June 23, 2022

Western Growers Leads Discussions of Food Safety Innovation at 2022 CPS Research Symposium

The Center for Produce Safety’s 13th Annual Research Symposium was held June 21-22, 2022 in La Jolla  Calif.

Western Growers President & CEO Dave Puglia moderated a segment that considered the question: “What can the produce food safety community learn from the airline industry?”

The discussion opened with an interview between Randy Babbitt, the Principal of Babbitt & Associates, LCC and FAA Administration and Tim York, CEO of the California LGMA, to discuss how culture change can lead to an acceptance of data sharing and analysis to advance safety. Following that, there was an industry panel with Vic Smith, CEO of JV Smith Companies; Tony DiMare, President of DiMare Fresh; Paul Kneeland, Vice President of Gelson’s Markets and Gillian Kelleher, CEO of Kelleher Consultants LLC.

Among the takeaways:

  • Communication and collaboration are essential when it comes to data sharing because transparency and willingness from all parties can promote change.
  • The fresh produce industry should foster a transparent relationship based on data sharing, and assess current barriers to data sharing including diverse food safety cultures and buying dynamics namely cost-driven purchases that place the economic burden of data sharing on primary producers
  • To do something similar to what the airline industry did, we must incentivize and move from a punitive approach to a collaborative process.
  • Trade associations and others stakeholders can play a significant role in education and outreach.
  • In addition to fresh produce operations, retailers and regulatory bodies need to be on board to ensure the implementation of a new, smarter approach to food safety that includes data analytics and promotes a positive food safety culture.
  • Either sift through the data or sift through the wreckage – the wreckage being a foodborne outbreak in this case.
  • CRM (Crew Resource Management), which can empower people to report and take decisive action when things aren’t as they should be
  • Incentivize people/operations to take action by “taking them off the hook,” i.e. remove punitive barriers.
  • Foster engagement between team members and departments, so people can get to know each other. 
  • Technological improvements played a key role in improving the airline industry, including a novel approach to data sharing.
  • Building trust between stakeholders and even industry members is key.

In addition, Western Growers’ Senior Vice President, Science, De Ann Davis facilitated a discussion of how CPS research findings related to Cyclospora cayetanensis can be applied to produce operations. Panelists included Natalie Dyenson, Vice President of Food Safety & Quality, Dole Food Company; Trevor Suslow of Trevor Suslow Consulting; and Jim Brennan, President of SmartWash Solutions.

Discussion points included:

  • If your operation is presented with a positive test for C. cayetanensis, reach out to a trusted subject matter expert or Western Growers for help with interpretation and next steps.
  • C. cayetanensis detection methodology hasn’t kept pace with epidemiological advances.
  • To confirm the presence of C. cayetanensis in a sample, more than one testing methodology must be applied.
  • C. cayetanensis may not be endemic to the United States as previously thought since the methods used to detect C. cayetanensis in previous research were insufficient in confirming the presence of C. cayetanensis
  • We have no molecular data for the nine species of C. cayetanensis found in the U.S. This limits the applicability of current molecular detection methods. The use of human specific markers to detect fecal contamination may be valuable until improvements in molecular detection methods are made.
  • The best prevention is consistent adherence to GHPs and GMPs. 

For more coverage of the event, please visit the Western Growers Facebook page this afternoon.