Food safety to dominate tomato conference

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Published on 07/29/2009 09:52am By Doug Ohlemeier


Expected produce industry safety standards will top the agenda at this year’s Joint Tomato Conference scheduled for Sept. 8-13 in Naples, Fla.

The conference, co-sponsored by the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Committee and Florida Tomato Exchange, comes before the start of the second year of mandatory safety inspections of Florida tomato farming operations and packinghouses.


The largest fresh market tomato producing state’s growers, shippers, repackers, brokers and others are expected to assemble at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel to discuss pressing industry issues during the 34th yearly industry meeting.

Conference organizers plan to address the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, which was being voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 29. The bill would then move to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

Additionally, talk about a standardized tomato safety document developed by the North America Tomato Trade Work Group and other food safety practices are also on the agenda, said Reggie Brown, committee manager and exchange executive vice president.

Reggie Brown

Brown said food safety training sessions for farms and packinghouses scheduled for Sept. 8 will concern how the regulatory arm of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services enforces mandatory statewide tomato safety standards.

“Hopefully, we’re moving away from the advisory educational program to the regulatory side,” Brown said. “People have had a year now to be made aware of the program and requirements for compliance. We anticipate the state to move towards a more aggressive enforcement position.”

Martha Roberts, University of Florida consultant and former state agriculture deputy commissioner, is scheduled to discuss tomato best management practices at the sessions.

During the Sept. 9 Florida Tomato Institute, Brown is scheduled to present his yearly state of the Florida tomato industry talk.   Faculty from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will also present tomato-related research results.

The conference also features the Sept. 10 annual meetings of the exchange and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange.

Samantha Winters, the committee’s director of education and promotion, is scheduled to present the industry’s planned 2009-10 season promotional efforts during the committee’s Sept. 10 annual meeting.

Receptions, a dinner-dance and golf tournament are also scheduled.

More information on the conference can be found at Fla. conference Web site.





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