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    Real World, Hands-On Food Safety at Fresh Summit

    Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

    Food safety is a vital produce industry issue and will be a key theme of our educational programming at PMA’s 2011 Fresh Summit International Convention & Exposition, October 14 through 17 in Atlanta, Georgia. I’d like to share some information about what we have planned this year to help you bring crucial food safety solutions back to your business.

    Food safety has evolved to the status of a top business function in our industry – just as important to the operation of the company as sales, production, or human resources. Many have heard me speak in the past to the importance of fully integrating food safety into the fabric of the company and executing it daily. Our learning lab on Food Safety and Crisis Management for Your Company is designed as a unique hands-on experience combining two critical perspectives on the importance of developing a comprehensive food safety program in your company.

    The session will incorporate experience from both the operational side of the industry as well as the scientific community to help participants explore why a food safety culture is essential to a company’s continued success. Through a series of exercises, attendees will identify real-world ways to address key food safety issues. In a unique feature of the session, PMA Chief Operating Officer Lorna Christie will share her crisis management expertise. Because even the best efforts may not prevent a crisis, every company should be prepared with a crisis management plan. Lorna will cover the elements of a good crisis management plan, gaps that may exist in your current plan and ideas to update it to “crisis plan 2.0.”

    Presentations will be given in a learning-lab environment, so come prepared to work. The session is designed to provide ample opportunity to use the presented information in a hands-on application via discussion groups. A series of exercises will help identify real-world ways to build this culture in your own business. Our goal is to stimulate thoughts and ideas you can take home to use in your company and give guidance on how to communicate your efforts to your customers, regulators and consumers.

    Another critical vault of information will be opened at the workshop Imagine That! Food Safety Research with Real World Business Solutions. As many already know, PMA founded the Center for Produce Safety along with Taylor Farms, the University of California at Davis, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture in late 2007. Since 2008, CPS has funded 55 research programs totaling $9.2 million. CPS has also now held two symposia, in 2010 and 2011, to present some of the initial research findings, and discuss them with growers, shippers, processors, regulators and members of the buying community. 

    However, funding food safety research in and of itself is not enough, the research must be translated into what it means for the people who need to use the data in building effective food safety programs. While the CPS symposia broke new ground in uniting leaders in academia, government, and from all levels of the produce supply chain in an interactive discussion of the research’s real-world opportunities, there is still room to grow. This Fresh Summit workshop will provide a great opportunity to highlight some of the significant CPS research results delivered thus far and talk about our key learnings. We’ll put this new research into laymen’s terms and outline business implications for suppliers and buyers resulting in research findings you can actually use.

    We’re on exciting new turf here as we utilize research specifically targeted to our industry’s needs. As I’ve said so often before, food safety is personal and customized — it’s not one size fits all. Participants in both these workshops should come prepared to think about this information as it relates to their specific operation and to embrace these discussions for the betterment of our business, our customers and our consumers. I look forward to some constructive interaction at both these sessions.

    For more information on registering for Fresh Summit, or any of the workshops, please log onto our website www.pma.com and look for the Fresh Summit link under Events and Conferences.

    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?

    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.

    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.

    Welcome, Rich. First, can you share with us what Sysco’s motivation was behind developing this training?
    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.

    And Johnna, what was PMA’s motivation?

    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.  

    So tell us a little bit more about the workshops.

    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.

    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.

    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!

    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?



    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.



    So what exactly will the center provide?



    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.



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



    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.



    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!