Sunkist summer citrus

The California citrus industry has said that it is answering the call to strengthen fresh produce food safety research.

Citrus producers from across the state are making a collective US$500,000 contribution to Center for Produce Safety’s (CPS) research capital campaign to fund produce-specific food safety research.

Funding will support CPS’s work to identify industry’s top produce safety questions, call on researchers to answer them, then transfer learnings to industry, government, public health and other stakeholders.

Since its founding in 2007, CPS has invested US$22m to date in 187 produce-centric food safety research projects at 44 research institutions in the US and four other countries.

CPS’s current research priorities include evaluating agricultural water treatments, mitigating and preventing listeria, cleaning and sanitising facilities, organic produce safety and more.

When asked what motivated citrus leader Sunkist to support Center for Produce Safety, president and CEO Jim Phillips pointed to his company’s history of leadership.

“As the longest-standing agricultural cooperative in the nation, it’s important to us that we are always delivering a safe product to consumers,” Phillips said. “Sunkist is doing our part to represent California citrus at the highest level, by supporting critical food safety research.”

Wonderful Citrus president Zak Laffite noted the citrus industry’s commitment to consumer health and well-being motivated the industry’s repeat contribution to CPS.

“Our company promise is simple: To provide the safest, freshest-quality citrus, today and tomorrow,' he continued. 'Ensuring that we lead on food safety practices is one way we make food safety paramount. Similarly, as an industry, investing in Center for Produce Safety is an industry-wide food safety best practice.”

Sun Pacific Shippers president Al Bates stressed the importance of supporting the science of food safety, and approaching it from a practical, industry-centric standpoint.

For example, he noted that CPS’s work has positively informed fresh produce buyers’ food safety audits.

“Food safety is a fundamental part of our business, Sun Pacific has incorporated it into all farming, harvesting and packing operations,” Bates said. “Center for Produce Safety has been instrumental in researching and communicating various issues to the food safety auditing community, that has allowed produce operations like ours to continue to operate efficiently and effectively while also complying with current food safety guidelines.”

Bates called on leaders across the fresh produce supply chain to also contribute to CPS’s research capital campaign.

“I encourage all suppliers, industry groups and retailers to support CPS so the produce community can strive to deliver the safest food supply in the world to our consumers,” Bates added.