Speakers from Washington D.C., Mexico City and various other regions joined the Fresh Produce Association of the America (FPAA), its members and other participants from the industry in important discussions that took place during the Spring Policy Summit 2016 on March 15-16 at the Tubac Golf Resort.
Among these speakers were U.S. government officials representing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and their Mexican counterparts from the Mexican Department of Agriculture (SAGARPA) and Mexican Health Department (COFEPRIS). Also there was participation from the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and a representative from the office of Sen. Jeff Flake.
At the same time fresh produce distributors, customs house brokers, industry suppliers and other important groups with interest in community economic and social development participated in the conversation that covered the most crucial topics affecting the industry of fruits and vegetables, and more specifically the one in Nogales, Arizona importing product from Mexico.
The topics included the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and how Mexico is proactively seeking ways to improve its methods to guaranteed safety and quality in its increasing production of fresh foods.
Also brought to the table were the positive impacts of free trade agreements in the economies of all participating countries, the importance of improving State Route 189 along with the opportunities and challenges for transportation funding, the possibility of working together with Mexico to create a pre-clearance program that would save time and eliminate double inspections on fresh produce shipments coming to the U.S., and more.
“At the FPAA we are very pleased with the participation in the summit. We had over 134 people registered and we feel everyone was enriched from it. At events of this nature not only does the listener learn, but speakers receive feedback and are able to expand and improve their understanding of the operations here at the border,” explained Lance Jungmeyer, president of the FPAA.
FPAA distributor member Eric Meyer from Prime Time International referred to the event as informative and interesting, and recognized the speakers as very high quality. “This was the first time I have ever attended the event and I want to tell you that it was top notch,” said Meyer.
At the event, Mike Taylor, deputy commissioner for food of FDA reminded attendees that his days in the position were numbered but that the agency has created a solid path forward in implementing FSMA. FPAA recognized his great contribution and achievements by honoring him with the “Lifetime Achievement Award.”
“By shepherding the process of creating the provisions under the Food Safety Modernization Act, Mike Taylor has enabled a lifetime of work. Indeed, this may be the only overhaul of food safety laws for many years to come, and Mike’s work with FDA staff to engage with industry toward better food safety is an example that other agencies should seek to emulate,” Jungmeyer said.
The two-day event concluded with an interactive exercise led by Dr. Ian Williams, chief of the Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch at the U.S. CDC in which participants learned how the federal agencies work in the case of a multistate outbreak and when/ how FDA gets involved.
“We hope to continue to provide venues of discussions of this caliber for the betterment of our industry and the continued compliance with its highest safety and quality standards,” said Jungmeyer.
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Publication date: 3/31/2016