Ag water tops produce safety agenda

06/27/2014 02:28:00 PM
Tom Burfield

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — The role agricultural water plays in food safety was the theme of the fifth annual Center for Produce Safety’s Produce Research Symposium June 24-25 and of the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Connections: Food Safety Highlights session that followed June 26.

Fresh Connections: Food Safety Highlights. Tom BurfieldJim Gorny (from left), PMA vice president of science and technology; Bob Whitaker, PMA chief science and technology officer; Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, executive director of the Center for Produce Safety; and Vic Smith, CEO of JV Smith Cos., Yuma, Ariz., chat prior to Fresh Connections: Food Safety Highlights June 26.About 300 participants heard summations of 20 research projects, which were then analyzed by 55 experts during the two-day CPS symposium, said Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, executive director of the Davis, Calif.-based partnership involving industry, government and the scientific and academic communities.

One session analyzed the issues of irrigation water and potential sources of contamination, pathogen survival and the impact of water delivery methods on water sampling protocols.

Another evaluated multiple disinfection methods to mitigate the risk of produce contamination by irrigation water.

The final session — Hot Topics in Food Safety — focused on varying methods for preventing food contamination.

All of the research studied during the seminars will be available on the Center for Produce Safety website,

Bob Whitaker, PMA’s chief science and technology officer, and Jim Gorny, PMA’s vice president of science and technology, gave their take on the research during the interactive Fresh Connections session, which PMA CEO Bryan Silbermann described as “a distillation for the common man — and woman — of what has been presented in the last two days.”

The agricultural water aspect fell into four basic areas, Gorny said: Monitoring, including how and when to monitor; treatments that can be used to treat water when it’s not of appropriate quality; application to harvest intervals, reflected in some work with bulb onions in Oregon; and quantitative microbial risk assessment.

Whitaker said he was amazed at the breadth of the work that was covered at the sessions.

“What I really liked this year was the way we reached throughout the entire supply chain,” he said.

Gorny singled out an app in development based on one used in Michigan for recreational water that would send out a cell phone alert if water quality drops.

Whitaker warned attendees that they shouldn’t assume that what researchers have found can always be applied to their operations.

“You have to validate that data,” he said, and understand how it applies to your own situation.

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