Produce Marketing Association (PMA) chief science and technology officer Dr. Bob Whitaker has been appointed by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to the National Advisory Committee for Microbiological Criteria for Food (NACMCF), which provides advice to federal agencies on the microbiological safety of the U.S. food supply.

His selection reflects the leadership Whitaker has brought to the industry’s food safety efforts since he was hired in 2008 as part of PMA’s commitment to ensuring members have access to the best scientific minds on food safety.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sources, the NACMCF was established in 1988 to provide scientific advice on public health issues relative to the safety and wholesomeness of the U.S. food supply. The committee also assists in the development of microbiological criteria and reviews and evaluates epidemiological and risk assessment data as well as methodologies for assessing microbiological hazards. Its members are a who’s who of academia, government, and industry.

Industry leaders hailed news of Whitaker’s appointment as a landmark for the produce industry and for PMA’s members, and as recognition of Whitaker’s excellent reputation among the national food safety community. Since joining PMA’s staff two years ago, Whitaker has been actively working to bring real-world industry experience and insight to federal government, to positively impact their legislation and regulation of the industry. He has also been actively working to enhance industry’s food safety capability through a variety of industry outreach activities from PMA’s food safety symposia series, to industry presentations to his blog, “Ask Dr. Bob.”

Whitaker has also brought his leadership to the industry’s food safety research efforts as chair of the Center for Produce Safety’s Technical Committee; in two years that group has prioritized industry research needs, and to date has already funded 24 research grants valued at just less than $4 million. CPS will host its first symposium to present research findings on June 23, and its Technical Committee is currently evaluating a record number of potential research projects received in response to its latest call for research proposals.

“Dr. Whitaker’s appointment by Secretary Vilsack to the NACMF is a true testimony to his technical competency and his many contributions to government, to PMA and to the produce industry in general in the critical areas of food science and food safety,” says Bill Schuler, chair of PMA’s board of directors and president and CEO of the Castellini Group of Companies. “His talents are widely recognized, respected, and in high demand, and he serves as a great resource for PMA’s membership.”

“This appointment is recognition of Bob’s vast food safety knowledge and industry experience, particularly to the microbiology of produce,” says Joe Pezzini, chair of PMA’s produce safety, science, and technology committee and chief operating officer for Ocean Mist Farms. “His appointment comes at a critical time as regulation on produce is being developed. Bob represents PMA’s commitment to food safety for the betterment of the industry through his tremendous competency and leadership.”

“I am honored to be invited to join this prestigious group and its work to promote food safety and protect public health,” Whitaker says. “I look forward to representing PMA, our members and the produce industry as we work toward those goals.”

The NACMCF serves federal departments including USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Department of Defense Veterinary Service Activity. NACMCF members serve two-year terms, and meet up to two times annually; its subcommittees meet when necessary.

More details on the committee and the latest appointments can be found at Background on the committee can be found here: