(Jan. 23) WASHINGTON, D.C. — United Fresh Produce Association president Tom Stenzel told the fruit and vegetable industry advisory committee Jan. 23 that the United board voted unanimously over the weekend that the association will advocate federal oversight of clear and strong produce safety standards based on the best available science.

Stenzel said there were four guiding principles for a food safety regulatory framework for produce:

1. Produce safety standards must be consistent and applicable to all produce grown anywhere in the U.S., or imported into the country.

2. Produce safety standards must be mandatory with sufficient federal oversight in order to be credible to consumers.

3. These standards cannot depend upon marketing programs or voluntary certification, although these programs can be helpful.

4. Produce safety standards must allow for commodity specific food safety practices based on the best available science.

“We want mandatory regulation, and that’s a big change for us,” Stenzel said. He said United Fresh will reach out to growers and members of Congress to discuss the issue.

“If we don’t have mandatory federal regulation across all growing areas, we don’t feel it will meet the confidence of consumers, and that’s something that is very clear,” he said.