(April 8, 5:47 p.m.) Even in these challenging economic times, the 11th annual Food Safety Summit appears to be track to be the largest yet in terms of participation.

The summit, scheduled for April 27-29 at the Washington D.C. Convention Center, should see higher attendance, with more companies represented, and increase exhibition space, said Scott Wolters, director of tradeshows and conferences for BNP Media, which is facilitating the event.

“D.C. is a big draw,” Wolters said, “and food safety is in front of peoples’ minds with the recent scares and the Obama administration’s agenda and appointment of new personnel for food safety (at the Food and Drug Administration).”

“Fresh produce obviously is one of the major sectors in the food chain,” Wolters said, and accordingly, fresh produce has a major presence at the summit with at least three seminars scheduled targeted directly at the industry.

On April 28, a seminar on irradiation will look at how scientists, regulators and lawmakers are working together to incorporate the latest technologies in combating foodborne illness.

That same day, a produce traceability seminar looks at systems to identify the source of products so that the traceback can lead to good agricultural practices that prevent food safety problems. Also on the 28, a produce safety standards and audits panel is scheduled to discuss ways to standardize audits so that the same methods are used in all sectors of the industry.

David Gombas, senior vice president for food safety and technology for the United Fresh Produce Association, is scheduled to speak at each of the latter two seminars.

“This is the first of two major conferences on food safety in the U.S. each year,” Gombas said. “There is a lot of regulatory focus and policy focus at this one. The International Association for Food Protection in July and August will be more research focused.”

Several keynote addresses are also scheduled at the summit.

On April 28, Michael Kaufman, chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association, is scheduled to speak on the synergy between politics, policy and the marketplace and how government and industry can work together to improve food safety and quality. He’ll be followed by David Theno, former senior vice president and chief product safety officer for Jack In The Box, leading that company out of its E. coli outbreak in 1993.

On April 29, David Nabarro, assistant secretary general and deputy coordinator for the High Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis team at the United Nations, is scheduled to address the collaborative approach to global food safety.