Companies from across the fresh produce supply chain can learn strategies to control and prevent Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) at newly-announced workshops to be held Sept. 11-12 in Fresno, California, and Sept. 13-14 in Monterey/Seaside, California. The workshops are hosted jointly by Western Growers, Produce Marketing Association (PMA) and United Fresh Produce Association (United Fresh), with additional support from the California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) at the Fresno venue.
The produce-specific, hands-on workshops last one and one-half days, and will cover topics including sanitary design, sanitation best practices and environmental monitoring. Instructors will include leading subject matter experts from industry, industry trade groups, academia and government, and will emphasize practical solutions for managing Lm in fresh produce. Scheduled speakers include sanitary design specialists from Birko, Ecolab and Heinzen Manufacturing International; produce safety expert Trevor Suslow, Ph.D. from University of California at Davis; as well as association food safety leads Bob Whitaker, Ph.D. from PMA, Jennifer McEntire, Ph.D. from United Fresh, and Sonia Salas from Western Growers. Consumer Safety Officer Don Kautter will represent the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Both workshops will employ a combination of breakout sessions, panel discussions, case studies and other learning formats. The first day will conclude with a networking reception at which attendees can engage with each other, with speakers and with exhibitors.
Who should attend? The workshops are designed specifically for fresh produce growers, packers, shippers, processors and retailers. Additionally, anyone who is a food safety stakeholder will find this workshop useful, including quality assurance, food safety, sanitation, production, operations, maintenance and/or engineering staff.
“Preventive controls to significantly reduce or eliminate Lm is a big challenge in the processing plant environment. Our team at McEntire Produce has found the listeria workshop to be a valuable tool to better understand the complexity in managing Lm and providing practical solutions we can use in our operation,” said Tom Lovelace, executive vice president of McEntire Produce, Inc., Columbia, South Carolina.
For more information and to register for a workshop, visit United Fresh’s, PMA’s or Western Growers’ websites. The registration fee is $750 for members of any of the supporting associations, and $995 for nonmembers. For additional Lm resources, see United Fresh’s Lm guidance and PMA’s listeria resource page.
Lm is of particular concern to the safety of fresh produce and other foods because it is currently among the leading causes of foodborne illness-related deaths. Lm-contaminated fresh produce including leafy greens, cantaloupes, stone fruit and apples has caused numerous foodborne illness outbreaks in recent years, with tragic consequences. The pathogen can survive in inhospitable environments, and can even grow at low (i.e., refrigerated/frozen) temperatures. Fresh produce poses a unique food safety challenge because the transient presence of Lm in low numbers isn’t unexpected on raw fresh produce, or on surfaces where fresh produce is handled.
The United States has no established acceptable level for Lm in food. U.S. regulation considers foods contaminated with Lm to be adulterated, thereby possibly necessitating a product recall. FDA issued draft, nonbinding guidance in 2017 recommending how to control Lm in ready-to-eat foods. While not yet final, the guidance represents a dramatic shift in Lm policy that encourages operations to take aggressive action. However, this new expectation from FDA has left much of the industry confused about what an aggressive approach should look like.
PMA and United Fresh joined forces in September 2016 to form a joint working group to enhance produce safety by reducing Lm risk associated with fresh produce consumption, after several foodborne illness outbreaks and recalls were triggered by Lm-contaminated fresh produce items. These workshops are in response to recommendations from that working group. Three workshops were held in 2017, across the United States. Western Growers participates in workshops held on the West Coast; CFFA is providing additional support at the Sept. 11-12 workshop in Fresno.
About Western Growers
Founded in 1926, Western Growers represents local and regional family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico. Our members and their workers provide over half the nation’s fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, including nearly half of America’s fresh organic produce. Some members also farm throughout the U.S. and in other countries so people have year-round access to nutritious food. For generations, we have provided variety and healthy choices to consumers. Connect with and learn more about Western Growers on our Twitter and Facebook.
About Produce Marketing Association (PMA)
Produce Marketing Association is the leading trade association representing companies from every segment of the global produce and floral supply chain. PMA helps members grow by providing connections that expand business opportunities and increase sales and consumption. For more information, visit www.pma.com.
About United Fresh Produce Association (United Fresh)
Founded in 1904, the United Fresh Produce Association brings together companies across every segment of the fresh produce supply chain, including growers, shippers, fresh cut processors, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, foodservice operators, industry suppliers and allied associations. We empower industry leaders to shape sound government policy. We deliver the resources and expertise companies need to succeed in managing complex business and technical issues. We provide the training and development individuals need to advance their careers in produce. Through these endeavors, we unite our industry with a common purpose – to build long-term value for our members and grow produce consumption. For more information, visit www.unitedfresh.org.