GROTON, CT — The inaugural "Alliance Event for the Produce Industry" was held Sept. 17-18 at the Marriott Mystic Hotel & Spa, here, attracting 130 attendees for an educational forum co-sponsored by the New England Produce Council and the Eastern Produce Council, featuring presentations by the Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association.
The opening day opened with a morning tour of Lyman Orchards, located in nearby Middlefield, CT.
The formal program opened Sept. 17 with a luncheon, followed by United's chief executive officer, Tom Stenzel, presenting a "Washington Update." Stenzel then moderated a panel comprised of Douglas Fisher, secretary of agriculture for the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, and Steven Reviczky, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. These agriculture leaders discussed topics of concern to United and the produce industry.
A second afternoon panel, discussing the use of produce in northeastern school foodservice programs was moderated by Andrew Marshall, United's policy and grassroots manager.
The Sept. 18 schedule opened with Bryan Silbermann, president and CEO of PMA, introducing the association's food safety leaders, Bob Whitaker and Jim Gorny.
Whitaker and Silbermann both encouraged produce industry leaders to take aggressive action in their own businesses, as opposed to passively waiting for someone else to address the industry issues and disseminate simple answers to solutions.
Whitaker, who is PMA's chief science and technology officer, closed his comments showing a picture of a beautiful little boy who died of food poisoning. He reminded the audience that what may seem casual decisions they make involving food-safety ramifications can mean life and death decisions. He noted that it is the young and old who are at greatest risk of food-borne illness.
Gorny, PMA's vice president of food safety and technology, was scheduled to speak about the Food Safety Modernization Act during the afternoon session on Sept. 18. The closing session also was scheduled to feature a retail and foodservice panel.
An optional golf event was available on the afternoon of Sept. 18 at Lake Isles near Foxwoods Resort & Casino.