University of California, Davis, News Service
April 11, 2007
Funding to establish a produce safety research center at UC Davis was announced today by the leaders of the produce industry, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the University of California.
The new Center for Produce Safety, to be located in UC Davis' Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, will serve as a clearinghouse for research on produce safety and will fund new scientific studies aimed at reducing risks associated with the nation's produce supply.
This new partnership is focused on improving research, training, quality verification and consumer education -- all to enhance the safety of fresh produce.
The new center is being established with $2 million from the Produce Marketing Association and $2 million from Taylor Farms of Salinas.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture is contributing $500,000 to the center, and $150,000 is being provided by the University of California's Agriculture and Natural Resources division to fund educational outreach programs for fresh produce.
"The success of the produce industry begins and ends with our collective commitment to public health," said Bryan Silbermann, president of the Produce Marketing Association. "Our members, who represent every link of the nation's produce supply chain, are committed to supporting robust food safety programs based on the best science available. The Center for Produce Safety will significantly advance the entire industry's collective knowledge about food safety and help ensure consumers continue to enjoy safe, wholesome and healthy produce, every bite, every time."
Bruce Taylor, chairman and chief executive officer of Taylor Farms, said his company's contribution to the new center is "an investment in the future of our company and the produce industry. I encourage my colleagues across the entire supply chain to contribute at whatever level possible to ensure that the Center for Produce Safety is able to advance an aggressive research agenda that provides produce companies with the guidance needed to further enhance food safety efforts."
The creation of the Center for Produce Safety is the direct result of an industry-wide collaborative response to recent E. coli outbreaks.
In the fall of 2006, the Produce Marketing Association, other industry association partners and government agencies focused on investigating the cause of the outbreaks and expediting efforts to protect against the risks of future outbreaks.
In addition to the investments in new research, produce industry leaders and food safety experts from the state of California and University of California are also launching science-based training and outreach programs. The field-level training support will supplement programs already in place by individual produce growers and handlers and ensure that they include the latest scientific information and established good agricultural practices.
"Following the E. coli episode in spinach last fall, government and private industry have been working together in important ways to make our already outstanding food safety system even better," said A.G. Kawamura, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. "The recently formed Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement is a major piece of the puzzle. Research, training and outreach constitute the other major piece. We are proud of our partnership with the university and the produce industry and look forward to positive steps in the years ahead."
Bennie Osburn, dean of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, said he hopes the "generous lead funding from the Produce Marketing Association and Taylor Farms encourages other government and industry partners to support the full build-out of this comprehensive program. It is critical that the solutions to food safety issues include all the players."
The Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, which will house the new Center for Produce Safety, was established in 2002 by UC Davis' School of Veterinary Medicine, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and School of Medicine, in partnership with California's Department of Food and Agriculture, and Department of Health Services. Federal agencies and various food industries also contribute to the institute.
Rob Atwill, a veterinarian and medical ecologist, was recently appointed as interim director of the institute, following the retirement of Jerry Gillespie, the institute's founding director.
Atwill is the principal investigator on a four-year study, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is focused on tracing the sources of E. coli O157:H7 in the Salinas Valley.
Read about how UC researchers are looking for practical solutions for the complex problem of E. coli outbreaks in "On the Trail of a Killer" in UC Davis Magazine.
* Pat Bailey, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-9843, firstname.lastname@example.org