AUSTIN, Texas — The inaugural Texas Food Safety Conference started May 10 with a word of caution to all in the produce industry and a firsthand account from a Texas producer that recently experienced a recall.

Preparedness is essential — and don’t discount the nights and weekends.

Gale Prince of Cincinnati-based Sage Food Safety Consultants LLC said in his keynote address nearly one-fourth of all recalls happen after 2 p.m. on Friday, and another significant number follow through the weekend.

“Are you prepared to do a recall on one of those days,” he said. “Your contact lists must be up to date. A lot of those key players aren’t going to be answering their office number on a Saturday or Sunday.”

Edinburg-based J&D Produce gave its account of a recent recall. The company received notification of positive test results on Dec. 22 and 23, going into the Christmas holiday — which also fell on a weekend — and found out just how prepared it was.

Jeff Brechler, food safety and sales director for J&D Produce, said before the recall, J&D Produce considered its procedures to be 100% ready, thanks to frequent mock recalls and tests.

“After we actually did it, we were probably more like 80%,” he said. “Our traceback and trace forward were there, but transmitting the data from our computers to spreadsheets was very, very time consuming.”

Having things prepared like a bank of phones and personnel prepared to handle the volume of inquiries from customers, consumers and media also is a serious consideration.

The conference continues through May 11 and includes discussions of the Food Safety Modernization Act, food safety programs for small versus large farms and how the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement works.

Food safety doesn't take weekends off

Pamela Riemenschneider

Frank Schuster (from left) and Jed Murray, both of Val Verde Vegetable Co., talk with Jeff Brechler, food safety and sales director for J&D Produce, after Brechler’s presentation at the Texas Food Safety Conference in Austin.