Tuesday, July 28, 2009
U.S. Foodservice cites critical need for food safety culture from farm to fork during PMA conference
Providing the safest fresh fruit and vegetables to consumers takes proactive measures to limit contamination at every stage of the supply chain according to the chief food safety executive for U.S. Foodservice, one of the country's leading foodservice distributors.
"The recent outbreaks and recalls linked to produce served as a food safety wake up call for the produce industry. Since then, many leaders in the produce industry have been working to solve the issues that contribute to contamination," said Jorge Hernandez, senior vice president of food safety and quality assurance for U.S. Foodservice. "However, the produce industry can't do it by itself. It must work collaboratively with the distributor, restaurant and supermarket industries to create a food safety culture that will protect fresh fruits and vegetables from farm to fork."
Speaking at the Produce Marketing Association's Foodservice Conference & Exhibition which ran through Sunday, Hernandez asserted most of the factors that lead to contamination of fresh produce are preventable if the industries along the supply chain work together.
Hernandez participated in a panel discussion titled "Point/Counterpoint: Food Safety and Your Business," which included experts from the buy and supply side of the produce chain. Dr. Bob Whitaker, PMA's Chief Science Officer, served as moderator.
According to Hernandez, there are five key measures that will help reduce outbreaks linked to fresh produce contamination.
1. Make food safety non-negotiable.
2. Agree on a strict set of internationally recognized standards validated by reliable third-party audits and executed by qualified auditors.
3. Focus on the food safety education of all employees at every segment of the supply chain.
4. Enable quick tracking of fresh produce through a recall program that minimizes customer impact should a contamination occur.
5. Work with regulatory agencies to identify industry members that fail to meet the industry's commitment to food safety.
Hernandez also contributed to the "Executive Invitation Think Tank" hosted in collaboration with leaders from Produce Marketing Association (PMA), National Restaurant Association and the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA). The session featured top executives representing restaurant, distributor and produce supplier segments and is part of a multi-phase project to identify opportunities to increase fresh produce use in foodservice to promote healthy lifestyles.