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Produce Food Safety
Discussion Set For April 4

Fortunately PMA was sharp enough to add a special food safety seminar to its agenda for its upcoming conference:


For the first time since they assumed their respective positions, three of the produce industry’s food safety leaders will take the stage together next month before a national industry audience to discuss food safety. Bonnie Fernandez, the new executive director of the Center for Produce Safety (CPS) at the University of California at Davis, and Dr. Robert Whitaker, Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) new chief scientific officer, will speak April 4 to attendees of PMA’s “Consumer Trends ’08: A Produce Solutions Conference.” They will be joined on a panel presentation by Scott Horsfall, who became chief executive officer (CEO) of the Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA) in May 2007.

The conference will be held April 3-5 in Newport Beach, California.

Tim York“Food safety is featured so prominently on consumer trends because it is top of mind these days with buyers, customers — and our state and federal regulators,” said Markon Cooperative, Inc. President Tim York, who will moderate the conference’s food safety panel. “I encourage every industry member who wants to know what’s going on to attend this session.”

The session will explore the latest information on food safety including the challenges facing the industry today and the status of regulatory and legislative developments. Fernandez, Horsfall and Whitaker will also report on produce safety priorities and efforts underway within their respective organizations.

Bonnie FernandezFernandez became the first director of the new CPS on March 1. She brings to the position a wealth of knowledge and practical experience in agriculture, most recently serving as executive director of the California Wheat Commission. She will guide the center’s efforts to develop workable, science-based solutions to safeguard the nation’s produce supply and strengthen the produce industry. She holds a master’s degree in business administration from California State University, Sacramento, and a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business management from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

CPS was founded in April 2007 at UC Davis’ Western Institute for Food Safety and Security. PMA contributed $2 million to establish the center; Salinas, California-based Taylor Farms contributed an additional $2 million in funds and also pledged $1 million in research already planned by the company. The state of California contributed $500,000.

Bob WhitakerWhitaker will assume his new position with PMA on April 1. He will direct the creation of PMA’s new science-based programs and services at a time when food safety, traceability, sustainability and other science-based issues are taking immediacy in the produce industry. Whitaker has worked in the produce and agricultural industries since1982. His background includes food safety, security and quality, new product development, product and process innovation, production, operations, research ranging from consumer testing to plant breeding, grower and industry outreach, and planning and training. Whitaker comes to PMA from NewStar Fresh Foods LLC of Salinas, where he served as vice president of the company’s product development and innovation program. He holds Ph.D. and bachelor of science degrees in biology from State University of New York, Binghamton.

Scott HorsfallLGMA was founded in 2007; Horsfall took over as CEO in May of that year. Prior to joining the agreement, he headed the state’s California Grown program. He previously served as president of the California Kiwifruit Commission, and as vice president of international marketing for the California Table Grape Commission. The marketing agreement represents 120 handlers to date who produce approximately 99 percent of the leafy greens from California; signatories are required to implement and maintain the highest standards of safety in growing and handling spinach, lettuce and other leafy greens. Horsfall holds a master’s degree in international relations from Fresno State University, and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Brigham Young University.

With frequent Pundit contributor Tim York moderating and Bonnie Fernandez and Bob Whitaker making their debuts wearing new hats for the industry, plus Scott Horsfall, who has been at a key place in industry food safety efforts, presenting the LGMA platform, the workshop will be intriguing.

The salmonella/cantaloupe situation has just added a new spin and new urgency. The conference is coming up fast. You can learn more right here.

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