Simplifying food safety – FFVA welcomes Jill Dunlop as its new food safety and sustainability manager

Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association has a new people person.  Jill Dunlop joined FFVA this month as its new manager of food safety and sustainability.

Dunlop will be responsible for providing support to FFVA members in developing and implementing food safety and sustainability programs. She also will provide training for and assistance with third-party audits as well as coordinating and conducting food safety and sustainability education and outreach.

In addition, Dunlop will provide support for other regulatory activities within FFVA’s Industry Resources group headed by Dan Botts, vice president of industry resources. Those include development, implementation and measurement of members’ Best Management Practices, Third Party Registrations Inc., Worker Protection Standard outreach and training, as well as crisis management related to food safety. And she will design, develop and implement GlobalGAP and GFSI food safety certification programs on behalf of membership.

“FFVA and its members are extremely fortunate to find someone with Jill’s background and proven capabilities,” said Mike Aerts, FFVA’s director of production and supply chain management. “Her ‘can do’ approach and attitude toward food safety and sustainability will lead to high demand and repeated utilization by the membership.”

The position was created in response to FFVA members’ requests. “The growers had been asking for someone with a food safety background because they wanted someone to help guide them with their programs, especially the smaller growers who may not have an established program. So I’m here to help them get started,” Dunlop said.

Her goals are twofold. “One of my priorities is staying up to date on federal food safety requirements,” Dunlop said.  “The government is creating a long list of regulations regarding food safety, and I need to convey all that back to the growers. It’s important to make sure they’re following the law.”

I’m a people person. I’ve never met a stranger” – Jill Dunlop

Another priority is keeping up with the demands of the growers’ customers, Dunlop said. “A lot of the auditing they’re doing is customer-driven. So I think it’s also important to help them with that piece of it. If they’re going to sell to five different customers they have to understand each customer’s requirements. I’m here to help them with questions such as ‘how am I going to minimize the amount of auditing I have to do? Is there one I could do that would appease all five of those people?’ ”

Dunlop spent five years as food safety manager for FFVA producer member SunnyRidge Farm/Dole Berry Company in Winter Haven, responsible for the southeastern United States and Latin America. Before that she was a researcher at the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.

Jill Dunlop comes to FFVA with a food safety background from SunnyRidge Farm/Dole Berry Co.

“I have a lot of knowledge about the different types of audits out there and which are acceptable by which customers, so I can help if a grower/shipper is going through multiple audits. I can offer suggestions as to which auditing program would work best for what they’re doing,” Dunlop said.

Dunlop is no stranger to FFVA. While at SunnyRidge Farm/Dole, she was a member of the association’s environmental and pest management committee. “I chose that committee because I was working with our Sunnyridge growers, and I thought it was good to be knowledgeable about what was going on in the farming inputs area. I was the person they would come to for help, mainly for the food safety programs, but also if they had questions about fertilizing, pest control and things like integrated pest management. I’d be that person who would help get them the resources they needed to help them make decisions.”

Dunlop looks forward to getting to know FFVA’s members. “I’m a people person. I’ve never met a stranger. I really like working with people and helping them,” she said. And she appreciates the challenge of unraveling the intricacies of an effective food safety program. “I enjoy taking something that’s difficult to understand – with a lot of weird language – and relaying it in understandable terms. I hope that even if the growers don’t like the overwhelming aspects of food safety requirements, that they will like me. I like to make something that’s intimidating fun.  A lot of times the paperwork is crazy, and the checklist is long, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed,” she said.

A graduate of Elon College in North Carolina with a bachelor of science degree in environmental studies, Dunlop lives in Winter Haven with her husband, Jeff, and two children — a 13-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son. She grew up in Clearwater.

“We’re pleased to have Jill on board,” FFVA President Mike Stuart said. “Food safety is not only a priority for Florida’s specialty crop producers – it’s part of their culture. Adding Jill to our staff will allow FFVA to more closely assist our members in their food safety and sustainability efforts.”

If you’re an FFVA producer member who would like to set up a meeting with Dunlop to discuss your food safety program, contact her by email at jill.dunlop@ffva.com or call 321 214-5200.

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