Turning food safety knowledge into action - The Packer

Turning food safety knowledge into action

07/13/2012 08:52:00 AM
Bob Whitaker

Bob Whitaker, Produce Marketing AssociationEffective implementation and regulation of food safety programs must be founded in science-based research.

Turning that knowledge into action is what the Center for Produce Safety in Davis, Calif., is all about.

A record 325 people recently gathered at CPS for the third annual Produce Research Symposium.

This wasn’t a scientific meeting — instead, researchers behind 16 recent CPS-funded studies each had 10 minutes to present findings.

After each presentation, panel discussions among a mix of academics, government officials and industry members from across the supply chain translated the results and how to move forward.

As Mary Ellen Burris, senior vice president of consumer affairs for Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., said, “CPS is like speed dating for food safety. It streamlines the research needed for finding root causes or better metrics for issues in produce food safety and leads to action taken on the research.”

In the short time since its inception in 2007, CPS has committed more than $10.6 million to fund 69 projects at 26 institutions in 17 states and three countries.

Because food safety is a top priority for Produce Marketing Association members, PMA’s contributions alone to CPS total more than $3 million since its creation. PMA also dedicates half of my time to CPS as chairman of its technical committee, which directs all CPS research activities.

At the most recent symposium we presented research findings in four areas:


  • good agricultural practices buffer zones and animal vectors;
  • GAP irrigation water quality;
  • GAP inputs, cultivation and harvest; and
  • wash water and process control.


Finding solutions to food safety challenges demands a supply chainwide discussion based on an informed understanding of not only the food safety practices for where you’re at in the supply chain, but also those practices that come before and after you.

As the recent symposium again demonstrated, all stakeholders working together to identify research needs, conduct research and translate those findings into implementable solutions makes huge gains in produce safety.

One of the exciting things I see growing each year at this symposium is the outreach between industry and the research community. Links are increasingly created among scientists, harvesters, growers, processors, shippers and the whole supply chain.

Growers from the Central Valley or Massachusetts, for example, get talking with leading research authorities about their situation. Next thing you know, there’s an exchange of information or an agreement to work together — it’s produce safety in action.

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