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From passion to inspiration to education, there is something for everyone at the 2019 Viva Fresh expo.

The Viva Fresh Education Series will take place on Friday, April 26, at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa as part of the 2019 Viva Fresh Produce Expo.

“What we try to do is we try to make sure that we pick education sessions that are relevant to what’s happening today in the industry,” said Dante Galeazzi, president and CEO of the show’s organizer, the Texas International Produce Association.

One of the educational sessions, called “Steps to Prevent A National Food Safety Crisis,” will be led by Dr. Martin Wiedmann, the Gellert Family Professor of Food Safety at Cornell University. 

Wiedmann will lead a discussion on how the produce industry can minimize a national food safety crisis with improved tools, such as reduced hold wait times by improving speed of traceability, better record keeping, integrated systems and industry collaboration, according to event organizers.

“Dr. Wiedemann has done some really amazing and cutting edge research on improving food safety in the supply chain,” Bassetti said. 

In 2017, 31% of all food and beverage sales were influenced by digital media, representing $13 billion of a $43 billion industry, according to a news release. 

In a session called “What Does Game of Thrones & Digital Engagement Have to do with Online Food Purchases?” Steve Lerch, former Google executive who has worked with food brands like The National Pork Board and Avocados from Mexico, will talk about how to make sense of the new digital consumer, according to the release.

In a session called “The Fresh Food Farmacy — Making Patients Healthy Consumers,” Michelle Ann Passaretti will review how her “food as medicine” approach put medical research into action, combating high obesity rates, pre-diabetes and diabetes by providing fresh, healthy food to those most in need, according to the release. 

The Fresh Food Farmacy helps high-risk patients adopt healthy eating practices by making food part of the Rx and making the Farmacy part of their medical treatment. 

Slated for the early afternoon, a hot topic during the educational program will be an hour-long discussion of the Tomato Suspension Agreement, titled “Is it Politics or Parity — A Discussion of the Tomato Suspension Agreement.”

Bassetti said the session on the Tomato Suspension Agreement will likely reflect that there is a lot of passion on both sides of the issue. 

Keynote speaker

Seamus Mullen, an award-winning New York chef, cookbook author and wellness expert, will share about his healing journey at the Viva Fresh Expo.

He speaks from 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 26.

Mullen, who grew up on an organic farm in Vermont, found fame in 2006 with his inventive modern Spanish cuisine at Boqueria in New York, according to a news release.

Mullen was diagnosed in 2007 with rheumatoid arthritis, which forced him to rethink his relationship with food and led to his first cookbook, “Hero Food,” in 2012. 

“Fruits and vegetables played a key role in my journey and are vital for my continued health, which is why I’m excited to share my story at the Viva Fresh Expo and provide valuable tips for how the produce industry can share the message of eating healthy and energize consumers to make changes in their diet,” he said.