PMA program gets to nuts and bolts of food safety

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Published on 08/20/2009 08:09am

By Pamela Riemenschneider


AUSTIN, Texas — Food Safety Symposium attendees had plenty of “Aha!” moments.

The Aug. 19 event, in conjunction with the Texas Produce Convention, was the third in a series hosted by the Produce Marketing Association.

Bob Whitaker, chief science officer, and Lorna Christie, chief operating officer of Newark, Del.-based PMA presented real-world, actionable information for attendees. They were joined by Minneapolis-based personal injury attorney Elliot Olsen, who spoke about his firm’s litigation on behalf of victims of foodborne illness outbreaks.

Whitaker talked to about two dozen attendees on the need for a vulnerability checklist to identify the flaws and the detailed cost of a food safety program for small- and medium-sized companies, from personnel to audits and inspections.

Audits, he said, should be tools and not the backbone of a food safety program.

Christie’s portion of the program dealt with crisis management — particularly with how a company should deal with an outbreak from internal and external communications.

Examples included what a company should do when reporters call in the wake of an FDA advisory or a company’s product recall. Having a crisis

plan already in place and a spokesperson ready to address issues is essential, she said.

Chris Eddy, director of sales and marketing for Edinburg-based Frontera Produce Ltd., said the program was valuable.

“We have a comprehensive food safety program in place,” Eddy said. “This helped identify potential areas where we might have holes in that program and areas where we can make our program stronger.”

Whitaker said it is gratifying to see participants taking home the messages and, after doing three of these programs so far, the message is really resonating with the industry.

“We can see it when we come to an idea people haven’t thought of,” he said. “We can see it on their faces and when they start writing it down.”

The next Food Safety Symposium is planned for Oct. 14 in Rochester, N.Y.

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