The recent listeria outbreak in contaminated cantaloupe underscores why we pushed the supply chain to support a united food safety strategy four years ago.
One of the results of that effort was the founding of the Center for Produce Safety at the University of California-Davis.
In responding to the 2006 E. coli infections from spinach, we realized there were many questions about produce safety and not enough science-based answers.
CPS was formed as an industry-driven enterprise to set supply chain research priorities, fund research projects as quickly as possible, and communicate best practices back to the industry.
The Center for Produce Safety has assembled a panel of experts from the produce industry, scientific community, regulatory agencies and activist groups to collaborate and determine research priorities.
Projects submitted in response to CPS’s annual request for proposals are evaluated to provide the produce industry with practical research data that can be used at all levels of the supply chain.
This effort has led to completed projects yielding 27 key learnings that fill knowledge gaps in specific areas of food safety practices for the industry to evaluate.
With CPS, the cantaloupe sector had a place to go for help in scrutinizing the collective state of knowledge about cantaloupe food safety.
They requested advice and direction from CPS in addressing:
- current cantaloupe food safety guidance and its use as a near-term training tool for growers in all production regions in the U.S. and abroad;
- updates to guidance to reflect current science and knowledge of preventive controls; and
- next-generation technologies and research priorities to reduce risks for contamination events.
Identified research priorities will be incorporated into the CPS 2012 request for research proposals.
We’ve seen remarkable progress with the $9 million invested in CPS research since 2008, but there are still many questions to be answered.
The CPS Advisory Board has a goal to add $8 million from the produce industry to its research coffers. An additional $8 million will be solicited from the CPS Partners in Research program and other sources.
Over the next four years, this investment will allow CPS to make available $16 million for targeted research, continued translation of research findings into immediate supply chain application, and expansion of its online global research database.
Since June we’ve raised more than $1 million from throughout the supply chain.
Our two companies on the buy side — Markon Cooperative and Wegmans — have stepped up, as has The Kroger Co.
On the supply side, Taylor Farms, Driscoll’s, Tanimura & Antle, Castellini Group of Cos., Fresh Innovations/J-V Farms, the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board and the California Melon Research Board have each committed six-figure contributions.
We are asking that the produce supply chain, whether grower, shipper, industry provider, or buyer, make a commitment to expanding our knowledge and the application of this knowledge into meaningful new practices. As we learned in the spinach crisis, and have been reminded recently, “We are all in this together.”
Together, let’s provide the resources necessary to create a safer fresh produce supply. Join us in supporting the Center for Produce Safety’s Campaign for Research.
Tim York, chief executive officer of Salinas, Calif.-based Markon Cooperative, is the founding CPS Advisory Board chairman, and Dave Corsi is the vice president of produce and floral operations for Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets. Both co-chaired a buyer coalition that worked with the supply side to build a new food safety system for the leafy green sector.
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