A national food safety organization has recognized theUniversity of California-Davisand refrigerated salad processorFresh Express Inc. for food safety contributions in frozen and refrigerated food applications.

TheInternational Association for Food Protection (IAFP), Des Moines, Iowa, said it plans to recognize  several individuals and organizations during IAFP's annual meeting August 1-4 in Anaheim, Calif.

IAFP said it will present a new honor, theFrozen Food Foundation Freezing Research Award, to UC-Davis Professor Linda J. Harris. The award honors an individual, group, or organization for preeminence and outstanding contributions in research that impacts food safety attributes of freezing, said IAFP.

Officials said they will present their organization's top honor, theBlack Pearl Award, to Fresh Express, Salinas, Calif., in recognition of "outstanding achievement in corporate excellence in food safety and quality."

"Each year IAFP honors a single company with our most prestigious award, the Black Pearl, in recognition of that company's singular efforts in advancing food safety and quality," said IAFP Executive Director David Tharp.  "This year, we are pleased to recognize Fresh Express for its adherence to the highest standards of excellence in food protection, for its innovative leadership in prevention-based food safety practices, for its exceptional educational activities and for fostering a culture that is dedicated to continually furthering the principles and goals of outstanding food safety."

Fresh Express is a business unit of Chiquita Brands International, Cincinnati.

"Receiving the prestigious Black Pearl is a genuine honor and a humbling moment," said Fernando Aguirre, Chiquita chairman and chief executive officer.  "Each week, millions of consumers enjoy Chiquita and Fresh Express products, with full confidence in their safety.  A commitment to food safety is not only part of our strategy, but it is in our company DNA. We are very appreciative that this commitment to food safety has been recognized by the premier international food safety organization comprised of global food safety leaders. Winning the Black Pearl has been compared to winning the Super Bowl or the World Series by food safety experts. We are honored to accept this coveted award." 

Aguirre added, "We believe this is a testament to the diligence, dedication and hard work of our team that 'lives' food safety each and every day. This is a milestone that we will celebrate as part of our continuous research and innovation toward even higher standards of effectiveness. Our desire is to always 'do the right thing' in order to protect the health and well-being of our consumers, employees and communities."

Among the criteria that were successfully met by Fresh Express in winning the Black Pearl Award were:
·    Examples of contributions to public health principles and food safety
·    Evidence of products and services demonstrating a commitment to food safety
·    Evidence that facilities are designed with food safety and sanitation as a primary concern
·    Evidence of adherence to food safety regulations
·    Evidence of community and consumer programming and education to promote food safety
·    Evidence and support showing promotion of ethical and fair business practices

Aguirre noted that Fresh Express developed and employs a unique and comprehensive "Fresh Express 7- Steps of Prevention Food Safety Program," a synchronized set of proprietary food safety practices that apply across the entire supply chain from seed development, growing and harvesting to manufacturing and delivery to customers nationwide.  

IAFP represents more than 3,400 food safety professionals. The association includes educators, government officials, microbiologists, food industry executives and quality control professionals who are involved in all aspects of growing, storing, transporting, processing and preparing all types of foods.