The produce safety research community came together at the eighth annual CPS Research Symposium to discuss how data can be used to build risk- and science-based food safety programs for produce companies all along the supply chain. The interpretation of food safety research results and application to individual companies is most appropriately the undertaking of those that reside within those specific operations. With that in mind, we highlight these key learnings from the CPS Research Symposium to create awareness and stimulate thought.
The latest CPS Symposium was special in that it marked the 10th anniversary of when CPS was founded in May 2007, and participants were able to look back over the last decade and reflect on just how far we have come as an industry in our pursuit of growing our produce safety knowledge base and turning that knowledge into effective, operational produce safety practices. Highlights of the 2017 program were:
Agricultural water continues to be an important issue and focus area for research. While generic E. coli may be an effective indicator for contamination in closed irrigation systems such as those employed in leafy greens production in some areas of California, it has been shown to be not predictive of human pathogen presence in many other irrigation or frost protection water systems.
An important consideration in selecting indicator or surrogate organisms and determining their survival in open water sources is the physical and chemical properties of the water system itself.
Increasing the sampling volume when testing irrigation water microbial quality increases the opportunity to detect low level pathogen contamination.
It is important to characterize your sources of irrigation or frost protection water. The environment it resides in, runoff potential, pH, temperature and how the water is applied to the crop and when can all impact contamination risk potential.
It might be time to concede that irrigation water sources can be contaminated with pathogens periodically and our efforts might best be spent in developing methods to remove pathogens prior to application.
One size fits all approaches to determining pathogen die-off rates, while desirable, are likely not going to be useful operationally. Pathogen die-off can be affected by many variables present in the growing environment and more research to better understand how they can be employed is necessary.
Wash systems augmented with properly controlled disinfectants and some form of physical agitation can significantly reduce pathogen levels in fresh mango fruits. There are challenges to be sure regarding system design and sanitation and preservation of fruit quality, but combination of produce safety research and reduction to practice via system engineering can be leveraged to improve current systems.
Produce safety is a supply chain activity. The selection of sanitizable materials from harvest to retail is critical to reducing the opportunity for cross contamination.
When designing validation studies to achieve FSMA compliance, it is important to design your studies to account for the physiological state of the pathogen, surrogate or indicator strain you use. The growth conditions and media employed can impact the ability of the organism to resist and/or be more susceptible to the treatment you want to employ to control the organisms.
In its first decade, CPS has accomplished a great deal; but aside from building an impressive knowledge base, its most important achievement may have been to create an environment for open and frank discussions on produce safety science that has fostered collaborations among scientists, facilitated partnerships with industry operators and provided inspiration to the next generation of produce safety researchers.
Read the full report to learn more about how the research results can be applied and how data can be used to build risk- and science-based food safety programs for produce companies all along the supply chain.
PMA also hosted a
webinar recap of the 2017 CPS Symposium that highlights the Key Learnings.