Food safety key focus for Florida tomato industry - The Packer

Food safety key focus for Florida tomato industry

12/06/2011 01:37:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

“We still have people today that are very hesitant to eat tomatoes,” he said.
“The way we process our product these days, we have an extremely safe product. The only blemish we have on our product was put there by a federal agency that not only was incorrect, but would not change and retract the statement when they knew they were incorrect.”

Florida growers are ahead of the curve in instituting mandatory food safety requirements, said Chuck Weisinger, president and chief executive officer of broker Weis-Buy Farms Inc., Fort Myers.

“Think about how quickly we (the industry) made the change,” he said.
“It didn’t happen over a 10-year period. Florida growers are right there.”

Weisinger said everyone he buys for and sells to wants third-party certification.

“In this litigious society, if you don’t protect yourself, you end up falling under the wheels of a bus,” Weisinger said.

Full effect
The entire produce industry suffers during outbreaks, said Tony DiMare, vice president of the DiMare Co., Homestead.

“Regardless of the commodity, any time there’s an outbreak, as far as I’m concerned, it affects the entire produce industry,” he said.

“I cringe when I see outbreaks related to fresh produce. It casts doubt in the eyes of consumers who don’t understand our business, the complications involved in bringing them the products they’re buying. I know the outbreaks wrongly point fault at the overall industry.”

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