As a University of California extension research specialist, Trevor Suslow said he sees his role as translating science into on-the-ground practices to enhance food safety. The research component comes into play as he conducts trials to prove or disprove common perceptions.
A plant pathologist by training, Suslow has provided input over the years on several high-profile food safety issues, including the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement and the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board.
He said he tries to take a big picture view when addressing food safety and often works with environmental groups.
“We like to try to make sure we don’t fight over environmental quality issues as it relates to overall farmscape management,” he said. “We try to integrate and bring all of those together for all of the different panels that look at commodity guidances. I also like to help influence and bring appropriate science to each of those efforts.”
Steve Patricio, president and chief executive officer of Firebaugh, Calif.-based Westside Produce, has worked with Suslow since the mid-1990s on food safety.
“There’s no greater benefit to the perishable industry than Trevor Suslow,” said Patricio, who also serves as chairman for the Davis, Calif.-based Center for Produce Safety advisory board. “He’s an accomplished scientist first and foremost. Before working for UC, he worked in the industry a number of years, and he understands what we do and what we go through. He brings reality to the concept.”
When told of being named to the Packer 25 list, Suslow said he was “very flattered and humbled.”
Although he’s based at UC Davis, Suslow offers his expertise to groups nationally.
“Certainly I’m based in California, but I don’t restrict it to that because of the way the whole supply chain works,” he said.
Suslow, 61, is active in several groups, sitting on the Center for Produce Safety’s advisory board; as a member of Western Growers’ science and technology working group; and as a steering committee member of the Produce Safety Alliance, a Cornell University-led effort that helps educate growers, particularly smaller-scale ones.