WASHINGTON — The nation's produce growers, packers and distributors can trace back product as needed, and efforts to upgrade the industry to standardized electronic record keeping are already well under way, Bryan Silbermann, president of the Produce Marketing Association, told members of Congress last week.
Silbermann testified before the House Agriculture Committee's Horticulture and Organic Agriculture Subcommittee as part of a hearing called to study produce traceability in the wake of this summer's Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak, linked first to tomatoes and now to jalapeno peppers.
“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.”
The Produce Traceability Initiative, a joint effort of PMA, the United Fresh Produce Association and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, plans to announce a timetable for industry adoption of electronic, chainwide traceability.
“It is our profound hope that any future legislative and regulatory changes will be fashioned to work with the industry,” Silbermann testified.