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Industry Steps Up to the Plate with Aggressive Food Safety Initiative

The Tomato Magazine
August 2007

The new Center for Produce Safety at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) is off and running. Nearly 40 produce industry leaders, association representatives, government regulators, academics and public/private partners met June 12 on campus to help define the vision and initial key projects for an international food safety initiative.

“The Center for Produce Safety is a public-private partnership we are creating as a collaborative effort of industry, government, academia and consumer groups,” noted Bryan Silbermann, president of the Produce Marketing Association (PMA). “Its purpose,” he explained, “is to enhance the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables through research, information exchange and training worldwide.”

The initial meeting was called to help identify and defi ne strategy and organizational principles for the new center, Silbermann said. As a result of the meeting, an aggressive agenda and timeline have been established. An advisory board is to be organized by July 30 and an executive director picked within 90 days. Later this year a symposium will be held to provide the industry with a platform to share the latest information on solutions-based research already underway for leafy greens.

Allocation of the Center’s research investments and oversight of active research projects will be led by a governing body consisting of leaders from industry, associations, government and academia.
The Center will fund new studies and ongoing training and will serve as a clearinghouse for research conducted worldwide. “The University of California, Davis applauds this collaborative initiative to further understand virulent pathogens. We are excited that the Center has chosen to work closely with UC Davis,” said Neal Van Alfen, Ph.D., dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis. “This partnership will leverage our combined strengths of industry resolve, scientific research and agricultural expertise to ensure a safe and secure food supply.”

The creation of the Center for Produce Safety is the result of an industry-wide response to recent E. coli outbreaks. In the fall of 2006, PMA, other industry associations and government agencies
focused on investigating the cause of the outbreaks and expediting efforts to protect against the risks of future outbreaks. Earlier, in April, representatives from the country’s leading produce trade associations and California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura announced plans to create the Center. Initial funding has come from public and private money. Pledges received to date include: PMA, $2 million; Taylor Farms of California, $2 million cash and an additional $1 million of research already planned by the company; and the state of California, $500,000. In addition, Western Growers Association will work with the Center in developing training programs.

“Ongoing success will depend upon industry associations and businesses coming forward and committing the fi nancial resources necessary to ensure relevant research is conducted, interpreted and
communicated to the industry at large,” said Alec Leach, president of Taylor Farms California Inc. “Ensuring food safety is the business of us all.”

Among the objectives the Center hopes to fill are: (1) Serve as a clearinghouse for all available research related to produce safety. This initiative is the fi rst in the industry designed to capture all
existing scientifi c data on food safety in one central repository; (2) Fund new scientifi c studies focused on developing solutions that mitigate risks associated with the nation’s produce supply; and (3)
Invest in science-based training and outreach programs. The field-level training will augment programs already in place and will include the latest scientifi c information and recognized good agricultural practices. The Center will be housed at UC Davis’ Western Institute for Food Safety and Security (WIFSS).

For more information on the new food safety initiative, visit: www.pma.com.

© 2007 Columbia Publishing

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