Sysco, Tanimura & Antle, California Fresh Fruit Association, and More Back Center for Produce Safety Research; Julie Olivarria, Scott Grabau, Ian LeMay, and Jon DeVaney Comment
WOODLAND, CA - You can call something important as much as you want, but it does not become important to the rest of the world until you show them why it should be. In the case of food safety, this sentiment could not be more true, and the Center for Produce Safety’s (CPS) is determined to prove it. Recognizing the important efforts it will take to make food safe for all, Sysco, Tanimura & Antle, the California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA), and Washington State Tree Fruit Association have contributed $250,000 each to help fund CPS’s latest research project.
“First and foremost, there is the human factor,” said Julie Olivarria, Sysco’s Vice President of Produce, stating two potential downsides of not investing in produce safety. “Produce should make people healthier, not potentially make them sick. Second, there is the financial implication of food safety. Advisories and recalls can have a profound impact on our bottom line; we cannot sell products that aren’t available, or that nobody wants because they’ve been implicated.”
CPS launched this latest campaign publicly in January. To date, the center has raised nearly $7 million toward a $15 million goal to fund its work for the next five years.
Olivarria also noted the value of CPS’s unique structure, bringing together industry, government, academia, and other stakeholders from the United States and around the world, powered by expert volunteers.
“Addressing the challenges of food safety and ensuring continued innovation requires collaboration across the industry. CPS brings together stakeholders and experts from across the industry to work toward continued improvement in produce safety,” she continued.
CPS finances produce-specific food safety research, then transfers learnings to industry, government, and other stakeholders through its extensive online research database, webinars, and an annual Research Symposium, held virtually in 2020 and 2021.
“Food safety should rank top on everyone's list of priorities, next to worker safety. While we can only control what happens within our operations, we are affected by what happens in the industry as a whole,” said Scott Grabau, President and Chief Executive Officer of Tanimura & Antle, according to a press release. “CPS allows us to have a broader reach, increasing the knowledge, awareness, and impact of the industry beyond.”
Ian LeMay, California Fresh Fruit Association President, echoed this sentiment, highlighting the relationship his industry has built with CPS to answer its produce safety questions.
“I can’t emphasize enough the word ‘partnership.’ That’s the way our industry looks at the relationship with CPS: it’s a partnership to improve and become a stronger, better industry,” LeMay said.
LeMay continued, explaining why the efforts made by CPS today are crucial to the future of our industry.
“While historically many commodities may have felt safe from the issues of food safety, we collectively have a responsibility to the consumer, to sustain healthy and safe produce. We owe it to ourselves, our industry partners and our consumers to do all we can to support food safety. One of the best ways we can do that is to continue to support, and to expand our support for, Center for Produce Safety. CPS is the partner we all need to sustain us for the long haul,” he added.
Jon DeVaney, President of Washington State Tree Fruit Association, is another key supporter of CPS, noting in the press release what this effort means for his association.
“Our orchardists take great pride in producing healthy food and want to ensure that it remains safe for all consumers,” said DeVaney. “That requires developing and consistently applying food safety programs using the latest research and techniques. So even during difficult and unsettled times, our industry renewed its commitment to CPS to ensure advancements in food safety continue.”
DeVaney continued, adding, “CPS allows our industry to pose critical questions to leading food safety experts, across the country and internationally. Stakeholder involvement in the research review process helps to ensure CPS projects result in relevant and actionable data that addresses producers’ greatest issues. This process is further enhanced by the involvement of [federal policymakers and regulators], whose decisions and priorities can be influenced by reliable data.”
On a final note, LeMay pointed to Center for Produce Safety’s ability to move quickly to help the industry address produce safety questions, even at the 2020 height of the pandemic.
“As we were trying to triage COVID-19, I got the call about a salmonella recall. To be able to call CPS and other advisors connected with CPS was just an amazing support system. It was worth every penny,” he said. CPS tapped research allies in Australia to conduct counter-seasonal field research for CFFA; results were delivered ahead of California’s 2021 growing season.
We applaud this group of fresh produce champions who are throwing their weight behind an incredibly worthy cause.