UPDATED: High turnout marks southeast produce show, food safety discussed

01/07/2011 05:20:38 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

(UPDATED COVERAGE, Jan. 13) SAVANNAH, Ga. — Southeastern growers heard the latest on how the recently passed food safety legislation will be enacted and how the timeline for implementation could affect them during the 2011 Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference Jan. 6-9 at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center.

Doug Ohlemeier

Angela O'Neal-Chappell (left), marketing and business development director for Coosaw Farms, Fairfax, S.C., talks with Teri Miller, category manager for Food Lion LLC, Salisbury, N.C., during the 2011 Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference Jan. 7 in Savannah, Ga. The show attracted high attendance.

The show, in its 13tth year, has also attracted record grower attendance.

Charles Hall, executive director of show co-sponsor Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, La Grange, said 2,300 growers, shippers, industry people and others participated, up from the 2,205 that attended last year’s show.

“We are ahead of last year and have had strong on-site registration,” he said. “The traffic on the trade show has been really good.”

During a Jan. 7 food safety conference, David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, outlined the timetable for what could happen when the Food and Drug Administration releases its produce rule.

“The regulation will have clear standards for all participants in the supply chain, from farm to market,” he said. “Every place not currently covered by a regulation will be covered by a regulation in regards to fresh produce. They’re wanting to seal the gaps. We will have standards, in that ‘this is what you have to do to be compliant’. They will be performance-oriented standards, hopefully, rather than numbers.”

Gombas said the FDA plans to write the rule this year and allow for 30-120 days of public comment after publishing it in the Federal Register. He said growers should expect a final rule to be issued in 2012 or 2013 and allow large companies a year and smaller operations two years to comply with the regulations.

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