(May 10) CHICAGO — Pressing concerns over food safety and securing adequate labor dominated talk during the May 6 annual meeting of the Leafy Greens Council marketing and promotion organization.

Members assembled at the United Fresh Produce Association’s Fresh Marketplace 2007 at Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center.

Phil Adrian, vice president and owner of Coastline, Salinas, Calif., updated members on what California’s leafy greens growers and handlers have been doing to ensure delivery of safe products following last fall’s spinach crisis, including the adoption of the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement.

Adrian said the group would like to transform the marketing agreement into a state marketing order that could eventually encompass other commodities. He said the members of the California group would like to see their effort applied industrywide through a national marketing order.

“We can’t afford to have the consumer injured by our products,” he said. “What it’s all about is having a safe consumer. Together we can collectively do the right thing to make sure we don’t have any issues.”

Others in the audience said the industry needs to develop its own commodity-specific guidelines.

“Part of our recommendation is to have each group develop their own recommendations so others won’t do it for us,” said Charles Hall, a newly appointed United Fresh board member and executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, La Grange.

In a development that could help speed detection of pathogens to prevent future produce outbreaks, William Hanson, president of Hanson Technologies, Carlisle, Pa., told members about a program the company is testing at Harrisburg, Pa.-based fresh-cut processor Verdelli Farms Inc.

The program could increase detection to within two hours vs. the typical 12-33 hour detection times, Hanson said. The pilot program should begin by the end of May, Hanson said.