Researchers work to improve supply management for food safety

As part of the risk management process, food companies must follow strict government guidelines to ensure the public's health and safety when consuming their products.

To help address health concerns within the produce industry, the Center for Produce Safety provided 16 grants worth $3 million to researchers to help improve food safety practices through supply management, according to Food Quality News.

After reviewing 55 proposals - the largest number since 2008 - the CPS Technical Committee said food safety projects will begin in January 2014. Projects that were approved and granted funding include two by George Vellidis, professor of crop and soil sciences at the University of Georgia. Vellidis' projects include studies on whether Salmonella makes itself known in the irrigation systems of southeastern mixed produce farms in the United States, which received $371,782, and whether overhead sprinkler irrigation systems contaminate produce with Salmonella in the same region.

Another project by Changqing Wu, assistant professor of animal and food sciences at the University of Delaware, is researching how to reduce the number of airborne pathogens and spoilage organisms that may contaminate the surface of cantaloupes.

A new component of risk assessment procedures for food retailers and packaging companies might include Safe Quality Food (SQF) certification, according to SCS Global Services (SCS).

Chip Wood, director of food and agriculture business development for SCS, said food packagers are attracted to the idea of a globally-recognized level of food safety certification. Wood said food producers face common problems like poor employee training, raw materials contamination and inadequate plant and equipment sanitation. He said the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the SQF program address these issues.

"The FSMA's formula of audits, prevention, compliance and response is comprehensively addressed within SQF," Wood said. "It provides a systematic approach to employee training, inspections, mandatory recalls, record access and administrative detention, product traceability and laboratory testing."

The SQF program would add new regulations and buyer specifications for food companies to follow.

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