Subcommittee Examines Produce Industry Response to Food Safety Concerns

May 15, 2007

WASHINGTON - Today, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture, held a hearing to review the industry response to food safety concerns of fresh and fresh-cut produce. Congressman Dennis Cardoza of California is the Chairman of the Subcommittee.

The Subcommittee heard testimony from two panels of witnesses comprised of government and industry representatives as well as food safety researchers and consumer advocates. Panelists testified about the produce industry’s response to safety concerns in the wake of an E. Coli outbreak associated with fresh cut spinach in September of 2006 that led to product recalls.

“Maintaining the integrity of our nation’s food supply is a paramount concern of mine, not only as the Chairman of this Subcommittee, but as a consumer and as a parent,” said Chairman Cardoza. “The fresh cut produce industry should be commended for their quick actions in responding to recent food safety concerns, but clearly more work needs to be done to ensure higher accountability by our federal food safety agencies.”

“As producers and handlers know first-hand, the viability of your industry requires both that we have a safe product and that consumers remain confident in the safety of the produce," said Subcommittee Ranking Member Randy Neugebauer of Texas. "I applaud produce growers and handlers for pursuing industry-led marketing agreements, promoting best practices and supporting research to increase knowledge of how to keep fresh vegetables and fruits safe."

Witness testimony is available on the Committee website. A full transcript of the hearing will be posted on the Committee website in 4-6 weeks.

Witness List:

Administrator Lloyd Day, Agricultural Marketing Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

Dr. David Acheson, M.D., F.R.C.P., Assistant Commissioner for Food Protection, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Rockville, Maryland

Dr. Robert J. Whitaker, Ph.D., Vice President, Processing and Technology, NewStar Fresh Foods, LLC, on behalf of United Fresh Produce Association, Salinas, California

Mr. Joe Pezzini, Vice President of Operations, Ocean Mist Farms, on behalf of Western Growers Association, Castroville, California

Dr. Martha R. Roberts, Ph.D., Personal Assistant to the Director, Florida Experiment Station, University of Florida, on behalf of the Florida Tomato Exchange, Tallahassee, Florida

Ms. Lorna Christie, Vice President, Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Delaware

Ms. Caroline Smith DeWaal, Director of Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, D.C.