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    Food Safety Workshops for Local Growers

    Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

    Julia Stewart:
    Hello, this is PMA PR Director Julia Stewart, and welcome back to PMA’s audio blog, “Ask Dr. Bob”.  Joining me today is PMA’s Director of Food Safety and Technology, Johnna Hepner, who many of you met in a post earlier this year. Welcome, Johnna. Locally grown is one of the hottest trends in food, as evidenced by its top ranking in the National Restaurant Association’s recent chef survey – but consumers also (rightfully) expect safe food. How challenging is food safety for small and locally-focused growers?

    Johnna:
    Julia, it can be challenging, but we want small and local growers to know that food safety isn’t insurmountable. Just recently, a partnership between PMA, Sysco Corporation and PrimusLabs began offering some much-needed produce food safety training to local growers across America. With that in mind, I’d like to welcome a special guest today: Rich Dachman, Sysco’s Vice President of Produce.  Welcome, Rich.

    Rich:
    Thank you, Johnna and Julia. It’s a pleasure to work with you all, and we’re excited about the value this workshop series will bring to everyone in the chain – from the grower to the consumer.

    Julia:
    Welcome, Rich. First, can you share with us what Sysco’s motivation was behind developing this training?
     
    Rich:
    Julia, this is part of Sysco’s sustainability commitment. It’s really all about offering our customers choices. They want local food, so our responsibility is to source local food that’s also been grown under safe growing and harvesting conditions. We chose PMA as our partner because PMA shares Sysco’s passion for helping local growers grow safe food.

    Julia:
    And Johnna, what was PMA’s motivation?

    Johnna:
    In previous posts you’ve talked about how PMA is committed to bringing real-world solutions to our industry’s food safety needs – that applies to all industry members, large and small. However, we know local growers in particular face a hard time accessing the information and resources they need. This local grower outreach is part of PMA’s overall food safety program, which also includes industry education, advocacy, knowledge and outreach.  

    Julia:
    So tell us a little bit more about the workshops.

    Johnna:
    Local growers, including PMA members and those interested in doing business with Sysco, can attend our one-day workshops, which are being held around the country. The workshops are designed to help growers understand current food safety demands, how to meet them and how to navigate food safety requirements. The sessions are led by PMA food safety experts with help from our friends at Sysco and PrimusLabs.com.

    Each workshop addresses our industry’s new reality of food safety mandates, what a food safety program should look like, and how to build a solid food safety program. Attendees also get tips from a number of third-party auditing organizations on how to prepare for GAP audits, and the steps they should follow after an audit. The workshops end with guidance on how to get started with their own food safety programs, and where to go for help if they need it.

    Rich:
    We’ve already had good success. More than 40 people attended the first workshop in Portland, Oregon, on August 11. That event featured Dr. Bob, Johnna Hepner, PrimusLabs.com Director of Food Safety Stacy Stoltenberg and myself – as well as a local grower, distributor and chef. It was remarkable to see the transition attendees went through – they went from being skeptical of our food safety requirements, to actually being excited to get back to the farm and get started.

    Johnna:
    As of this recording, we’ve also got workshops scheduled for October 13 in Orlando, November 10 in southern California, and January 18 in Cleveland. So, if you’re a small grower in those areas, you’ve got a fantastic resource coming to your backyard!

    Julia:
    Thank you, Rich and Johnna.

    Listeners, if you would like to attend one of these local grower food safety workshops, please contact PMA’s Solution Center staff by telephone at (302) 738-7100, or by email at solutionctr@pma.com. They will add you to the invitation list and make sure you get information on how to register.

    Thanks for joining us for this installment of Ask Dr. Bob, we’ll see you next time.

    Fresh Summit Food Safety Solutions Center

    Friday, September 24th, 2010

    Julia Stewart:

    Hello, this is PMA PR Director Julia Stewart, and welcome back to PMA’s audio blog, “Ask Dr. Bob” with PMA’s Chief Science & Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker. Bob, we’re hoping all our listeners will be joining us when PMA’s 2010 Fresh Summit International Convention & Exposition convenes October 15 through 18 in Orlando. In your last post you mentioned the many workshops on food safety that will be presented at Fresh Summit. Will there be other food safety resources there as well?

     

    Bob:

    Julia, PMA has made food safety an important element of Fresh Summit for many years now, but this year we’re especially excited as we offer a high visibility resource for the topic right on the exposition floor in the form of our Food Safety Solutions Center. Located right on the show floor in booth 201, the center will be a convenient and easy way for many of our attendees to find out the latest developments in the area of food safety.

     

    Julia:

    So what exactly will the center provide?

     

    Bob:

    It’s designed to be a one-stop, interactive destination for food safety solutions. It will include educational exhibits, live demonstrations, and videos – all related to food safety technology.  The topics we will cover include packaging, traceability, processing equipment, product testing, water purification and much more. 

     

    PMA really wants to help industry members get answers to their most critical food safety questions, and this center is one easy way we can accomplish that. It’s being sponsored by Famous Software and we very much appreciate their support and leadership.

     

    Julia:

    So what kinds of things can visitors to the center expect to learn?

     

    Bob:

    We’ll be holding live discussions and presentations that will tackle issues such as how investing in food safety can offer ROI to your business. We’ll also cover the latest food safety innovations, considering what products and services can address specific food safety needs.

     

    The educational sessions we’ll conduct in the center will complement and expand on Fresh Summit’s food safety workshops that we talked about in our last post. I’m excited about the great line-up of topics and experts we have to address some of our industry’s most urgent issues right now. To give you an idea of what we have planned ….

     

    The session “Pass With Flying Colors: The Value of Product Testing” will be a forum to share ideas and ask those burning questions that sit at the forefront of your mind. What are the problems with sampling either raw or finished products? What are the pitfalls of product testing? If anyone has asked these types of questions, then this session is for them.

     

    On Sunday, “Threading the Needle: Successfully Navigating Food Safety Audits” is geared to provide answers to the key questions surrounding food safety audits. Participants can use this forum to hear first hand from experts in the industry, and get guidance and advice on topics such as costs and benefits, as well as the limitations associated with audits.

     

    The session “Don’t be the Weakest Link: Your Role in Traceability” will offer an update on the Produce Traceability Initiative, the value it can offer your company, and help drive the traceability decisions you make for your company today. Some of the questions we will answer include, what are the benefits behind electronic traceability? What is the driving need for industry-wide implementation of traceability measures? This Q&A session is sure to be in high demand as our experts clarify questions surrounding traceability and what it means to individual companies.

     

    Finally, on Monday, a session called “Experts with Answers: Learn How the Center for Produce Safety is Working for You” will explain the role that CPS is playing in answering industry’s food safety research questions and how you can get involved. We’ll also recap some of the critical research findings that were announced at CPS’s first research symposium in June. (Our listeners will remember from earlier posts that PMA founded CPS with Taylor Farms at the University of Davis back in 2007 to take leadership of industry food safety research, and that I chair the committee that leads its research program. CPS is already making a big difference to our industry.)

     

    Throughout the show, Industry food safety leaders and PMA experts, including myself, will be on hand in the center to lead all the Q&A sessions. Of course, another value of the center is the informal opportunities it will offer to talk with other industry members about their food safety ideas, concerns and solutions.

     

    Julia:

    It sounds like the Food Safety Solutions Center will be a great food safety resource, I’m sure our listeners will want to check it out.

     

    We should note that our food safety programming at Fresh Summit is made possible by the support of PMA members who contribute to our Gold Circle: Campaign for Food Safety. These members demonstrate their food safety leadership by contributing $1,000 each year above and beyond their PMA dues to support our food safety work. Their support underwrites the work of Dr. Bob’s food safety and technology team, our support of the Center for Produce Safety, new educational programs for small and local growers that we’ll talk about here soon. So thanks to our Gold Circle contributors for supporting PMA’s work. If you’d like to join our Gold Circle, you can read more on our website www.pma.com – just type “Gold Circle” into the search box on the home page.

     

    Listeners, if you have a food safety product or solution, we invite you to become a Food Safety Solutions Center exhibitor, sponsor or advertiser. Contact PMA’s Dot Siegfried by email at dsiegfried@pma.com.

     

    For more information on registering for Fresh Summit, the Food Safety Solutions Center, or any of the workshops, please log onto our website www.pma.com\freshsummit.

     

    Until next time, thanks for joining us!

     

     

     

     

     

    Food Safety a Priority at Fresh Summit Workshops

    Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

    Julia Stewart:

    Hello, this is PMA PR Director Julia Stewart, and welcome back to PMA’s audio blog, “Ask Dr. Bob” with PMA’s Chief Science & Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker. Bob, food safety is a priority produce industry issue and a priority focus for PMA. It will be at the forefront when PMA’s 2010 Fresh Summit International Convention & Exposition convenes October 15 through 18 in Orlando, Florida.  Can you tell us a bit more about what we’ve got planned this year?

     

    Bob:

    Julia, food safety will be a key theme of our Fresh Summit educational programming, both in the form of workshops and in a new Food Safety Solutions Center that will be right on the trade show floor. Let’s talk about the workshops first, and then spend some time on the Food Safety Solutions Center.

     

    We’ve got several fantastic workshop sessions lined up to examine food safety from different angles. These workshops will feature the latest on food safety, help answer questions and deliver business solutions. One unique presentation looks at it from the sales and marketing side in the session “Are Your Business Practices Putting Your Company at Risk?” I’m speaking at this one, and I’ll help attendees understand that some common practices actually put their companies at greater risk for a foodborne illness outbreak. I’ll also teach them how to better protect your company and how to help your company’s food safety efforts.

     

    Another national hot topic is local sourcing, but many buyers are now asking how they ensure local produce is safe. This will be one of the discussions in the session “Keeping it Local: The Pros and Cons of Local Sourcing.” We’ve got a great panel including Dave Corsi, vice president of produce and floral operations for Wegmans Food Markets Inc., Rich Dachman, vice president of produce for Sysco Corporation and Michael Spinazzola, president of DRS Inc.,  which handles purchasing for Subway restaurants.

     

    Julia:

    Two very interesting and timely topics for sure! What about the research side of things?

     

    Bob:

    Well, as you know Julia, PMA founded the Center for Produce Safety along with Taylor Farms, the University of California at Davis, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and in late 2007. And we actively support CPS’ work – for example, I chair the CPS technical committee that directs the center’s research program. Back in June, CPS presented results of eleven CPS-funded research projects were presented along with interactive real-world discussion at the first ever Produce Research Symposium.

     

    In Orlando, Fresh Summit attendees will have a chance to hear all about the next generation of research results from the Center for Produce Safety and their real-world relevance in the session “Research to Real-World: The Best of Food Safety Innovations,” which I will moderate. Industry members won’t want to miss this chance to hear about the very latest produce food safety research and its application for their business.

     

    Given the value that CPS and this research provide to our industry, I have to take a minute here to thank all our Gold Circle contributors whose generous financial support helps fund this important research work. If you’re interested in becoming a part of our Gold Circle: Campaign for Food Safety and helping bring to reality the research our industry desperately needs, you can find more information on our website. Just type “gold circle” into the search box on the home page.

     

    Julia:

    You’re absolutely right, Bob. Our Gold Circle supporters are essential to the progress we’re making in the food safety arena.

     

    Speaking of progress, what about traceability?

     

    Bob:

    That is such a vital issue right now, we’ve dedicated two workshop sessions to it.  “Traceability in the Real World” and “From the ‘How’ to the ‘Why’: A New Look at Traceability” will both provide constructive information and insight into this topic. Attendees will find out where the industry is with the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), why it’s important to them, and how they can overcome identified challenges. PMA’s new vice president of supply chain efficiencies, Ed Treacy, will be involved in both of those workshops.

     

    Julia:

    Bob, there certainly are a multitude of opportunities for finding food safety information and solutions at Fresh Summit. Let’s take a break and come back to talk about the Food Safety Solutions Center next time.

     

    Listeners, if you’d like more information on these sessions or on registering for Fresh Summit, please log onto our website www.pma.com and look for the Fresh Summit link under Events and Conferences.

    Thank you for joining us.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
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