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Center for Produce Safety awards $3 million to 16 projects

The Center for Produce Safety at the University of California-Davis announced 16 new grant awards valued at $3 million.

The research awards are directed at answering critical questions in specific areas of food-safety practices for fruit, vegetable and tree nut production; pre-harvest, harvest and post-harvest handling; and co-management of food safety and the environment. The objective is to provide the produce industry with practical, translatable research data that can be used at all levels of the supply chain.

The broad range of the projects reflects the commitment of CPS’s Partners in Research, a cross section of public and private partners. Contributing partners for these projects are the California Department of Food & Agriculture, California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, California Melon Research Board, California Leafy Greens Research Program, Western Center for Food Safety, California Pistachio Research Board and the CPS Campaign for Research.

“We’re very encouraged and excited about this round of funded research projects,” Steve Patricio, chairman for the CPS board of directors, said in a Sept. 25 press release. “The research being conducted at CPS is relevant to all points of the supply chain — farmers, shippers, handlers and consumers. The goal for CPS, and our contributing Partners in Research, is to keep fresh produce safe for everyone. Each year submissions to the RFP grow. I encourage industry stakeholders to continue their support of the Center for Produce Safety research programs.”

The CPS Technical Committee, an advisory group that includes experts from industry, academia, government and non-governmental organizations, reviewed 55 proposals — the highest number of proposals received since the initial RFP in 2008.

In collaboration with technical experts from PIR organizations, the CPS Technical Committee recommended 16 proposals for funding. Research work on these projects will begin in January 2014. They are:

  • John Buchanan, University of Tennessee: Evaluation of multiple disinfection methods to mitigate the risk of produce contamination by irrigation water.
  • Kimberly Cook, Agricultural Research Service, USDA: Selection of E. coli surrogates with attachment and survival patterns similar to those of human pathogens associated with produce.
  • Faith Critzer, University of Tennessee: Transfer and survival of organisms to produce from surface irrigation water.
  • Kristen Gibson, University of Arkansas: Evaluation of pathogen survival in fresh water sediments and potential impact on irrigation water quality sampling programs.
  • Linda Harris, University of California-Davis: Assessing postharvest food-safety risks and identifying mitigation strategies for foodborne pathogens in pistachios.
  • Melissa Jones, University of Florida: Effect of physiochemical and biological parameters on survival, persistence and transmission of norovirus in water and on produce.
  • Kalmia Kniel, University of Delaware: Use of zero valent iron (ZVI) in irrigation of tomatoes with manure-contaminated water at varying E. coli levels.
  • Massimiliano Marvasi, University of Florida: Feasibility of using nitric oxide donors to disperse biofilms of industrial significance to strengthen the efficacy of current industrial disinfectants.
  • Channah Rock, University of Arizona: Evaluation of risk-based water quality sampling strategies for the fresh produce industry.
  • Trevor Suslow, University of California-Davis: Remediation and recovery measures to expedite planting or replanting of vegetables following soil contamination by Salmonella enterica.
  • Siddhartha Thakur, North Carolina State University: Food-safety risks at the fresh produce-animal interface: identifying pathogen sources and their movement on diversified farms.
  • George Vellidis, University of Georgia: Does Salmonella move through the irrigation systems of mixed produce farms of the Southeastern United States?
  • George Vellidis, University of Georgia: Does splash from overhead sprinkler irrigation systems contaminate produce with Salmonella in the Southeastern United States?
  • Joy Waite-Cusic, Oregon State University: Survival of generic E. coli and Salmonella during the growth, curing, and storage of dry bulb onions produced with contaminated irrigation water.
  • Martin Wiedmann, Cornell University: Validation of geospatial algorithms to predict the prevalence and persistence of pathogens in produce fields to improve GAPs.
  • Changqing Wu, University of Delaware: Enhancement of forced-air cooling to reduce Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella and/or total surface microbiota on cantaloupes.

George Vellidis of the University of Georgia understands first-hand how collaborating with industry fills produce safety knowledge gaps.

“Our ongoing work has shown that Salmonella is occasionally present in small numbers in ponds used for irrigation,” he said. “The new project’s goal is to understand if Salmonella moves through irrigation systems and onto crops. We expect that knowledge resulting from this project will allow vegetable producers to deliver a safer product to the American consumer.”