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Texas Two-Step

The 2007 Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit will mark a number of “seconds” for me.

It will be the second Fresh Summit I will attend for Fresh Cut magazine – the first being the 2006 show in San Diego.

This also will by my second trip to Texas, and my first to Houston. Aside from one vacation with my wife in 2005, I haven’t had an occasion to visit the largest state in the continental United States.

The show will also be the second with food safety fresh on the industry’s mind. Last year at this time, confusion reigned after FDA warned consumers not to eat spinach – an unprecedented statement that caused the sale of spinach to halt nationwide (and beyond U.S. borders). With that recall still fresh, there have been other instances that have reminded consumers that the food they buy at the store has the potential to harm them.

The most recent recalls, involving spinach, carrots and onions, have all been related to fresh-cut produce. And while no one has died, and few have even been sickened, the publicity from the recalls will have negative effects on the companies with the contaminated product and the industry as a whole.

Food safety is everyone’s foremost concern, but there is always the chance that a contaminant will enter the system somewhere. It’s the industry’s job to reduce that chance as much as possible, and processors should work together to further the research and to create a cohesive group that can restore confidence in fresh-cuts when there is a recall – as we’ve seen with the California leafy greens handlers.

There are many growth areas where we could see fresh-cuts explode, but in order to see growth in retail markets the entire industry needs to defend the term “fresh cut” and its other variations. Doing so, maybe we can prevent another second – a halt on spinach or any other fresh or fresh-cut produce item.

And also for the second time – or the first for many of Fresh Cut’s readers – I look forward to meeting you at Fresh Summit. Stop by our booth or catch me in the educational sessions and introduce yourself and your company, because we value our readers and what they say about the magazine.

Originally posted Monday, Sep. 24, 2007

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