January 13, 2022

California citrus industry to support Center for Produce Safety research

The California citrus industry is answering the call to strengthen fresh produce food-safety research.

Citrus producers from across the Golden State are making a collective $500,000 contribution to Center for Produce Safety’s research capital campaign to fund produce-specific food safety research. Their funds will support CPS’s work to identify industry’s top produce safety questions, call on researchers to answer them, then transfer learnings to industry, government, public health and other stakeholders.

When asked what motivated Sunkist to support Center for Produce Safety, President and CEO Jim Phillips pointed to his company’s history of leadership.

“As the longest-standing agricultural cooperative in the nation, it’s important to us that we are always delivering a safe product to consumers,” Phillips said. “Sunkist is doing our part to represent California citrus at the highest level, by supporting critical food safety research.”

Wonderful Citrus President Zak Laffite noted the citrus industry’s commitment to consumer health and well-being motivated the industry’s repeat contribution to CPS.

“Our company promise is simple: To provide the safest, freshest-quality citrus, today and tomorrow. Ensuring that we lead on food safety practices is one way we make food safety paramount,” said Laffite. “Similarly, as an industry, investing in Center for Produce Safety is an industry-wide food safety best practice.”

Since its founding in 2007, Center for Produce Safety has invested $22 million to date in 187 produce-centric food safety research projects at 44 research institutions in the United States and four other countries. Most projects are completed in one to two years; learnings are posted on CPS’s website for all to access. CPS’s current research priorities include evaluating agricultural water treatments, mitigating and preventing listeria, cleaning and sanitizing facilities, organic produce safety and more.

CPS spreads its research learnings through a range of tools, including an online research database, emails and webinars, columns in trade media outlets, social media and an annual Research Symposium — held virtually via webinars in 2020 and 2021.

Sun Pacific Shippers President Al Bates stressed the importance of supporting the science of food safety, and approaching it from a practical, industry-centric standpoint. For example, he noted that CPS’s work has positively informed fresh produce buyers’ food safety audits.

“Food safety is a fundamental part of our business, Sun Pacific has incorporated it into all farming, harvesting and packing operations,” Bates said. “Center for Produce Safety has been instrumental in researching and communicating various issues to the food safety auditing community, that has allowed produce operations like ours to continue to operate efficiently and effectively while also complying with current food safety guidelines.”

Center for Produce Safety launched its latest research fundraising campaign publicly in January 2021, after a quiet phase in 2020.

Bates called on leaders across the fresh produce supply chain to also contribute to CPS’s research capital campaign.

“I encourage all suppliers, industry groups and retailers to support CPS so the produce community can strive to deliver the safest food supply in the world to our consumers,” Bates said.

A current list of contributors can be viewed at www.centerforproducesafety.org/2020-campaign.php.

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