Center for Produce Safety funds 12 new research projects with $3.9 million


The Center for Produce Safety (CPS) ­has funded 12 new research projects, valued at just more than $3.9 million, to help answer some of the industry’s most urgent produce food safety questions.

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. A complete list is provided below, with links to project abstracts. From leafy greens to tree fruit to onions, the research has been vetted by industry experts on the CPS Technical Committee and is set to begin in January 2022.

“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 CEO of grower-shipper J.V. Smith Companies.

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

Joy Waite-Cusic, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Oregon State University, is leading one of two CPS-funded onion research projects. Waite-Cusic stated,

“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 U.S. outbreak investigation failed to identify the cause of Salmonella contamination,” Waite-Cusic said. “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.”

First-time CPS-funded scientist, Kansas State University Associate Professor Valentina Trinetta, Ph.D., shared, “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.”

All projects will begin in January 2022. Findings will be reported to the industry by researchers at CPS’s annual Research Symposium and via CPS through other knowledge transfer activities, including CPS’s website.

CPS research awards are made possible by funds 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.

2021 RFP Grant Recipients  (All projects will begin in January 2022)

Teresa Bergholz, Ph.D., Michigan State University
Quantifying risk associated with changes in EHEC physiology during post-harvest pre-processing stages of leafy green production

Kerry Cooper, Ph.D., The University of Arizona
Microbial characterization of irrigation waters using rapid, inexpensive and portable next generation sequencing technologies

Paul Dawson, Ph.D., Clemson University
Survival of Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella on surfaces found in the dry packinghouse environment and effectiveness of dry-cleaning processes on pathogen reduction

Vijay Joshi, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research
Strategic approaches to mitigate Salmonella contamination of bulb onions

Daniel Karp, Ph.D., University of California, Davis
Towards a holistic assessment of the food-safety risks imposed by wild birds

Nitin Nitin, Ph.D., University of California, Davis
Cross-contamination risks in dry environments

Xiangwu Nou, Ph.D., USDA-ARS, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center
Assessing Romaine lettuce “Forward Processing” for potential impacts on EHEC growth, antimicrobial susceptibility, and infectivity

Benjamin Rosenthal, S.D., USDA-ARS, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center
AFECCT: Assessing filtration efficacy for Cyclospora control

Abigail Snyder, Ph.D., Cornell University
Practical application of superheated steam to harvesting, processing, and produce packing tools and equipment

Lia Stanciu-Gregory, Ph.D., Purdue University
Cyclospora cayetanensis monitoring in agricultural water

Valentina Trinetta, Ph.D., Kansas State University
Validation study for the tree-fruit industry: effective strategies to sanitize harvest bins and picking bags

Joy Waite-Cusic, Ph.D., Oregon State University
Assessing the potential for production practices to impact dry bulb onion safety

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