Two leading produce industry organizations have created a joint task force to address food safety.

The Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association and Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers created the task force to help ensure food safety standards are effectively and consistently applied through the supply chain.

PMA, Western Growers create food safety task forceThe task force is made up of executive committee members of both organizations, said Matt McInerney, Western Growers’ executive vice president. It will likely hold its first meeting before the end of the year, he said.

The task force plans to enlist other produce groups to help identify food safety gaps and create produce-specific best practices standards.

Working together on food safety is a natural extension of the two organizations’ longstanding relationship, McInerney said.

“Western Growers and PMA have had multiple collaborations, and worked closely on a number of issues,” he said. “It brings great value when we leverage our resources.”

The collaboration builds on long-term joint efforts including the partnership of Bob Whitaker, PMA’s chief science and technology officer, and Hank Giclas, Western Growers’ senior vice president for science technology and strategic planning, on issues including cantaloupe industry standards, said Lorna Christie, PMA’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

“The focus will be on accountability across the supply chain,” Christie said.

The task force will work on finding solutions to reverse the trend of eroding consumer confidence in the wake of numerous food safety problems, McInerney said.

“There should be no place for people in this time and age who are not adhering to best practices in the growing, handling and marketing of fruits and vegetables,” he said.