After more than a decade of growth, opportunity still abounds for fresh-cut produce, according to a report scheduled for presentation at the International Fresh-cut Produce Association's 16th Annual Conference and Exhibition April 3-5 in Tampa, Fla.

Attendees at the conference will hear details of a survey of major restaurant chains conducted for the IFPA that showed 71 percent of operators interviewed currently buy fresh-cut vegetables while just 18 percent use fresh-cut fruit, leaving the door open for growth in both areas.

Conference goers can also attend workshops that focus on new packaging technologies designed to preserve fresh-cut produce quality and on creating the right facility and environment for safe processing and handling of fresh-cut fresh fruits and vegetables.

Since public attention has been focused recently on food safety, the conference will also include a regulatory affairs caucus with a panel of experts who will address import/export issues, labeling, food safety, food security and other up-to-the-minute regulatory concerns facing the industry.

IFPA's 3rd Annual Science Symposium also will feature four cutting-edge research reports and a poster session to help attendees stay abreast of scientific findings related to processing and handling fresh-cut produce. Richard Linton of Purdue University will report on gaseous applications of chlorine dioxide and ozone, while Peter Toivonen of Ag Canada will discuss safety and quality issues for fresh-cut apples. Jeff Brecht of the University of Florida and Liz Baldwin, USDA/ARS, will discuss pre-treating whole fruit such as apples, tomatoes and mangoes to extend shelf life and quality and Trevor Suslow of UC Davis will report on a recently funded multi-state collaborative research grant with the objective of enhancing microbial safety of fresh and fresh-cut melons.