September/October 2022

We do more together than we ever could apart
By Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, executive director, Center for Produce Safety

If you’ve been involved with the Center for Produce Safety, you know that our personality is to be humble.

After all, our mission to enhance fresh produce safety will likely never be 100% completed — there will always be a new challenge — and we rely on a legion of volunteers to do our work.

That said, it is important to acknowledge the CPS effort and to share our new 2021 annual report.

Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli

This report features a range of voices, illustrating how CPS’s unique community helps achieve our mission to fund science, find solutions and fuel change. Together, these voices convey two clear messages: One, when diverse minds meet, produce safety benefits and; two, we do more together than we ever could apart.

Those interviewed in the report include two producers, a retail leader, California’s secretary of food and agriculture and the head of Canada’s Food Safety and Consumer Protection Directorate. Each reinforced the value of CPS’s diverse community.

  • Varied CPS voices ensure outputs. Bonduelle Fresh America’s Tony Banegas cites numerous examples of the value that CPS’s diverse volunteer Technical Committee members bring to their mission to guide the center’s research program, and funded researchers. The conclusion: Can “industry, academia, government, public health and other stakeholder volunteers come together to enhance fresh produce food safety? Time shows the answer is ‘yes.’”
  • The resulting science works in the real world. Church Brothers Farms’ Susanne Klose, Ph.D., urges her industry counterparts not to be intimidated by CPS research. She walks through how, after frog intrusion into lettuce fields of her then-employer triggered losses, she used CPS research to mitigate future risk across their ranches. “This wealth of expertise results in … solutions that work for our industry,” said Klose.
  • When industry and regulators in particular work together, produce safety benefits. Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Tammy Switucha highlights how CPS provides a “safe space for industry stakeholders and regulators to discuss” fresh produce safety. Those two-way conversations help to ensure that “everyone (is) part of the solution,” she noted.
  • Our produce safety needs will only increase. California produces more than 400 fresh produce commodities. So, Karen Ross, secretary of California’s Department of Food and Agriculture, understands “the (fresh produce food safety landscape is constantly evolving,” she said. Ross has leveraged the federal Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, providing $21.2 million from 2009-2021 in matching grants to fund CPS research.
  • CPS is cultivating our next generation of science talent. Retailer H-E-B’s Tammi Frederick reports on CPS’s Professional Development Program to cultivate science students working with CPS-funded researchers. CPS rounds out these students’ science training with leadership and communication skills, as well as business etiquette. The program prepares these scientists for careers “from the laboratory to the produce department and the supply chain links and stakeholders in between.”

If you’re into numbers, the new CPS annual report has those, too:

  • Funding diverse science. In 2021, CPS launched 14 new research projects to answer industry’s burning produce safety questions. Meanwhile 13 projects were completed, adding to our knowledge on critical produce food safety topics including treating ag water, controlling listeria and other pathogens, and harnessing new technologies.
  • Finding diverse solutions. To date, CPS’s annual research program has invested $40.6 million in 212 projects conducted by 115 principal investigators at 48 research institutions across five countries.
  • Fueling diverse change. Holding CPS’s annual Research Symposium virtually in 2021 allowed a record audience of more than 1,500 persons to participate.
  • Good financial stewards. CPS’s 2021 financials show that 89% of CPS expenses go to research knowledge transfer; operations account for only 9% of CPS expenses.

CPS has a proud history of being anti-status quo, demonstrated at both a macro level in how we’ve continuously improved how we identify our research priorities and at a process level.

View the 2021 annual report at www.CenterforProduceSafety.org/cps_annual_report.php. To join the list of industry leaders that fund our critical work, email [email protected]

Top image: Kevin Mis Solval, Ph.D.’s project demonstrated that infrared camera-enabled smartphones can easily and accurately collect temperatures on fresh produce.


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