(Aug. 10) Food safety concerns are expected to dominate this year’s Joint Tomato Conference scheduled for Sept. 4-9 in Naples, Fla.

The 32nd industry convention brings the largest fresh market tomato producing state’s growers, shippers, repackers and others together at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on the Gulf Coast to discuss food safety and other industry issues.

Co-sponsored by the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Committee and the Florida Tomato Exchange, the meeting usually does not have an overriding issue or theme uniting the industry.

The food safety effort remains paramount for the industry this year, said Reggie Brown, committee manager and exchange executive vice president.

“We continue to feel very strongly that it is essential not only for Florida but for other tomato industries around the country to move forward in ensuring that public confidence in fresh tomatoes is maintained at the highest level possible,” Brown said. “Marketing tomatoes is a challenge in and of itself. It doesn’t need the complications and concerns of food safety.”

Florida’s agriculture department plans to conduct a final review of the safety regulations during a rule-making process by mid-August. The regulations are expected to be fully implemented during the fall, Brown said.

Martha Roberts, consultant, part-time faculty at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and former Florida agriculture department deputy commissioner, is scheduled to discuss best management practices for packinghouses during the Sept. 4 tomato packinghouse managers’ workshop. Roberts is also scheduled to speak Sept. 5. updating growers on the food safety initiative.

The tomato institute program features Brown presenting his annual state of the industry talk, varietal developments, pest and disease management research as well as an update on methyl bromide.