CHICAGO ­­  Lee Showalter, food safety director for Gardners, Pa.-based Rice Fruit Co., is The Packer"s 2015 Apple Man of the Year.

Tom Karst, The Packer"s national editor, presented Showalter with the award Aug. 21 at the Vienna, Va.-based U.S. Apple Association"s annual Apple Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference.

"(Showalter) has become the go-to guy when it comes to the issue of food safety affecting the Eastern apple industry," Karst said.

In his speech, Karst cited Showalter"s extensive volunteer service to the apple industry. He has served on U.S. Apple"s board for several terms, and on the board of the Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Board for 15 years, including three terms as chairman.

Showalter also organized grower education programs featuring government regulators for growers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and New Jersey.

In addition, Showalter has served on several food safety committees, including those of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Northwest Horticultural Council.

Before selling his apple orchards in Pennsylvania"s Franklin County, Showalter was on the board of directors of Knouse Foods Cooperative.

"Lee"s commitment and leadership on food safety is second to none," said Mervyn D"Souza, Knouse Foods" director of technical services.

Showalter"s efforts to prevent listeria contamination in packinghouses has been particularly valuable, D"Souza said.