Summary of Awards to Date

Assessing food safety and persistence of enteric pathogens on fresh produce ingredients destined for uncooked sauces/salsa.

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Date

Sep. 1, 2010 - Aug. 31, 2013

Award Number

FLA-FYC-005027

Funding Agency

Center for Produce Safety

Amount Awarded

$600,000.00

Investigator

Amy Simonne, Ph.D.
University of Florida

Co-Investigator(s)

DiehL, D., and Huang, T.

Summary

Foodborne illness outbreaks associated with raw produce have a significant impact on public health in the U.S. Leafy greens, tomatoes, cantaloupe, herbs (basil, parsley, and cilantro), and green onions have been responsible for as much as 75 percent of produce-related outbreaks in the U.S. in recent years. Herbs such as basil, parsley, cilantro and green onions are used as ingredients in uncooked sauces and salsa in a variety of cuisines. This multi-state, multi-disciplinary and multi-functional project proposes to investigate the food safety risks of raw fresh herbs and fresh produce items commonly used in uncooked/unprocessed sauces and salsa. The project will specifically aim to: 1) use focus group research to find out what fresh produce managers and specialty/ethnic restaurant owners/managers need to know about fresh herb ingredients (such as cilantro and hot peppers) that will be used in uncooked or unprocessed sauces or condiments; 2) find out how common pathogenic microorganisms (disease-causing germs) are in fresh ingredients such as peppers and cilantro purchased from different sources (for instance, farmers' markets, supermarkets, and produce stands); 3) determine the fates of selected enteric pathogens (gastrointestinal organisms that can cause diarrheal diseases) on produce items and fresh sauces containing the selected produce items; 4) develop educational programs and materials teaching fresh produce retailers, restaurant managers, and consumers how to handle produce safely; and 5) evaluate the effectiveness of these educational materials, including knowledge gained and behaviors and practices changed as a result of the project.