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US food industry leaders to convene for health talks in Texas

COLLEGE STATION -- People interested in healthy foods are invited to a day-long conference Feb. 25 in College Station to hear the latest findings on connections between fruit and vegetable production and medical advances.

The conference, geared toward consumers, will include presentations by researchers, producers, allied produce industry leaders from across the United States and will mark the 20th anniversary of Texas A&M University's Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center.

"This center is unique because of strong partnership between diverse industry and interdisciplinary scientists to improve health and well being of people," said Dr. Bhimu Patil, the center's director. "We are known for the interdisciplinary effort of scientists to develop healthy, flavorful and tasty vegetables and fruits such as peppers, the maroon carrot, mild 1015 onion, cantaloupes, peaches and plums that also have higher health promoting compounds.

He said the center's research provides cutting-edge information on the health benefits of fruits and vegetables, enabling healthy choices by consumers, accelerating research, and improving quality for producers. And he pointed to recent collaborative studies with University of Arizona that showed drinking carrot juice may prevent the recurrence of breast cancer.

"Our goal for the conference is to bring top-notch people from the food industry and medical research together so that consumers can hear different perspectives and there can be dialogue," Patil said.

The conference will be 8:20 a.m.-5 p.m. A banquet at 7 p.m. will celebrate the center's 20-year history. An open house of the research facility at 1500 Research Parkway will be 8:30-11:30 a.m. Feb. 26.

Online registration is available at

"Scientific Advances in Produce for Health" will be the morning topic, with a special address by Dr. David Katz, Yale Prevention Research Center director and ABC News medical consultant.

Dr. Rod Dashwood's talk, "Green with Envy," will address cancer prevention by chlorophyll-rich foods. Dashwood is director of the Center for Epigenetics and Disease Prevention at the Institute of Bioscience and Technology in Houston and recently affiliated with the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center.

Texas State Comptroller Susan Combs is the keynoter at the noon luncheon. Combs assisted the center's establishment when she was Texas agriculture commissioner.

The afternoon session will focus on "Improving our Health: How Research can Help Increase Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables." A panel of food industry representatives will give brief statements, which will provide fodder for round table discussions.

The panel will include Charles Arnot, CEO of Center for Food Integrity in Gladstone, Mo., who will talk about ethics, values and science; Elizabeth Pivonka, CEO of Produce for Better Health Foundation in Hockessin, Del., who will talk about gaps in research that need to be answered to increase fruit and vegetable consumption; and Anita Jones-Mueller, CEO of Healthy Dining Finder in San Diego, Calif., who will talk about the restaurant industry's health initiatives.

Also on the panel will be Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board in Irvine, Calif., who will talk about how growers of that commodity invested in nutrition research and marketing; and Linda Eatherton, director of global, food and nutrition practice for Ketchum, Inc. in Chicago, Ill., who will talk about consumers' growing desire for information about fruits and vegetables worldwide; and David M.Stark, global consumer benefit leader for Monsanto, who will discuss consumer perspectives.

For more information, contact the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center at or 979-862-4521.

Contact: Kathleen Phillips
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications

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