The produce industry takes food safety seriously and will use the recent report on foodborne illness to spur additional research and practical applications to advance public health, according to Bryan Silbermann, president and CEO of Produce Marketing Association.

Silbermann spoke in response to the release of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new paper, “Attribution of Foodborne Illnesses, Hospitalizations, and Deaths to Food Commodities by using Outbreak Data,” United States, 1998-2008. In that report, fresh produce accounted for 46% of foodborne illness in the United States from 1998-2008. “PMA considers the CDC report as an opportunity to identify new targeted research and learning to make our industry and the resources PMA creates more effective. That approach to continuous learning about food safety is part of PMA’s commitment to protect consumers and the industry alike.”

In this report, CDC frequently reiterates that consumers should eat more fruits and vegetables, and that a healthful diet is important. Silbermann stressed, “This advice has not changed for decades – your grandmother knew it then as we do now. However, what has changed are food industry safety practices, which evolve with the latest science and technology advances. We urge every member of the produce industry to have a robust and risk-based food safety program to protect the public and their businesses.”

“PMA and its members have invested millions of dollars to continually improve the safety of fresh produce,” said Joe Pezzini, chairman of PMA’s Produce Safety, Science and Technology Committee, and COO of Ocean Mist Farms. The Center for Produce Safety (CPS) was established in 2007 by PMA and others. “CPS provides open access to actionable produce safety information. Best practices developed and shared throughout the industry to raise the safety bar for all.”
Pezzini added that the industry incorporates those swiftly as soon as they are proven. “Food safety is the most important thing we do. Our commitment to consumer health and safety is unwavering,” he said.

Silbermann noted, “We put our money where our mouth is in terms of CPS research and practical application of safety programs. And we recognize, every day, that this effort will never be finished. For consumers to benefit, as CDC says, from diets full of fruits and vegetables, we must retain their confidence by safeguarding those very fruits and vegetables.”