Center for Produce Safety Awards $200K to First-Ever Water Research Project
UNITED STATES - This week, the Center for Produce Safety (CPS) is celebrating an exciting milestone: its first-ever research project, Agriculture Water Treatment - Southwest Region. To kick off the project in style, CPS awarded the project $200,000, which will be used to fund the study of the effectiveness of various agricultural water treatments. The University of Arizona’s Channah Rock— (Ph.D.) Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, and a Water Quality Specialist with UA's Cooperative Extension at the Maricopa Agricultural Center—will lead the project. This is the fifth research award she has received from CPS since 2011.
"This project is groundbreaking for CPS and for the fresh produce industry, as we take the first step toward finding solutions to help our industry address the critical issue of safe ag water treatments," said Dave Corsi, Chair of CPS's Board of Directors and Vice President of Produce and Floral for Wegmans Food Markets. "This is also just the beginning—this project sets a precedent for future CPS awards to fund research in this area."
Along with heralding CPS’s entry into researching and solving the safety of water applied to fresh produce crops, this ag water research award by CPS reflects strategic changes made by the organization in 2018 that reflect where fresh produce safety is headed. Specifically, CPS updated its mission to "fund science, find solutions, and fuel change” and revamped its research program to do the following:
- Be more flexible and responsive
- Update rapid response research capability to fund urgent topics in addition to research tracks focusing on ag water solutions,
- Challenge awards to find tools which help growers solve for animal intrusion,
- Increase CPS's annual research funding of ongoing produce safety topics, such as preventive controls and interventions.
As part of these changes, the one-year-long project will examine the effectiveness of antimicrobial ag water treatments in the Southwest region of the U.S., recognizing that there may be regional and/or site-specific variations for effectively treating water.
"Growers have access to a myriad of options for water treatment, with limited guidance to help them be successful," said Rock, "Our goal is to develop scientific data that will inform growers on how to use ag water treatments more effectively and confidently."
Specifically, Rock and her team will evaluate three treatment options: peracetic acid, calcium hypochlorite, and ultraviolet light. At the request of CPS, the project will be mindful of the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Rule requirements for treating ag production water, to ensure that resulting industry guidance will be FSMA-compliant, according to a press release. CPS is also establishing an industry advisory committee to inform and support the research team.
In addition to CPS’s monetary contribution, regionally-sourced produce safety stakeholders, including produce industry, academia, local and federal government, and technology service providers, will match the award equally.
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