Grower-shippers, buyers and the regulatory community have a chance to meet face to face at the state’s inaugural Texas Food Safety Conference.
“This is the first time we’ve done a major food safety conference,” said Ray Prewett, executive vice president of the Texas Vegetable Association, Mission, one of the conference hosts. “There have been some local food safety conferences and some training sessions but to my knowledge this is the first time there has been a statewide event.”
Prewett said the goal of the event is to bring the produce industry together with the regulating community.
“We’ve heard a lot of reports that we just don’t know each other well,” he said. “This event is timely from the standpoint of what’s going on in Washington and in Austin with the new federal law and at least some changes in state laws.”
The agenda includes a panel discussion on the sources of food safety problems for produce in Texas, including a scheduled appearance by representatives from J&D Produce, Edinburg, which recently underwent a voluntary recall of parsley and cilantro.
“I really have to pay tribute to J&D Produce for being willing to talk about their experience,” Prewett said. “There will be a lot of interest in their real-world experience. People who haven’t had to go through an unfortunate event like that will learn a lot.”
Other sessions include a panel discussion about how to prevent problems and find them sooner.
A TDA representative also will be on hand to discuss how to use the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s specialty crop block grant program awards for food safety.
The second day of the conference also includes presentations about water, animal and soil-borne pathogens and how they affect Texas operations, and strategies for implementing food safety programs on the farm.
Prewett said attendees are expected to include representatives from both sides of the industry, from growers to buyers as well as state agencies like the Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Department of State Health Services and Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
For more information, and registration, visit www.valleyag.org.