By Vicky Boyd

The Davis, Calif.-based Center for Produce Safety has awarded $2.8 million in resarch funds, the largest amount ever for the 2 1/2-year-old entity.

Center executive director Bonnie Fernandez-Fenardi made the announcement at the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association's annual meeting in Naples, Fla.

The funds will cover 17 research products conducted in nine states and two countries.

Included in those are three where the primary investigator is with the University of Florida.

Up through today, the center had provided $6.8 million to fund 41 projects.

The center was started after the nationwide recall of E. coli-tainted spinach in 2008.

Taylor Farms; the University of California, Davis; the Callifornia Department of Food and Agriculture and the Produce Marketing Association provided the initial $2 million in seed money.

With that money in hand, Fernandez-Fenardi says the center is able to approach public entities for cost-share funding.

"It gives us the ability to go to these public entities and sa we have produce dollars to put up," she says. "Because of that $2 million, we've ben able to bring another $4.8 million to the table."

The research projects are typically one to two years in length.

They also need to be subjects that the industry has identified as important.

In addition, the results need to be ready-to-use, Fernandez-Fenardi says.

The projects tend to be commodity-specific and regional.

A board of directors, comprising agricutlural representatives,university representatives and government, guide the center's direction and review the proposals.

To view the list of proposals that were funded, visit the center.