A Trans-Disciplinary Approach to Improving Produce Safety
Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory
2013 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
ARS is interested in developing effective intervention technologies during post-harvest handling and fresh-cut processing to inactivate pathogens, and/or reduce their survival and growth while maintaining produce quality and shelf-life. A team has been assembled, consisting of researchers from University of Illinois, North Carolina State University, University of Arizona, and University of California, each contributing their unique expertise to achieve the goals of the research. The proposed research is a part of an awarded NIFA grant entitled “Innovative Technologies and Process Optimization for Food Safety Risk Reduction Associated with Fresh and Fresh-cut Leafy Green Vegetables” (Agreement # 60-1265-1-029).
1b.Approach (from AD-416):
The Cooperator has expertise in performing cost-benefit analysis of food safety solutions. Specifically, in years one and two: detailed interviews with key personnel of processors will be conducted in order to determine costs of adopting alternative processing technologies and environmental impacts. In year three: detailed interviews with key personnel of retail stores will be conducted in order to determine costs of adopting new improved food safety features, and the environmental impact. In year four: the economic, social, and environmental benefits of the proposed technologies will be documented.
Research studies have been initiated to assess the economic impact of new produce wash and sanitizing technologies currently being developed by the USDA-ARS team. The team has conducted a literature review of all previously published economic studies addressing food safety issues with particular attention to the adoption of new technologies to reduce levels of foodborne pathogens. The economic importance of focusing on food safety in the context of leafy greens is clear. A recent CDC study found leafy greens were the single most frequent source of foodborne illness (22% of illnesses), the second most frequent source of hospitalizations (14%) and the fifth source of deaths (6%). Adoption of new technologies from the field to processing and through the cold chain to retail will be essential for reducing the incidence of foodborne pathogens in leafy greens. More intensive economic studies will be performed later when the new technology development is completed.