PMA Names New Chief Science Officer
DELAWARE - Back in June we received news that Bob Whitaker, the Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) Chief Science and Technology Officer, was planning to retire in January. With the new year creeping up on us, we’ve now received word of who he will be passing the baton to: Dr. Max Teplitski. In his new role, Dr. Teplitski will lead PMA’s science, technology, supply chain, and sustainability efforts when he joins next month.
“I am proud to welcome Dr. Teplitski to the PMA family and community as our next Chief Science Officer. Max comes to us as an accomplished scientist with a long history of produce safety experience from his days as a leading researcher at the University of Florida and most recently as a USDA NIFA program leader,” said CEO Cathy Burns. “Max has a demonstrated understanding of the microbiological and environmental challenges facing growers today and a view on emerging technologies that are changing the face of produce safety. He is also a staunch advocate of science and risk-based produce safety approaches, which has been a cornerstone of PMA’s produce safety offerings for the past 11 years under Dr. Bob Whitaker’s leadership.”
Dr. Teplitski’s research background is vast. For over a decade as a faculty member at the University of Florida, he led a research program focused on food safety, public and environmental health, and agricultural crop production, and has contributed to industry research through the Center for Produce Safety (CPS). He was formally the Acting Director for the divisions of food safety and nutrition at the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), where he oversaw research programs in several areas, as well as programs that incentivize purchase of fruits and vegetables among low-income consumers, increase self-reliance of communities in providing for their food needs, promote access to local food, and deliver customized FSMA training.
“PMA has been a pioneer of translating scientific discoveries that benefit our industry in everything from food safety to traceability,” said Dr. Teplitski. “I look forward to building on the work that Dr. Bob Whitaker has done to lead with the science. I will aim for a two-prong approach: to continue the work to solve the biggest challenges facing our industry today, and to anticipate and strategically capitalize on opportunities that will unlock the hidden potential in produce and floral.”
He continued: “This includes thinking about how to utilize new spaces that haven’t previously been conducive to growing food. It can also include re-imagining how fruits, vegetables, and floral are used not just on the table, but in every aspect of our lives. I am very excited to be a part of an organization that is forward-thinking and socially responsible, and also thinks and plans ahead to be an authoritative voice on behalf of our members, to improve lives of consumers, and to advocate for science-based solutions for challenges that face produce and floral industries today and tomorrow.”
According to a press release, Dr. Teplitski is primarily interested in the interactions between plants and bacteria, especially in understanding how these interactions impact nutritional quality, sustainability of agricultural production, and environmental health. Produce and floral are passions that drive him to find solutions that solve a multitude of challenges for growing, consuming, and enjoying produce.
“We have assembled a world-class science, technology and supply chain team at PMA to serve our members’ needs and Max is going to take that capability to new heights,” said Dr. Bob Whitaker. “Max has a solid grasp of key industry issues and will work with our staff and our members to create connections and provide content to drive solutions.”
Dr. Teplitski will lead a growing team of experts at PMA who are focused on providing insight and leadership for the produce and floral industries on technology, sustainability, supply chain, and food safety.
“Max was the principal investigator on three research projects funded through our competitive awards process,” said Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, Executive Director of Center for Produce Safety. “He is an excellent scientist and has a keen interest in understanding the needs of the produce industry. The industry has gained an incredible asset as he takes on this new role.”
Well-respected in academia, the public policy arena, and the produce industry, Dr. Teplitski is regarded by other industry experts for his forward-thinking and problem solving.
“When insurmountable problems arise, I recommend folks go talk to Max about possible solutions,” said Dr. Martha Rhodes Roberts, former Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture in Florida and Consultant to produce associations. “When faced with mounting foodborne outbreaks, Dr. Teplitski targeted his research to find solutions and found genetic markers for pathogen resistance. He is one of the most future thinking, discerning individuals I know.”
Congratulations to Dr. Teplitski on this new and exciting role!