(July 18, 2:00 p.m.) In light of the recent Salmonella Saintpaul foodborne illness investigation by the Food and Drug Administration, the Produce Marketing Association has added a town hall gathering-type session to the agenda for its 2008 Foodservice Conference & Exposition July 25-27 in Monterey, Calif.

The session is scheduled for July 26.

“I estimate the town hall session will be the biggest thing there is at the conference,” said Kathy Means, vice president of government relations and public affairs for PMA. “It’s a room that’s set for more than 400 people, and I imagine it’ll be a packed house.”

The main purpose of the meeting, Means said, is to figure out how to do things better in the event of another outbreak.

“We are still going to have the town hall meeting regardless of what the FDA (did on the July 17) lifting on tomatoes because we still have some major issues out there,” Means said.

Means will begin the meeting with an update from PMA’s food safety team. Ed Beckman, president of the California Tomato Farmers cooperative, Fresno, and Scott Horsfall, chief executive officer of the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement, should give their perspectives. A question-and-answer session will follow.

Means said the FDA’s reported difficulty with traceback and with box reuse, as well as the difficulties, from her perspective, with communication to consumers, need to be addressed and said it’s vital these issues be handled more efficiently in the future.

“We’ll talk about what will be the impact on the industry and everyone, and what we’ve learned,” Means said. “That’s what this town hall is about — finding out what we need to do differently.”