Joe Pezzini, senior director of agricultural operations for Taylor Farms, has been elected chair of the Center for Produce Safety (CPS) Board of Directors. The CPS is a charitable organization focused on providing the produce industry and government with access to information needed to enhance the safety of fresh produce.
Pezzini said that his first priority as CPS board chair will be to guide the board’s update of the center’s strategic plan. “In 15 short years, the CPS has grown into an extraordinary melting pot of industry, research, regulatory and public health leaders who are doing much more together to advance fresh produce food safety than we ever could alone,” he said. “Our goal for the next five years will be to continue that positive trajectory. That means making sure that CPS can continue to innovate in how we fund science, find solutions and fuel change in produce safety. The food we grow and sell to consumers is the same food we take home to our families. Our work doesn’t get more personal than that.”
The CPS reported that, in addition to electing Pezzini, six board members agreed to serve additional three-year terms. They include:
Jim Brennan, president, SmartWash Solutions;
Mike Joyner, president, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association;
Dave Murray, partner, Andrew & Williamson/Good Farms;
Mark Mignogna, vice president, quality assurance, Sysco;
Victor Smith, CEO, J.V. Smith Farms; and
Craig Wilson, vice president, QA and food safety, Costco Wholesale.
Amy Gates, vice president of Seald Sweet/Greenyard USA, joined the board as a first-time member.
When looking at possible sources of contamination, far less attention has been put on produce distribution centers (DCs). “I think the DCs are a little out of sight, out of mind,” said Laurel Dunn, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of food science & technology at the University of Georgia in a release from the Center for Produce Safety (CPS). “We have been so focused on foodborne outbreaks and what’s happening at the field level or packinghouse wash water and employees and hand hygiene.” As such, in an announcement from CPS, Dunn discusses a project that seeks to understand the contamination issues happening at the DC level, namely vented produce in breathable containers or stored in coolers. Examples of the items being examined are berries, tomatoes, and onions in mesh bags.
Dunn, along with researchers Laura K. Strawn, Ph.D. of Virginia Tech and Ben Chapman, Ph.D., of North Carolina State University, are focusing on Listeria due to the fact that biofilms can thrive indoors and be difficult to eliminate. The research project, “Environmental microbial risks associated with vented produce in distribution centers”, began on January 1 but was slowed considerably as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus far the researchers have collected samples from 11 DCs (they initially had a goal of sampling from at least 25 DCs), most of which was conducted before the pandemic. Due to travel restrictions, the researchers may only be able to get samples from operations east of the Mississippi River.
Depending on the outcome of the study, the researchers may also formulate written risk-reduction guidance for DCs. Based on the samples collected, Dunn anticipates they will be able to devise useful information to help DCs.
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