The cantaloupe industry met in California in January with food safety professionals and other industry experts to develop a plan to enhance food safety for all netted melons. At the meeting, three areas for collaboration were identified that would garner the highest level of food safety for cantaloupes. The goals for the three areas included improving the understanding of risks and controls through basic and targeted research, developing cantaloupe-specific guidance (netted melons), and extending current melon guidance and new information to the industry.
While the Center for Produce Safety (CPS) is responding to the need for research in its request for proposals, industry trade associations were charged with the task of meeting the other critical objectives.
In fact, yesterday the Center for Produce Safety announced its 2012 request for food safety research proposals. The center and its public and industry research partners are making $3 million available to fund general and commodity-specific research to address the fresh produce industry’s food safety research needs. The 2012 request for proposals seeks to fund both produce-general food safety questions and commodity-specific questions.
“The cantaloupe industry looks forward to the research proposals CPS will receive in response to this request,” stated Paul Fleming of Martori Farms in a recent press release from CPS. “The questions were developed through a collaborative process with members of the supply chain, government and academia. Research into science based microbial reduction, cantaloupe-specific guidance, and outreach are all key areas within the produce industry’s food safety priorities, and we expect research projects that not only address gaps in science-based data, but also present innovative approaches to food safety.”
Trade Association Responsibilities
The group of trade associations that will be working on other critical objectives to enhance the safety of netted melons, such as advancing deliverables in the areas of guidance and education, includes the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, Produce Marketing Association, Texas Produce Association, United Fresh Produce Association, and Western Growers. The organizations identified two steering committees and charged them with developing processes and timelines for deliverables in these areas that were constructed to ensure accessibility, inclusiveness, transparency, and timeliness.
The steering committee for guidance includes Allison Moore, communications director, Fresh Produce Association of the Americas; Dr. Bob Whitaker, chief science and technology officer, Produce Marketing Association; Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president, food safety & technology, United Fresh Produce Association; and Hank Giclas, senior vice president, strategic planning, science and technology, Western Growers, who have agreed to facilitate the development of commodity specific guidance for netted melons.
Using a series of monthly meetings, slated to begin in March 2012 and continue through June 2012, the steering committee is charged with the task of delivering a new netted-melon-specific guidance document by the end of July. The guidance will address all operations within the supply chain and will also address the diverse regions and processes in which netted melons are produced and handled.
A steering committee for extension, education, and outreach was also organized to ensure the food safety effort involves as many stakeholders as possible. Charles Hall, executive director of Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association; John McClung, president of the Texas Produce Association; Martha Roberts of University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences; and Tom Stenzel, president of United Fresh Produce Association, will work closely with the guidance committee to maximize the reach of information on both existing and developing food safety guidance.
Contact Dr. David Gombas, United’s senior vice president for food safety and technology at 202-303-3400, for additional information.