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Symposium Presents Real World Implications of Food Safety Research

May 18, 2010
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The produce industry will learn the practical, real-world applications of the latest produce-specific food safety research when the Center for Produce Safety’s (CPS) first-ever Produce Research Symposium gets underway Wednesday, June 23. This unique research event will present results of 11 CPS-funded research projects, along with an interactive discus-sion of the research’s real-world opportunities by leaders in produce, academia and government.

“This event will not only recap what the researchers found but also discuss what it means to the guy in the field and lead to discussion on what we might do about it,” explained Dr. Bob Whitaker, chief science and technology officer for Produce Marketing Association, and the symposium’s research presenta-tions moderator. “The sessions of this symposium are designed for people who work in the produce industry to talk about the science behind food safety and translate that to help manage potential risks.”

The symposium’s focus on immediate applicability of this research is woven throughout the day’s three sessions, each including a discussion panel made up of industry, academia and government. “We’ve already received very posi-tive feedback regarding the surprising combination of panelists who will bring a field-level perspective to the research,” said CPS Executive Director Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli. “The objective is for attendees to walk away with better information and understanding on how to manage their food safety programs.”

The survivability of E. coli bacteria in actual field conditions is the focus of the first research presentation session, as results of the first actual field trials are presented. During the panel discussion, representatives from FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), Chiquita Brands International, Ocean Mist Farms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and JV Farms will talk about the applicability of the findings to commercial operations.

Development of better testing methods for pathogens in produce will be the focus of discussion during the second session. Panelists from USDA’s Agricul-tural Research Service, Taylor Farms, Westside Produce, the University of Florida, Primus Labs (invited) and FDA’s CFSAN will deliberate about the next gen-eration of testing for pathogens. “One of the issues our industry has been grappling with is how to test for pathogens in a way that is timely and effective given the perishability of our products,” said Whitaker. “This session will give us a glimpse of what the future may hold.”

The third session looks at possible vehicles that might transfer pathogens, and includes research on the role of risks associated with fly reservoirs, grazing livestock, and harvesting practices. Industry leaders from the Western Insti-tute for Food Safety and Security at UC Davis, Western Growers Association, Darden, Wegmans and FDA’s Pacific Region will further discussion on under-standing how the research helps identify what risks these vehicles may or may not pose in cross contamination.

Wrapping up the day will be a discussion panel among food Industry and gov-ernment representatives, moderated by PMA President & CEO Bryan Silber-mann. Michael Taylor from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (invited), consumer affairs specialist Mary Ellen Burris of Wegmans and Alec Leach of Taylor Farms will delve into the application of the presented research and how it may affect the future of food safety.

The CPS symposium will be held at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of the University of California, Davis. The registration fee is $125 through May 28, and $150 between May 29 and the end of pre-registration on June 11. Registration covers all symposium sessions, breakfast, lunch and an evening reception. For more details, to sign up for Produce Re-search Symposium updates via e-mail or to register to attend, visit the CPS Web site or contact the CPS office at (530) 757-5777.

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