Kathy Means, Produce Marketing Association

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When it comes to most produce items, there is no kill step for food safety. We enjoy raw produce and it’s good for us. All the more reason it has to be handled safely from field to fork. The industry and government have their roles to play, and the Produce Marketing Association is committed to those efforts. We work with government on food safety rules that accomplish the goals in ways that make sense for businesses.

We offer training to small growers (pathogens don’t respect company size, borders, or distance to market). We helped found and continue to support the Center for Produce Safety, which is focused exclusively on providing the produce industry and government with open access to the actionable information needed to continually enhance the safety of produce. We offer staff and member expertise on produce safety.

But the food safety continuum doesn’t stop at the retail shelf or restaurant plate. Consumers have a role to play as well. PMA has supported the Partnership for Food Safety Education since its inception in 1997 as a credible source for consumer food safety advice that is science-based and consumer-tested. The four foundational messages—clean, separate, cook, and chill—help consumers understand and incorporate safe food handling practices.

The Partnership also allowed us the opportunity to work with others to craft safe produce handling messages for consumers. Because produce doesn’t have a kill step, it’s critical that consumers understand their roles in safe produce handling. We all want to be confident in the safety of our food—from what the producers do to how retailers and foodservice operators handle food and what we can do in our own homes. Confidence about produce safety allows consumers to focus on flavor, variety and nutrition.

We’re all in this together—the food industry, the government, academia, and consumers. The Partnership for Food Safety Education not only provides consumer education, it also provides the forum for all of these groups to work together on this essential endeavor. The Partnership can gather and make visible the great efforts from local and regional food safety educators. It is a catalyst, mobilizing everyone who wants to be involved in enhancing food safety for consumers.

If the Partnership did not exist, we would need to create it. And that’s why PMA continues to support the good work the Partnership does. Consumers are an important link in the food safety chain. Teaching them to handle food safely is equally important.