December 18, 2019

Produce Marketing Association names Max Teplitski chief science officer

The Produce Marketing Association has announced the addition of Max Teplitski as chief science officer.

Max Teplitski is the new chief science officer at PMA.

Teplitski will lead PMA’s science, technology, supply chain and sustainability efforts starting in January 2020.

He brings a wealth of experience in leading national food safety and nutrition programs, building and sustaining private-public partnerships and globally recognized accomplishments in science and scientific policy bolstered by a rich research background in microbiology, biotechnology and sustainability of agricultural production.

Prior to joining PMA, Teplitski served as the acting director for the divisions of food safety and nutrition at the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). He oversaw NIFA’s investment portfolio into research programs in food safety, human nutrition and health, novel foods and manufacturing technologies, as well as programs that incentivize purchase of fruits and vegetables among low-income consumers, increase self-reliance of communities in providing for their food needs, promote access to local food and deliver customized FSMA training.

“I am proud to welcome Dr. Teplitski to the PMA family and community as our next chief science officer. Max comes to us as an accomplished scientist with a long history of produce safety experience from his days as a leading researcher at the University of Florida and most recently as a USDA NIFA program leader,” said PMA CEO Cathy Burns. “Max has a demonstrated understanding of the microbiological and environmental challenges facing growers today and a view on emerging technologies that are changing the face of produce safety. He is also a staunch advocate of science and risk-based produce safety approaches, which has been a cornerstone of PMA’s produce safety offerings for the past 11 years under Dr. Bob Whitaker’s leadership.”

For over a decade as a faculty member at the University of Florida, Teplitski led a research program focused on food safety, public and environmental health, and agricultural crop production, and has contributed to industry research through the Center for Produce Safety (CPS).

“Max was the principal investigator on three research projects funded through our competitive awards process,” said Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, executive director of CPS. “He is an excellent scientist and has a keen interest in understanding the needs of the produce industry.

“The industry has gained an incredible asset as he takes on this new role.”

Well-respected in academia, the public policy arena and the produce industry, Teplitski is regarded by other industry experts for his forward-thinking and problem solving. “When insurmountable problems arise, I recommend folks go to talk to Max about possible solutions,” said Martha Rhodes Roberts, former Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture in Florida and consultant to produce associations. “When faced with mounting foodborne outbreaks, Dr. Teplitski targeted his research to find solutions and found genetic markers for pathogen resistance. He is one of the most future thinking, discerning individuals I know.”

Teplitski’s expertise and experience go far beyond food safety. Early in his career, he became interested in the interactions between plants and bacteria, especially in understanding how these interactions impact nutritional quality, sustainability of agricultural production and environmental health. During his time at Florida, he lived and worked on his own small farm, cultivating an impressive collection of fruits and vegetables from around the world. Produce and floral are not just his job, but a passion that drives him to find the solutions that solve a multitude of challenges for growing, consuming and enjoying produce and floral.

“PMA has been a pioneer of translating scientific discoveries that benefit our industry in everything from food safety to traceability,” said Teplitski. “I look forward to building on the work that Dr. Bob Whitaker has done to lead with the science. I will aim for a two-prong approach: to continue the work to solve the biggest challenges facing our industry today, and to anticipate and strategically capitalize on opportunities that will unlock the hidden potential in produce and floral.”

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