Statewide tour shows industry concerns

03/29/2013 08:57:00 AM
Tom Stenzel

Tom Stenzel sky-dives.Courtesy the United Fresh Produce AssociationUnited Fresh Produce Association Tom Stenzel took a leap out of an airplane in San Diego to promote the United Fresh May convention’s opening night party on the USS Midway aircraft carrier in San Diego Harbor.Questions about the Produce Safety Rule and Preventive Controls Rule came from every quarter of the industry from grower to retail.

In fact, we were pleased to co-host a food safety Web seminar with the California Grocers Association, briefing retailers throughout the state on how they and their suppliers will be affected by the new regulations.

We also talked about the problem of some farms being exempted from the regulations, and thus the importance of retailers sourcing produce only from food safety-qualified suppliers.

United’s FSMA member working groups and expert councils have now completed three in-person meetings and a dozen Web conferences poring through each of these regulations.

While it’s still too soon to draw conclusions, we are hearing a common refrain that the FDA rules do not adequately follow the legislative intent to focus on commodity-specific food safety practices.

Certain commodities such as leafy greens and tomatoes that have developed extensive commodity specific best practices seem to be finding FDA’s outline of risks and required controls largely similar to their best scientific knowledge.

But for commodities such as citrus or treefruit that have very different growing practices, and no history of significant foodborne illness, the same practices seem out of place and unnecessary to protect public health.

Concentrating resources

Ultimately, our focus — both industry and FDA — must be on concentrating our resources where it will matter the most, and not chasing after illusory theoretical risks. A one-size-fits-all approach is not our most effective means of protecting public health.

Beyond these issues, I found continuing passion everywhere I stopped to deliver the very highest quality fresh produce to our customers.

Our industry is passionate about fresh produce — both for the better health of our consumers and for the growth of our businesses.

I was reminded time and time again how unique our supply chain really is. Growers coming together with wholesalers and retailers — not just as buyers and sellers, but as partners in a common and noble enterprise. And, the packaging companies, IT consultants, equipment manufacturers, financial service institutions and all of our service providers play an equally important role in our successful delivery of fresh produce.



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