The Center for Produce Safety is funding 14 grants worth $2.8 million for research on water treatment, pathogen testing and prevention plus a range of approaches — even falconry — to possible food safety enhancements.

The research awards aim to answer specific, practical food safety questions for fruit, vegetable and tree nut production; pre-harvest, harvest and post-harvest handling; and safety and environmental management.

The grants bring Davis, Calif.-based Center for Produce Safety’s total funding to $16.4 million for 100 projects. Among the crops targeted in the latest round were pistachios, leafy greens and mangoes. The National Mango Board, one of the center’s new industry partners, contributed to a study on salmonella in packhouse water tank operations.

Projects funded range from one to two years. The falconry project will weigh the value of the raptor in deterring unwanted birds in leafy green fields.

The new grants and their lead researchers include:


  • $334,252, “Evaluation of an alternative irrigation water quality indicator,” Trevor Suslow, UC-Davis;
  • $325,951, “Rapid tests to specifically differentiate clinically significant from environmental STEC towards reducing unnecessary crop destruction,” Trevor Suslow, UC-Davis;
  • $298,462, “Improved sampling and analytical methods for testing agricultural water for pathogens, surrogates and source tracking indicators,” Vincent Hill, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
  • $279,859, “Improving pasteurization validation methods for pistachio processing,” Bradley Marks, Michigan State University;
  • $270,624, “Rapid bacterial testing for on-farm sampling,” Sam Nugen, University of Massachusetts;
  • $260,675, “Demonstration of practical, effective and environmentally sustainable agricultural water treatments to achieve compliance with microbiological criteria,” Ana Allende, Spanish National Research Council;
  • $219,879, “Enteric viruses as new indicators of human and cattle fecal contamination of irrigation waters,” Kelly Bright, University of Arizona;
  • $197,429, “Contamination of leafy green crops with foodborne pathogens: Are wildlife a problem?” Alan Franklin, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services;
  • $161,947, “Validation of chlorine level in sanitization system to avoid cross-contamination,” Qin Wang, University of Maryland;
  • $152,344, “Investigation of risk criteria and foodborne pathogen reduction practices for irrigation water,” Steven Rideout, Virginia Tech;
  • $142,166, “Impact of wash water disinfectants on Salmonella enterica transfer and survival in mango packing facility water tank operations,” Mary Anne Amalaradjou, University of Connecticut;
  • $117,202, “Optimal strategies for monitoring irrigation water quality and the development of guidelines for the irrigation of food crops,” Marc Verhougstraete, University of Arizona;
  • $49,336, “Evaluation of falconry as an economically viable co-management strategy to deter nuisance birds in leafy green fields,” Michele Jay-Russell, University of California, Davis; and
  • $40,025, “Towards preventing internalization and persistence of human bacterial pathogens in fresh produce,” Maeli Melotto, University of California, Davis.


Contributing partners for the projects are the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Washington State Department of Agriculture, California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, California Leafy Greens Research Program, California Melon Research Board, California Pistachio Research Program, National Mango Board, Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission and the CPS Campaign for Research.

The center’s technical committee reviewed 48 proposals this year.

“CPS, its technical committee and partners in research have yet again demonstrated tremendous leadership and truly moved the ball forward on produce food safety,” Jim Gorney, vice president of food safety and technology for the Produce Marketing Association, said in a news release. “It has selected and funded an outstanding slate of produce safety research that will be impactful and valuable for the entire produce supply chain.”

Gorney also chairs the technical committee.

“The research being conducted at CPS is relevant to all points of the supply chain: farmers, shippers, handlers and consumers,” Stephen Patricio, the center’s board chairman, said in the release.