Industry Discusses a Record-Setting CPS Research Symposium
- by Melissa De Leon
AUSTIN, TX - And that is a wrap for what some are touting as the best CPS (Center for Produce Safety) Research Symposium to date—certainly one of the most well attended!
When you think about it all from current CPS Chair and VP of Produce and Floral for Wegmans Dave Corsi’s perspective, and what could have been set in motion by the CPS, the concept is mind-blowing.
“The Center for Produce Safety has just concluded our 10th Symposium and we heard about the latest research discovery, rich with scientific food safety information. We may have just heard the next best practice in our food safety plans,” he said as the event came to a close. “Be sure to look for updates on the projects presented and outcomes of the symposium on the CPS website. After 10 years, we have completed 154 projects and invested over $26 million in research. It’s evident that more applicable science is required based on the persistence of issues with food safety in our industry.”
So much went into ensuring that the CPS was able to maximize everyone’s experience in the 48 hours they gathered in Austin.
“The Center for Produce Safety brings an incredible value to our business and industry as a whole. We are constantly seeking ways to improve our overall food safety efforts and CPS continues to deliver useful data and real world solutions that we can incorporate into our farming and packing operations. As this year’s symposium comes to a close, I am reminded what an important role that training and workplace culture play in the overall success of our food safety initiatives. Science alone does not reduce risk, it must be combined with strong leadership and precise execution to make the greatest impact. My hat goes off to the CPS staff and the volunteer leaders for delivering another wonderful event,” Jimmy Bassetti, President of Little Bear Produce, shared.
According to CPS, this year set a new record in attendance before the program even kicked off, totaling in 370 overall. The two days of information and active dialogue kicked off Tuesday, June 18, with a welcome from Dave, along with Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, before diving into a plethora of relevant and necessary panels.
The first, and possibly most anticipated, were Romaine Outbreaks – Perspectives and Moving Forward and Romaine Outbreaks – How is Science Leading Us Toward Solutions?
“Today at the CPS Research Symposium, we heard leaders from the joint PMA-United Romaine Task Force discuss the real produce safety challenges facing our industry,” PMA CEO Cathy Burns said Tuesday after completing her panel How to Fuel Change. “The honest, frank conversations held at CPS show a strong desire for collaboration across the supply chain to leverage the research the Center produces every year in a way that propels our industry forward. Produce safety practices must be rooted in sound science and CPS has an incredible library of work to draw insights from. I greatly appreciate the leadership of the volunteers on the task force, particularly the chairs of the working groups who served as panelists for today’s discussion.”
Also participating in the conversations was Dr. Bob Whitaker, PMA’s Chief Science and Technology Officer.
“Following the opening panel with the group leaders of the Romaine Task Force, led by PMA CEO Cathy Burns, our panel focused on the science and research learnings that have emerged from the outbreaks of the past year and can help inform the industry on potential solutions,” he said. “We had an enlightening discussion, but I was most impressed by some work presented by Dr. Channah Rock from the University of Arizona. She described her field-level research into the potential for agricultural water to contaminate romaine under real world field conditions. Water disinfection can effectively reduce but not eliminate bacterial populations in water, but the systems must be validated and managed closely. This work provides vital information as the industry continues to improve irrigation water application practices.”
The research sessions on Agricultural Water was indeed one that stood out amongst the agenda, where I got feedback from a number of attendees intrigued and enlightened by Assistant Professor and STEM Extension Specialist Gerardo Lopez, University of Arizona, in his talk Cyclospora: Potential reservoirs and occurrence in irrigation waters.
And this is all just a glimpse of the information that resonated among several key decision makers from the likes of Loblaw, Markon Cooperative, Publix, Whole Foods, Subway, Wendy’s, and many many more.
“This is probably the best CPS Symposium so far. It’s rewarding to see how much has been accomplished over the last ten-plus years,” Drew McDonald, Taylor Farms VP of Quality and Food Safety, shared with me. “We are seeing some very focused projects that have immediate application potential. There are also a number of projects that help continue to build the foundational knowledge we need around Cyclospora and other emerging pathogens. Attendees include representatives from all aspects of industry, regulatory, and academia. The energy and enthusiasm is inspiring.”
It was quite a gathering of efforts made and strides taken by multiple sides of our industry to further ensure the safety of the products we provide. I, for one, can’t wait to see where this information takes us between now and next year’s Research Symposium.