Tompkins explained.
"Strong, collective, proactive industry action has been the recipe for successfully addressing food safety issues in recent years. Today United and PMA members count on their association to provide leadership in critical areas related to food safety. To fulfill this commitment, we have acknowledged that food safety requires concerted efforts to avoid duplication of efforts and to demonstrate an industrywide commitment to the task at hand," said PMA's chairman-elect, Steve Junqueiro of Modesto, Calif.-based Save Mart Supermarkets.