(Nov. 16, PACKER WEB EXCLUSIVE) In the absence of federal produce safety regulations at the farm level, on-farm safety specifications from retail and foodservice buyers to their produce suppliers shouldn’t come as a surprise, said Donna Garren, vice president of health and safety regulatory affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association.

“These are basically specifications between buyers and sellers,” she said Nov. 15. “This is what they want from their suppliers so they can protect their brand from food safety risks.”

Garren alluded to the letters from Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers on Nov. 6 and from a group of 23 produce associations (including Western Growers, the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association and the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association) on Nov. 14 to members of the Food Safety Leadership Council regarding concerns about the group’s requirement for suppliers to comply with on-farm food safety standards.

Produce association leaders said the council and suppliers must talk.

“Everybody’s heart is in the right place to get the best food safety plan going, but we need to be working together,” said Kathy Means, vice president of government relations for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association.

“The goal of the letter is to reach out to them to express our serious concerns and request an opportunity to sit down and discuss it,” added Nancy Foster, president of the U.S. Apple Association, Vienna, Va.


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