The Grower Shipper Association of Central California staff joined farmers, farming companies, scientists, trade organization representatives and public health officials at the annual Center for Produce Safety (CPS) Research Symposium in Austin, Texas last week. Key themes included discussions about the importance of traceability system improvements throughout the supply chain and methods for incorporating continuing research findings into daily decision making to facilitate continuous food safety improvements.
CPS is a non-profit foundation focused exclusively on providing the produce industry and government with open access to science-based information needed to continually enhance produce safety throughout the supply chain. The annual research symposium is an opportunity for the produce industry and health officials to jointly learn about new scientific advancements into food safety as well as discuss and evaluate future research needs.
Specific to traceability, there were significant discussions about technology adoption to facilitate farm to fork traceback and trace forward as well as the need for a cooperative approach throughout the supply chain. Traceability improvements are not only important to protect public health but also to avoid commodity-wide government advisories.
The symposium’s main focus is the opportunity for scientists who conducted studies and research to present their findings and recommendations for actionable implementation to improve food safety. Scientists presented their research findings on surface water treatment and sanitation, the effects of weather on bacterial survival, pre-harvest testing and assessments, wildlife intrusion, livestock proximity to produce farms, processing sanitation measures, storage temperature and more. These studies were conducted on multiple commodities and will have wide-ranging positive effects on advancing food safety practices and systems.
While some of research presented might result in immediately actionable adoption of improved food safety practices or the opportunity to trial some of the research in a commercial setting, other projects clearly show the need for more studies. This is why the Federal Food and Drug Administration Commissioner recently referred to food safety as a “never ending race.” And why a commitment to continuous improvement is necessary for everyone involved in food safety – from farmers to processors to grocery stores and restaurants.
After the romaine outbreaks in 2018, industry came together to improve food safety in leafy greens and the regulatory systems in place to protect consumers. During the symposium there was strong and consistent agreement that we must always strive to learn more and do more every day. The research and studies funded by CPS provide the vital science and information needed to advance continuous improvements today and keeps us “racing” and moving forward tomorrow.
For more information about CPS, study results and the scientists involved, visit www.centerforproducesafety.org.