Summary of Awards to Date

Improving the safety and post-harvest quality of field grown organic leafy greens: assessment of good agricultural/production practices along the farm to fork continuum.

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Date

Sep. 1, 2010 - Aug. 31, 2011

Award Number

ARZT-XXXXXX-G-02-534

Funding Agency

Center for Produce Safety

Amount Awarded

$950,514.00

Investigator

Sadhana Ravishankar, Ph.D.
University of Arizona

Co-Investigator(s)

Jaroni, D., Bright, K., Fonseca, J., Patel, J., Gerba, C., Friedman, M., and Nolte, K.

Summary

Consumers today are aware of the health benefits of consuming fresh produce. Many consumers prefer organic fresh produce over conventional due to the risks associated with the presence of pesticides or other chemical residues on conventionally grown fresh produce. Also, due to the foodborne illness outbreaks associated with fresh produce in recent years, safety of fresh produce has also become a cause for concern. In the proposed integrated project, scientists from the academia and the US Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with extension specialists, growers and processors will work collaboratively to assess the role of organic production practices in safety and quality of organic leafy greens. The mechanisms of attachment and possible internalization of microorganisms on organic leafy greens, and attachment on harvesting equipment will be investigated. Environmental factors and agricultural practices that can affect organic leafy greens safety and quality will be determined. Irrigation canal water and sediments will be tested for foodborne bacteria and viruses in summer and winter including rainy and non-rainy days. The effects of organic certified fertilizers such as compost teas on plant growth and on the microbiological safety of leafy green crops will be assessed. Post-harvest interventions (organic plant derived antimicrobials, organic sanitizers and plant antimicrobial incorporated fruit or vegetable based edible films) that can prevent spoilage and pathogenic microbial (bacteria and viruses) growth in organic leafy greens will be evaluated. Natural plant based antimicrobials and organic sanitizers will be applied as rinses, and antimicrobial edible films will be included in packaged leafy greens. The effects of recycling of antimicrobials and organic sanitizers on their efficacy will be studied. The most effective interventions will be validated on a semi commercial scale. Sensory analysis will be carried out on uninoculated antimicrobial treated leafy greens. An aggressive and extensive outreach program and a follow-up evaluation program for different sectors of the society including agricultural professionals, industry personnel and consumers will be developed and implemented. This program will be shared with other states throughout the nation.