( Courtesy PMA )

Max Teplitski, whose most recent position was in food safety and nutrition at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, is the Produce Marketing Association’s chief science officer.

Teplitski joins PMA in January, succeeding Bob Whitaker, chief science and technology officer, who is retiring the same month.

As the acting director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s NIFA food safety and nutrition divisions, he oversaw its investment portfolio into research programs in food safety, nutrition and health and programs that “incentivize purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables among low-income consumers, according to a PMA news release.

Teplitski was at the University of Florida for 12 years, as assistant professor, associate professor and then full professor, and also studied human pathogens and food safety. He has contributed research through the Center for Produce Safety, according to the release.

“Max comes to us as an accomplished scientist with a long history of produce safety experience from his days as a leading researcher at the University of Florida and most recently as a USDA NIFA program leader,” PMA CEO Cathy Burns said in the release. “Max has a demonstrated understanding of the microbiological and environmental challenges facing growers today and a view on emerging technologies that are changing the face of produce safety.

“He is also a staunch advocate of science and risk-based produce safety approaches, which has been a cornerstone of PMA’s produce safety offerings for the past 11 years under Dr. Bob Whitaker’s leadership,” Burns said in the release.

His University of Florida work included food safety, pubic and environmental health and crop production. 

“Max was the principal investigator on three research projects funded through our competitive awards process,” Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, executive director of the Center for Produce Safety. “He is an excellent scientist and has a keen interest in understanding the needs of the produce industry. The industry has gained an incredible asset as he takes on this new role.” 

He is regarded for forward thinking and problem solving, according to the release.

“When faced with mounting foodborne outbreaks, Dr. Teplitski targeted his research to find solutions and found genetic markers for pathogen resistance,” Martha Rhodes Roberts, former assistant commissioner of agriculture in Florida. “He is one of the most future thinking, discerning individuals I know.”

Related stories:

Bob Whitaker's lasting legacy

Bob Whitaker challenges industry to heed research, improve food safety


PMA’s Bob Whitaker plans January retirement