Strawberry growers advised to prepare for food safety crises

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Published on 08/20/2009 12:20pm By Doug Ohlemeier


PLANT CITY, Fla. — Florida strawberry growers learned how to prepare for potential food safety crises and other industry issues.

The updates came during the Florida Strawberry Growers Association's Aug. 18-19 Agritech 2009 meeting.

While growers were preparing their fields for planting their winter berries, Martha Roberts, University of Florida consultant and former state agriculture deputy commissioner, urged growers to develop crisis plans.

“In those situations where people have had properly documented plans in place that you trigger when something happens, you are given a lot of grace and credit by the regulatory agencies,” Roberts said.

Roberts said she expects the Food and Drug Administration to release food safety guidance for berries within the next year.

The FDA in July released guidance documents for tomatoes, lettuce and leafy greens and melons, commodities that have had the most foodborne illness outbreaks since 1996.

Berries, Roberts said, are fourth in that list.

Sue Harrell, the association’s director of marketing, gave an overview on the industry’s marketing programs.

Harrell said the association plans to target consumers through media kits and news releases sent to newspapers, magazines, as well as personal appearances and interviews on radio and television.

She said the association also plans to work with retailers through a poster for produce employees that displays handling information and marketing tips.

A record 330 growers attended this year’s meeting, up from 295 last year, Harrell said.


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