FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 30, 2008

Produce industry already enhancing traceability on its own, PMA’s Silbermann tells Congress

Newark. Del. – The produce industry is already well on its way to enhancing its ability to trace back product more effectively and efficiently, Produce Marketing Association (PMA) President Bryan Silbermann told members of Congress today. Silbermann testified before the House Agriculture Committee’s Horticulture and Organic Agriculture Subcommittee, as part of a hearing that was called to study produce traceability because of claims that problems have slowed the still-lingering Salmonella saintpaul foodborne illness investigation linked to fresh produce.

“The produce industry has already rapidly changed to avoid the introduction of risk into the food system,” because of its longtime commitment to food safety and the recent impetus provided by the foodborne illness outbreak linked to spinach in late 2006, Silbermann told committee members. “It is not the private sector’s role to wait passively for government to regulate; we must act, and we are doing so.”

Silbermann noted that the produce industry has had a longstanding legal obligation to maintain product records, since the 1930 passage of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. The Bioterrorism Act of 2002 added the “one-up, one-back” concept. As a result, produce companies should already have internal systems to track produce. Nonetheless, PMA and its allies at United Fresh Produce Association (United Fresh) and Canadian Produce Marketing Association saw the need to create a common platform to link those individual approaches, to provide additional enhancements including electronic recordkeeping.  

The steering committee guiding the associations’ Produce Traceability Initiative began its work last year, and will complete its first phase of work by announcing a timetable for industry adoption of electronic, chainwide traceability after the group’s meeting next month. The group’s next phase of effort will focus on achieving industry implementation.

“We are well on our way to achieving enhancements, and at our own urging,” Silbermann commented before his testimony. “But apparently news that industry is finding its own solutions isn’t interesting enough to those who would rather lay blame. Blaming is easy, finding a solution is hard.”

Silbermann has also challenged accounts that industry members’ lack of traceability capability has impeded the ongoing Salmonella saintpaul investigation. Generally industry members can trace product as needed, he said, though enhancements such as electronic recordkeeping will considerably accelerate the process and better protect public health. PMA briefed Food and Drug Administration and other government officials about the initiative earlier this year.

Commenting on recent congressional calls for federal legislation mandating traceability, Silbermann concluded his testimony by stating, “It is our profound hope that any future legislative and regulatory changes will be fashioned to work with the industry, to fulfill our shared responsibility to protect public health – by providing safe, wholesome and nutritious food, every bite, every time.”

Silbermann’s written testimony can be viewed at

http://www.pma.com/issues/BESTraceTestimony_Written.cfm.

---

About the Canadian Produce Marketing Association
Based in Ottawa, Ontario, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) is a not-for-profit organization representing over 770 Canadian and International member companies that are active in the marketing of fresh fruits and vegetables in Canada from the farm gate to the dinner plate. CPMA members represent all segments of the fresh produce industry. CPMA's vision is to enable and lead the produce industry by enhancing the market and facilitating trade of fresh fruits and vegetables for its members.  For more information about CPMA, please visit www.cpma.ca. 

About GS1 US
GS1 US, a member of GS1, is an information standards organization that brings industry communities together to solve supply-chain problems through the adoption and implementation of GS1 standards. More than 200,000 businesses in 25 industries rely on GS1 US for trading-partner collaboration and for maximizing the cost effectiveness, speed, visibility, security and sustainability of their business processes. They achieve these benefits through solutions based on GS1 global unique numbering and identification systems, bar codes, Electronic Product Code-based RFID, data synchronization, and electronic information exchange. GS1 US also manages the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC). www.GS1US.org

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 business solutions 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 serves companies at the forefront of the global fresh and fresh-cut produce industry, including growers, shippers, fresh-cut processors, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, foodservice operators, industry suppliers and allied associations. From its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and Western Regional office in Salinas, Calif., United Fresh and its members work year-round to make a difference for the produce industry by driving policies that increase consumption of fresh produce, shaping critical legislative and regulatory action, providing scientific and technical leadership in food safety, quality assurance, nutrition and health, and developing educational programs and business opportunities to assist member companies in growing successful businesses. For more information, visit www.unitedfresh.org.