U.S – The Center for Produce Safety (CPS), a food safety research institute, has provided funding for 12 new research projects collectively valued at just over US$3.9 million to help answer some of the industry’s most pressing food safety questions.

Among the topics included in the 12 projects are risk evaluation and mitigation of Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella, Cyclospora control, and sanitation for harvesting bins and picking bags. Ranging from commodities such as leafy greens to tree fruit to onions, the research has been vetted by industry experts on the CPS Technical Committee and is ready to begin this January.

An Associate Professor at Oregon State University (OSU), Joy Waite-Cusic, Ph.D., is leading one of two CPS-funded onion research projects. Dry bulb onions have generally been considered a low-risk crop, but then the 2020 outbreak happened in the United States and, more recently, an outbreak associated with onions from Mexico.

“The United States outbreak investigation failed to identify the cause of Salmonella contamination. Our CPS project is designed to evaluate how specific industry practices, including water and clay applications, may contribute to widespread contamination and that could result in an outbreak,” Waite-Cusic stated.

Each of the projects’ findings will be reported to the industry by researchers at CPS’s annual Research Symposium and via CPS through other platforms, including the organization’s website.

“Our research aims to develop science-based recommendations that will help improve cleaning and sanitation practices for harvesting operations while managing food safety risks tied to the sanitation of picking bags and harvesting bins for the tree fruit industry. Our team is excited to get started!” first-time CPS-funded scientist and Kansas State University Associate Professor Valentina Trinetta, Ph.D., shared.

The funds for the CPS research awards are provided by the Center for Produce Safety’s Campaign Contributors, the Specialty Crop Block Grant programs in California Department of Food and Agriculture, Washington State Department of Agriculture, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and Texas Department of Agriculture.

“CPS thanks our Campaign contributors and the Specialty Crop Block Grant Programs in California, Florida, Texas, and Washington for their commitment to food safety,” said Vic Smith, Chair of CPS’s volunteer Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer of grower-shipper JV Smith Companies.

He expressed that CPS succeeds because of their very unique community—the contributors funding their work, the researchers answering their questions, the Technical Committee guiding them, and the Board of Directors that keeps them all focused on the mission: Fund the Science, Find Solutions, and Fuel the Change.

Some of the principal investigator institutions include Oregon State University, University of California; Davis, Purdue University, University of Arizona, Cornell University, Michigan State University, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Clemson University, Kansas State University and the United States Department of Agriculture.

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