Our piece, Robert Whitaker Becomes PMA’s First Scientific Officer, led many people to extend congratulations. This letter from a reputable producer seemed to represent the general sentiment:
As a grower working with Bob Whitaker on the industry’s food safety metrics, I can say with confidence that he will bring all of the important perspectives to discussions of food safety from farm to fork.
It is so important to have someone leading the charge that understands the issues that growers face, as well as other facets of processing, handling, distribution and the cold chain. Congrats to Bob (and the PMA for selecting him).
— Bob Martin
King City, California
Bob Martin puts it in a nutshell. There is a real danger when food safety efforts are designed by “experts” who may know little or nothing about the practicalities of production agriculture.
For PMA, with its strong buyer orientation, it was absolutely crucial to have someone who would be seen as knowledgeable regarding the dilemmas faced by the production end of the business.
It seems like PMA scored a win with this hire.
Yet producers should be wary. Our sense is that, as we discussed in our piece Wal-Mart Uses New Food Safety Initiative As A Marketing Tool, food safety may increasingly become a dictate from Quality Assurance (QA) departments that previously neglected produce. Initiatives increasingly seem to be tied as much to marketing as to food safety.
In the short term, Bob Whitaker will have a lot of work to do coordinating with the Center for Produce Safety and its new Chairman and Executive Director. We wonder, though, if in the long term, the job won’t involve much more outreach to FMI, NRA and the QA Community.