(Sept. 6) The United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, Washington, D.C., is set to make a big food safety push later this month.

The association will launch four new food-safety-related committees at its annual public policy conference Sept. 15, said Jim Gorny, vice president of quality assurance and technology.

The move reflects an industrywide acceptance that whether the threat is microorganisms or terrorists, food safety is a front-burner issue — and will remain one for some time.

The big players in the industry, however, are much more likely than the small players to have gotten that mes-sage, Gorny said. Part of United’s overarching food safety goal is to get the small guys on the same page as the big guys.

“The big players understand it’s a prerequisite to doing business today, whether it’s (good agricultural prac-tices), (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) or something else,” he said. “Buyers are demanding it, and rightly so. Companies are not going to put their name brand equity on the line.”

FOUR COMMITTEES

The four proposed committees will cover microbial food safety concerns, chemical-related concerns, food secu-rity and education outreach, Gorny said.

The committee dealing with microbial concerns will oversee the production of commodity-specific food safety guides for tomatoes, lettuce, melons, green onions and herbs. The guides will draw on the expertise of grower-shippers and the food-safety programs they use every day, Gorny said.

“For the first time, we’re trying to come up with a document that covers farm to fork,” Gorny said. “With the commodity-specific documents, we’re saying to grower-shippers, ‘All of you folks out there who are doing a good job, what are you doing right?’”

Eventually, United wants its effort to be tailored to individual regions of the country, Gorny said. But for now, it just wants to get the ball rolling.

“This is a first step, and it’s a one-size-fits-all approach,” Gorny said. “This could easily be encyclopedic in vol-ume, but for now, we just want a primer to be able to give people. It’s important to have consensus that these are core values that really make sense.”