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Center For Produce Safety Established:
An Act Of Faith In The Future

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, April 12, 2007

When so much happens in a very short time as it has with the spinach/E. coli 0157:H7 situation and its aftermath, it is sometimes hard to distinguish between what is ephemeral and what carries true significance.

A thousand generations hence, when the spinach crisis of 2006 is not even a memory, one institution is likely to stand, in silent tribute to those who died and as a living memorial to the spirit of the men and women who lived in our age, who worked in our industry and who rose to the occasion by, in a moment of uncertainty and despair, refusing to give in and refusing to accept that there was no solution.

Mark Roh, Acting Regional Food and Drug Director for the Pacific Region, United States Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Kevin Reilly, Deputy Director of the Prevention Services Division for the California Department of Health Services; A.G. Kawamura, Secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture; Bryan Silbermann, President, PMA; Jeff Farrar, Chief of the Food and Drug Branch of the California Department of Health Services

That institution is the Center for Produce Safety at the University of California, Davis campus. The Center is headquartered within the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security at UC Davis. It was launched with all kinds of luminaries from industry, government and academia present and was made possible by initial pledges of $2 million from the Produce Marketing Association. Taylor Farms contributed $2 million in cash and another million in research already planned by the company. The State of California contributed half a million dollars, UC Davis $150,000 and more money is expected soon.

Drew McDonald, VP Quality Systems, Taylor Farms; Bryan Silbermann, President, PMA; A.G. Kawamura, Secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture; Bennie Osborn, Dean, UCDavis School of Veterinary Medicine

The establishment of such an institution is of no small import. For it represents a life view that we as an industry, that humans as species, are not condemned to merely endure the trials of life but that by harnessing the human intellect with disciplined work we can, in fact, prevail against the obstacles before us.

In this sense this Institute is not so much about E. coli or spinach, it is about the attributes that make us distinctively human.

Bruce Taylor, Chairman and CEO of Taylor Farms, Chairman-elect of the Produce Marketing Association, has during this crisis been thrust the mantle of leadership. So many fresh-cut processors were either implicated in the problems or were not Salinas-based companies, so this son of the Salinas valley, this scion of a family whose name looms large in the heritage of our industry, has been asked to carry water for a whole valley, for a whole industry.

And now, after he did all that was asked, he rallies his company, he risks his treasure, and inspires his fellow PMA board members to do even more.

Drew McDonald, VP Quality Systems, Taylor Farms; Tim York, Chief Executive Officer, Markon Group and former Chairman of the PMA Board of Directors; Bryan Silbermann, President, PMA

Bryan Silbermann, President of the Produce Marketing Association, an immigrant to America, an adopted son of this land, somehow knows that the time for small concerns is past. The ratios and balances taught to Certified Association Executives must be put aside. For months, graciously, he has let others take the lead. Yet somehow, some way, this is the moment, and this son of Africa, scion of those who walked in Solomon’s Temple, is a part of building in his adopted homeland an institution that will stand forever.

Each board member of PMA must be saluted, as each put aside parochial concerns, for the common good of the trade:

Name Company Position
Peter Goulet Pinnacle Sales & Marketing, Inc. Chairman of Board
Janet Erickson Del Taco LLC Chairman of Executive Committee
Bruce Taylor Taylor Farms, Inc. Chairman Elect
David Corsi Wegmans Food & Pharmacy, Inc. Secretary/Treasurer
John Anderson The Oppenheimer Group
Anthony Barbieri Acme Markets,Inc.
Leonard Batti NewStar Fresh Foods, LLC
Pablo Borquez Campo Pablo Borquez, SA de CV.
Craig Carlson Pathmark Stores, Inc.
Mike Cavallero Dole Fresh Fruit Co.
Daniel Crimmins University of Notre Dame
Margaret D’Arrigo-Martin D’Arrigo Brothers of California
David Gill Gills Onions
Don Harris Wild Oats Markets, Inc.
Michael Maxwell Procacci Brothers Sales Corp.
John McGuigan Sunkist Growers, Inc.
Lisa M. McNeece Grimmway Farms
Terrence M. Murphy Paganini Foods, LLC
Michael O’Brien Schnuck Markets, Inc.
Jeff Patterson BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc.
Chris Puentes Interfresh, Inc.
Timothy Riley Giumarra Companies
Rob Robson OneHarvest
Andrew Sharp Mack Multiples
Michael Spinazzola Diversified Restaurant Systems
Stephen Tursi Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Mikel R. Weber Golden Corral Corporation

This triumph, though, belongs not to any one man or one association or one company, it belongs to an industry that, separated by different products, different geographies and different segments, came together when the chips were down to find a new path to success.

Rob Atwill, Interim Director, Western Institute for Food Safety and Security; Bryan Silbermann, President, PMA; Linda Harris, Associate Director of Research, Western Institute for Food Safety and Security

The race is not run, success may not be certain, E.coli may long be a problem, but let the record show that in Davis, California, on the 11th of April, 2007, the produce industry expressed its faith in the human intellect and imagination as the root from which solutions to our problems can spring.

And as the members of this industry know better than most, great oaks really do grow from little acorns.

Here is the way PMA described the event:

PRODUCE INDUSTRY LEADERS LAUNCH
CENTER FOR PRODUCE SAFETY AT UC DAVIS

produce Marketing Association Pledges $2 Million to Establish Center and Fund Scientific Studies Designed to Improve Food Safety; Taylor Farms Matches Cash Donation

DAVIS, Calif. (April 11, 2007) — Representatives from the country’s leading produce trade associations and Calif. Dept. of Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura today announced plans to create a Center for Produce Safety at the University of California, Davis. The Center will be housed at UC Davis’ Western Institute for Food Safety and Security (WIFSS), whose mission is to conduct research that enhances the safety and security of the nation’s food supply. The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) is contributing $2 million to establish the Center. Taylor Farms of Salinas, Calif. has also pledged to contribute an additional $2 million in cash as well another $1 million of research already planned by the company. PMA will work with the State of Calif., which also is contributing $500,000, and other leading industry association to secure additional funding for research and training initiatives.

“I commend the produce industry and the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security for collaborating with government to launch the new Center for Produce Safety at the University of California at Davis,” said California Secretary of Agriculture A.G. Kawamura. “The Center for Produce Safety will lose no time putting together an aggressive research, training, and outreach agenda into how and where food borne illnesses arise in produce, and actions that can be taken to reduce these risks. The industry’s actions will help restore consumer confidence and demonstrate that the health and safety of consumers is their ultimate priority.”

“The success of the produce industry depends on our collective commitment to public health,” said PMA President Bryan Silbermann. “Our members, who represent every link of the nation’s produce supply chain, are committed to supporting robust food safety programs based on the best science available. The Center for Produce Safety will significantly advance the entire industry’s collective knowledge about food safety and help ensure consumers continue to enjoy safe, wholesome and healthy produce, every bite, every time.”

Bruce Taylor, Chairman and CEO of Taylor Farms agreed, noting, “I consider the contribution Taylor Farms is making today as an investment in the future of our company and the produce industry. I encourage my colleagues across the entire supply chain to contribute at whatever level possible to ensure that the Center for Produce Safety is able to advance an aggressive research agenda that provides produce companies with the guidance needed to further enhance food safety efforts.”

The Center for Produce Safety will primarily focus on two critical objectives. First, it will serve as an unprecedented clearinghouse for all available research related to produce safety. This initiative is the first in the industry designed to capture all existing scientific data on food safety in one central repository. Second, the Center will fund new scientific studies focused on developing new solutions that mitigate risks associated with the nation’s produce supply. Allocation of the Center’s research investments and oversight of active research projects will be led by a governing body consisting of leaders from industry, associations, government and academia. Details of this body are currently under development.

RESEARCH INITIATIVE PART OF COMPREHENSIVE
INDUSTRY RESPONSE TO IMPROVING PRODUCE SAFETY

The creation of the Center for Produce Safety is the direct result of an industry-wide collaborative response to recent E. Coli outbreaks. In the fall of 2006, the Produce Marketing Association, other industry association partners and government agencies focused on investigating the cause of the outbreaks and expediting efforts to protect against the risks of future outbreaks.

In addition to the investments in new research, produce industry leaders and food safety experts from the State of California are also launching science-based training and outreach programs. The field-level training support will supplement programs already in place by individual produce growers and handlers and ensure they include the latest scientific information and established good agricultural practices.

The Center for Produce Safety and enhanced field level training and outreach programs supplement the industry’s recent progress in establishing a comprehensive set of new guidelines agreed to by the spinach and leafy greens industry.

Here is the official announcement from UC Davis.

Here is the announcement from Secretary Kawamura and this is Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s letter of support.

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