Produce Marketing Association (PMA) has added a town hall-style gathering on the ongoing Salmonella saintpaul foodborne illness investigation to the agenda for its 2008 Foodservice Conference & Exposition, which will convene July 25-27 in Monterey, California. The town hall meeting will be held Saturday, July 26, to update conference attendees on the status of the federal government’s investigation and PMA’s related activities, and to respond to industry questions.

“The longer this very regrettable situation drags on, the more questions and frustrations we all have,” says PMA President Bryan Silbermann, who will moderate the town hall gathering. “We wanted to take the opportunity presented by this large gathering to allow our industry members to hear and be heard.”

The town hall meeting will begin with an update from PMA Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs Kathy Means, who will represent PMA’s food safety team. California Tomato Farmers President Ed Beckman will also comment from his industry’s perspective. California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement CEO Scott Horsfall will offer parallels to and lessons learned from the industry’s 2006 leafy greens foodborne illness outbreak, which led to creation of the marketing agreement. Their brief comments will be followed by a town hall-style question and answer session to allow attendees to pose their questions and to share their concerns.

“This isn’t just another foodborne illness outbreak linked to produce, those days are long over,” said Silbermann. “The time has come to start having hard conversations about what our future may hold, and how we can influence that future.”

The conference will also feature the first female Iron Chef, Cat Cora, and Bravo’s Top Chef top judge Tom Colicchio, who will literally and figuratively dish on their favorite produce dishes. In addition to the food safety town hall meeting, PMA will also host a session on sustainability– another hot topic for both produce and foodservice. Flavor & The Menu magazine’s editorial staff will offer their insights on top produce trends in foodservice, while PMA’s Silbermann will lead a foodservice-specific panel discussion of the state of the produce industry.

An estimated 1,500 registrants and exhibitors from throughout the produce and foodservice supply chain are expected to participate in the 2008 conference; the conference’s 149-booth trade show is sold out. PMA’s conference planners noted that registration is exceeding 2007 levels, indicating the economy-proof value of this conference–the only conference dedicated to produce in foodservice–provides to attendees and exhibitors.

Persons interested in attending the conference can register on-site in Monterey. More information is available at

QSR will be covering the session live from the floor next weekend.