November 18, 2021

PMA’s Max Teplitski to lead USDA’s advisory committee on cyclospora

The USDA recently announced membership changes to National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods that would focus on strengthening the nation’s food systems through improved production and processing.

Max Teplitski, PMA Chief Science Officer, PMA

The National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) oversees food safety efforts at five federal agencies, including USDA and FDA. Max Teplitski, chief science officer at Produce Marketing Association (PMA), will be on of 13 new members appointed to the group, and during the public meeting on Nov. 17 it was announced that Teplitski will chair the group’s sub-committee on Cyclospora, along with the co-chair, Peggy Cook of Neogen Corporation.

The sub-committee will bring together industry representatives including De Ann Davis of Western Growers, academics and members from regulatory partners including the Food and Drug Association (FDA) and the Department of Defense (DoD).

“I’m honored to be chosen not only to serve on NACMCF but provide leadership to the sub-committee specifically focused on developing a road map for understanding and dealing with Cyclospora which is a pathogen of growing concern to our industry and consumers,” said Teplitski. “This federal-private collaboration is essential to not only developing a deep and comprehensive understanding of pathogens like Cyclospora but also to establish realistic and effective practices for produce safety.”

Cyclospora has been identified as a pathogen of growing concern and little is understood about the persistence of the pathogen in the crop production environment.  The charge to the Cyclospora sub-committee is to understand the lifecycle of the pathogen, mine all available data and come up with recommendations that food safety agencies can use to develop policies that are built on solid science.  At the end of the year, the committee will submit a comprehensive report to the FDA that will be available to the general public. The report will be shared during a briefing held at the end of the year but there will be periodic public meetings providing updates throughout 2022.

“Max’s extensive background in both microbiology and crop production prepares him to lead the committee as they develop a better understanding of cyclospora and how it contaminates crops,” said PMA CEO Cathy Burns. “But his experience and knowledge of federal programs, policies and procedures positions him to be an exceptional leader of this sub-committee.  He will be a great advocate for the industry and a strong leader in the development of recommendations that follow the science.”

Teplitski is no stranger to building private-public partnerships to address issues around microbiology, and safety in agricultural production.  Prior to joining PMA, he served as the acting director for the divisions of food safety microbiology and nutrition at the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and oversaw a program on plant breeding for food safety.  Before that, he was a professor at the University of Florida where his research focused on the survival of human pathogens in the environment and the interactions of human pathogens and vegetable crops. He also served as the Fulbright specialist in agriculture in Ecuador and as a Burch Fellow in theoretical medicine at the Smithsonian Institution.

Max Teplitski will continue his role as chief science officer in the International Fresh Produce Association when it launches in January 2022.

PMA is the leading trade association representing companies from every segment of the global produce and floral supply chain. PMA helps members grow by providing connections that expand business opportunities and increase sales and consumption.

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