UC Davis News Service
April 6, 2007
When Jerry Gillespie, founding director of the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security at the University of California, Davis, retires July 1, leadership of the five-year-old institute will pass to interim director Rob Atwill, a Cooperative Extension veterinarian whose research focuses on waterborne infectious diseases.
A veterinary pathologist, Gillespie has guided development of the institute's research and education program, drawing together scientific expertise from government, industry and academia to address critical issues related to the nation's food supply.
Atwill, until recently, has been working at UC Davis' Veterinary Medical Teaching and Research Center in Tulare. A member of the faculty since 1994, he currently is the lead epidemiologist researching the medical ecology and environmental spread of E. coli O157:H7 in the Salinas area.
In other leadership areas at the institute, Linda Harris and Michael Payne are guiding efforts in research and outreach, respectively.
Harris, a Cooperative Extension food microbiologist in the Department of Food Science and Technology, serves as the institute's associate director for research. An internationally recognized leader in the area of microbial food safety, Harris' research focuses on the microbiology of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as tree nuts.
She is in charge of the competitive grants program at the institute and directs its research laboratory and program.
Payne is the institute's outreach coordinator. A veterinarian, he has provided leadership for the California Dairy Research Foundation, the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Database, and special projects for the California Department of Food and Agriculture. He has led various outreach programs for animal welfare, food safety and environmental issues related to the dairy industry.
Through the institute, established in 2002, UC Davis' School of Veterinary Medicine, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and School of Medicine work in partnership with California's Department of Food and Agriculture and Department of Health Services, as well as with federal regulatory agencies and various industries to address safety issues, with the goal of reducing food-borne illnesses in California and beyond.
In 2005, the institute formed a lettuce and leafy greens committee, which established a research database, identified research needs and set research priorities used to fund research projects through a competitive grants program.
The institute has been actively involved in addressing recent outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 in leafy green vegetables. It also facilitates meetings with regulatory agencies and producer groups, develops educational outreach programs and encourages university faculty to participate in a wide range of food safety research projects.