(Jan. 31) Marketing to children and discussion of food safety mark the fifth year of the Southeast Produce Council’s big winter convention.

Southern Exposure 2008, the organization’s yearly retail and foodservice conference and exposition, is scheduled for Feb. 21-23 in Orlando, Fla.

Organizers expect more than 700 retail and foodservice buyers and grower-shippers to attend the event at the Caribe Royale Resort & Conference Center — adding more than 100 attendees to those who attended last year’s extravaganza, said Terry Vorhees, executive director of the Sun City Center, Fla.-based Southeast Produce Council.

With new supermarket tours, attendees Feb. 22 are scheduled to visit a St. Cloud, Fla., Publix Super Markets Inc. store and one of Publix’s Hispanic-themed Sabor stores in Kissimmee, Fla. The day of tours also includes visits to Watsonville, Calif.-based Monterey Mushrooms Inc.’s Zellwood, Fla., mushroom growing and packing facility and Salinas, Calif.-based Taylor Fresh Foods Inc.’s Taylor Farms Florida Inc., Orlando fresh-cut operation.

Focusing on the regulatory end of food safety, Edith Garrett, president of Edith Garrett & Associates, Asheville, N.C., and former president of the International Fresh-cut Produce Association, is scheduled to moderate an educational session covering food safety risk and prevention in a panel that includes Dr. Marion Aller, the director of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ food safety division, and Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange.

Ronnie De La Cruz, a Salinas, Calif., consultant, will lead a discussion on merchandising and marketing produce to children. The panel includes Glen Reynolds, regional sales manager for Imagination Farms LLC, Indianapolis, the company handling the Disney Garden license for fruits and vegetables; and Heidi McIntyre, president of Orlando, Fla.-area McIntyre Marketing and executive director of Produce for Kids.

The convention, which opens Feb. 21 with a golf tournament, features new foodservice and retail participants from the Northeast and Texas, Vorhees said.