Produce Marketing Association (PMA) members have already contributed an additional $375,000 in funds to support produce-specific food safety initiatives in 2008, and there is still time for others to join the effort before year’s end, the association announced.

PMA’s “Gold Circle: Campaign for Food Safety” funds help finance produce-specific food safety research at the new Center for Produce Safety (CPS) at the University of California, Davis. CPS was founded by contributions from PMA and Taylor Farms, which also supports the Gold Circle: Campaign for Food Safety. In addition, Gold Circle funds contributed to the hiring of PMA’s first-ever Chief Science Officer and food safety expert, Dr. Robert Whitaker, in April. In addition to speaking at several food safety and PMA events, Dr. Whitaker also provides his thoughts on a range of food safety topics on the association’s audio blog, “Ask Dr. Bob.” The newly redesigned blog can be accessed at http://askdrbob.pma.com/.

Gold Circle contributions also help fund the Partnership for Food Safety Education’s “Be Food Safe” consumer education program. Designed to help consumers practice food safety at home, the campaign teaches the basic concepts of “Clean”, “Cook”, “Separate” and Chill”, including a produce-specific “Clean” module funded by PMA. PMA President and CEO Bryan Silbermann currently serves as the partnership’s board chairman; because of PMA’s support of the partnership, association members were granted free license to the “Be Food Safe” program.

To date this year, 375 PMA members have donated $1,000 per company to the Gold Circle program. The program was revamped this year to focus on funding a range of food safety-specific initiatives, including research and consumer outreach. Gold Circle contributions are in addition to the campaign supporters’ annual association membership dues. The donations support global PMA food safety initiatives in four primary areas: research; consumer education; outreach and training; and communications.

“These corporate leaders’ contributions help PMA fulfill its mission on the industry’s behalf to promote a safe and healthy produce experience for consumers – every bite, every time,” said Tim York, president of Gold Circle contributor Markon Cooperative and chair of CPS’s Advisory Board.

PMA recognizes the commitment of Gold Circle contributors in many ways throughout the course of the year. Contributors are listed in a directory on PMA’s Web site and receive recognition and exposure to a broad audience of industry professionals at PMA events, including the annual Fresh Summit International Convention and Exposition. A list of PMA’s current Gold Circle members is available at http://www.pma.com/goldcircle/all_gc_members.cfm.

“We support the Gold Circle campaign to support the association that we already get so much benefit from, and because food safety is our industry’s biggest threat today,” said Vice President of Produce and Floral Mike O’Brien of Schnuck Markets Inc., a Gold Circle contributor.

More information on the Gold Circle campaign and how to support it is available at www.pma.com/goldcircle.