Piccaver warns on EU proposals

British Leafy Salads Association (BLSA) chairman David Piccaver opened the association's biannual gathering in Peterborough last month with a warning over the current European Union proposals for stringent curbs on pesticides.

Describing the past two years for salad growers as "torrid" due to poor weather, he said conditions had "tested our resolve". Announcing BLSA personnel changes, which include the appointment of David Norman and Dr Jim Monaghan as technical co-ordinators following the departure of Ian Gillott, Piccaver said agronomy within the sector had become "exceptionally challenging".

He added: "Unless we get a dramatic shift in attitude from the European Parliament, things will get even more difficult". However, he told the audience of growers and suppliers to the leafy salad sector that many of the conference speakers had positive messages, too.

These included Betsy Bihn, from the department of food science at Cornell University in the US, who described the positive progress that is being made in the fresh produce sector in the US to help prevent outbreaks of food-related illnesses in consumers through the Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) programme.

The goal of GAPs is to reduce microbial risks in fruit and vegetables through a programme of education for growers and packers.

Bihn, who is the programme's co-ordinator, told delegates the key message she had to get across to US growers was that food safety was as much about protecting the financial interests of their farms as about protecting the health and safety of customers and consumers, adding: "There is also potential for post-harvest quality gains."

Emphasising the point, she told delegates that sales of US spinach bags are still down by 20 per cent following an outbreak of food-borne illness in September 2006.


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