The International Fresh-cut Produce Association has joined produce growers and handlers as well as universities in three states to offer a series of workshops focused on fruit and vegetable sanitation from harvest to package.

Entitled, Sanitation Workshop for Packinghouses, Value-added Harvest and Fresh-cut Operations, the first workshop of the three-part series will be held May 13, 2004 at the Edison AgTAC Center in Visalia, Calif., from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The program is sponsored jointly by the International Fresh-cut Produce Association (IFPA), Western Growers Association, and the Tri-State Consortium (University of California Davis, University of Florida and Texas A&M University) under a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The workshop's objective is to provide an educational forum for produce professionals such as grower/shippers, packinghouse operators and fresh-cut processors to increase awareness of sanitation issues during harvesting, packing and processing.

The format includes a morning session detailing fundamentals of food facility sanitation and three afternoon breakout sessions focused on the specific sanitation needs of packing sheds, in-field preparation/harvest operations and fresh-cut processing plants.

“This is an important educational outreach opportunity that enables all of us to contribute to reducing produce food safety risk,” asserts James Gorny, IFPA's vice president of technology and regulatory affairs. “The produce industry has a long history of producing safe, wholesome and nutritious products that consumer enjoy. We cannot, however, be successful in our food safety efforts without spreading this message to all levels of the produce industry.”

The workshop series represents an aggressive effort on the part of IFPA and its partners to respond to food safety issues in light of recent statements by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the handling of fresh produce items.

Presenters at the workshop include Ron Schmidt and Jeff Brecht of the University of Florida and Trevor Suslow and Linda Harris of UC Davis as well as Jim Gorny. The Tri-State Consortium is a 48-month research initiative created to study food safety issues in the produce industries of Florida, Texas and California and the grant provides for two more workshops scheduled for Texas and Florida later this year.

Fees for the one-day workshop include lunch and are $225 for IFPA members and $275 for all others. Details are available on IFPA's web site: http://www.fresh-cuts.org/files/Sanitation%20Workshop.pdf or by calling Seneta Burns (703) 299-6282.