College Park, MD – The Center for Food Safety and Security Systems (CFS3) was awarded $5.4 million dollars by USDA NIFA for a three year project that will focus on developing scientifically-based food safety metrics for leafy greens and tomatoes. The award is part of the agency’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) which “was established to solve critical industry issues through research and extension activities.”
The CFS3 project is a “coordinated agricultural project” that includes researchers from six universities (Ohio State, Rutgers, University of California Davis, University of Delaware, University of Florida, University of Maryland Eastern Shore) and two government agencies (FDA, USDA). This research team is also supplemented by a Produce Industry Advisory Panel, made up of representatives from supporting produce industry companies, and a Government Agency Advisory Panel both of whom will assist the research team in the annual evaluation and development of project objectives.
The project. The overall goal of the research is to provide scientific knowledge/data and analysis that will allow for the development of “good agricultural/horticultural” metrics that can be used by the produce industry on a national basis for both domestic and imported produce. The produce industry has been working on methods for the evaluation of GAP/GHP practices to enhance the microbiological safety of products for years however they have been lacking the scientific foundation for the application of these methods. This project aims to provide that foundation by exploring our sets of risk factors: water, environmental parameters, harvesting and subsequent processing, and temperature and food safety chain management controls. The data and knowledge base with provide the scientific basis to assist the industry and government agencies to develop and/or modify consensus risk management metrics, develop effective communication, outreach, and education programs to transfer the knowledge gained to various affected sectors of the produce industry, as well as government agencies and stakeholders, and to ultimately develop new analytical and informatics tools that will allow the complex systems associated with the production, processing, and distribution of fresh and fresh-cut produce to be validated, verified objectively and evaluated for cost effectiveness.
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The USDA SCRI project gives priority to projects that are multi-institutional or trans-disciplinary. The projects funded address research and extension needs for crops that span the entire spectrum of specialty crops production. For more information on the 2011 SCRI awards please visit: www.csrees.usda.gov/newsroom/news/2011news/10141_scri.html