The objective of this work is to advance science-based knowledge on food safety through a competitive grants program. This work will be directly applied to the development of good agricultural practices to be implemented by producers to ensure a safe produce food supply. First year priorities will be built upon issue identification work that has already taken place in the state.
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: This competitive research program will advance scientific knowledge in sources and causes of food-borne illnesses. Consumer confidence in fresh produce is critical; these foods are essential to achieving national nutrition enhancement and obesity-reduction goals and in significantly cutting long-term health costs. Recent incidents of E. coli O157:H7 and other microbial contaminants in spinach and leafy greens in the Salinas Valley and elsewhere, resulting in serious illnesses and several deaths, has shaken consumer confidence and cost growers millions of dollars. Currently, we lack sufficient science-based knowledge to develop reliable, cost-effective best management strategies and educational programs for growers, packers, shippers, grocers and other end users. As a result, industry is employing costly measures, predicated only on "best guesses," in an attempt to reduce sources of contamination. The Center for Produce Safety at UC Davis will coordinate this project with private sector funding received for produce food safety research. Priorities will be set by a broad advisory group of academia, industry, NGOs, and government agencies. Requests for proposals, based on these priorities, will be solicited from throughout the state and nation. Proposals will be reviewed and rated by science panels to ensure high quality research focused on issues of high priority.
APPROACH: The Center for Produce Safety (CPS) at UC Davis will administer the grants program. This federal appropriation for the proposed competitive research grant program would be leveraged by approximately $4 million in contributions from the produce industry and State of California, and would focus on food contamination with human pathogens. First year priorities for funding will be determined through consultation with a 31-person Technical Advisory Committee (see Appendix 1 below), composed of national food safety experts from academia, the agricultural community, and governmental agencies. There are several different prioritization processes that have been developed by different agencies and organizations, as well as adoption of industry-wide Good Agricultural Practices. The Technical Advisory Committee will coordinate these various priorities to develop requests for proposals. High priority commodities for first year funding includes leafy greens, tomatoes, melons, green onions, and herbs. Priorities for food-borne pathogens to be investigated include E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Listerium. The funding for the overall Fresh Produce Food Safety program will include these federal funds, as well as over $4 million in state and private research funding that has been awarded to the CPS to administer. There is good leveraging of federal, state and private funding to move this forward as an integrated research program. The University of California has a long history of administering joint federal, state and private competitive grant programs. The Viticulture Consortium Program and Pierces Disease Research Program, also utilizing CSREES funding, utilize a similar model and have produced high quality research that has had a direct economic and environmental impact in the state, region and nation. The Requests for Proposals will be circulated to the broad cross-section of University of California, California State University, the USDA-ARS, and other academic and private research institutions throughout the country to ensure wide exposure of the program to the research community. A Scientific Review Panel, composed of a subset of the Advisory Board, along with selected other scientific experts, will review all proposals received. All proposals will be ranked, and allocated to the federal funding program, or other sources of funds depending on the term and nature of the research. The Principal Investigator (Associate Vice President Standiford) will make the final decision on the awarding of the projects funded with the federal funds. ANR will allocate funds to the successful projects through subawards to the appropriate campus or organization. Continued funding will require annual reports, which will be posted on the CPS web site. Annual reports will be developed on the results of the research, and feed directly into Good Agricultural Practices utilized by the industry. An annual research meeting will be held to present the results to the broad array of producers, consumer groups, and regulatory agencies.