Monday, July 02, 2012 by Bryan Silbermann
CPS research symposium combines emotion and science
Last Wednesday the Center for Produce Safety at the University of California - Davis held its third annual research symposium. If you were following me on Twitter, I shared some of my layman’s highlights and photos from this event throughout the day. The real scoop was delivered in digest form by PMA’s Dr. Bob Whitaker to our Gold Circle members at an exclusive breakfast on Thursday and will be shared with all members online soon.
The reason we must conduct food safety research was delivered so poignantly at the start of the symposium: former CPS chairman Tim York of Markon Cooperative interviewed 14-year-old Dana Dziadul, who endured a Salmonella poona infection at age three as a result of eating contaminated cantaloupe. To this day, Dana continues to suffer from reactive arthritis – a condition caused by her foodborne illness.
Her presence – along with her touching testimony – gave all of us in the room a reminder of the real reason why we must conduct scientific inquiries with both eyes keenly focused on the human impact of industry food safety practices. Before we get into the “how” of food safety, every one of us must appreciate the “why.”
In her conversation with Tim, Dana noted that the reason she speaks in front of industry groups and Congress on food safety is so that her little sister “never has to go through the pain and suffering she has.” In my opinion, that’s a very noble and personal “why;” what’s yours?
Research findings were presented in four major areas:
- Good Agricultural Practices – Buffer Zones and Animal Vectors
- Good Agricultural Practices – Irrigation Water Quality
- Good Agricultural Practices – Inputs, Cultivation and Harvest
- Wash Water and Process Control
Each session consisted of four researchers presenting short overviews of their CPS-funded work followed by interaction with a panel of industry leaders, regulators, and other science experts. Bob Whitaker designed and facilitated all four sessions, which were extremely well received by the record CPS audience of 325.
I was fortunate to moderate a closing session featuring FDA Deputy Commissioner Mike Taylor; Wegmans Senior Vice President Mary Ellen Burris; CPS Chairman Steve Patricio; and Castellini Companies President Bill Schuler.
I was struck by these items and you’ll see more detail and insight on them and others from Dr. Bob later in the weeks to come:
- Elaine Berry with USDA ARS evaluated the potential for airborne transport of E. coli O157:H7 from cattle feedlots to leafy green crops planted at a variety of distances nearby (200, 400, and 600 feet from the feedlot).
- Bruce Hoar of UC Davis identified an effective distance for a buffer zone between sheep grazing and vegetable production.
- Rob Atwill of UC Davis showed compelling data on epidemiologic analysis and risk management practices for reducing E. coli in irrigation source water supplies that suggested changes in size and frequency of sampling.
- Also on irrigation water, the potential of zero-valent iron treatment of water was very well received by retail, grower, and FDA panelists. Coincidentally, this research is being conducted near our office in Newark by Kali Kniel of the University of Delaware.
- On carton re-use and pathogen contamination (Salmonella), scientists from the University of Florida showed the potential for greater risk of transferring Salmonella to/from tomatoes when used or dirty cartons were utilized.
I know that Dr. Bob will add his unique insight to translate the outstanding research and analysis presented on wash water and process control – too much for my layman’s brain to absorb – but right up his alley!
I welcome your thoughts on this post and the CPS findings in the Food Safety Community on PMA Xchange. By the way, mark your calendars now for the 2013 CPS Symposium at the Wegmans Conference Center in Rochester, New York on June 26.