Posts from the "Research News" category

Check out who has pledged support for the Fresh Produce Safety Centre?

Thank you to the fresh fruit and vegetable industry for the great response and support for the establishment of the Fresh Produce Safety Centre. The FPSC in gaining momentum with over $125,000 in pledged funds!
These funds will be leveraged to apply for matched funding from the Australian government to develop the strategic plan of the Centre, the Constitution, the legal framework, the Board of Directors, and the R&D priorities as communicated to us by the fresh produce industry.  The Centre will administer the following activities in food safety that will benefit the entire fresh produce industry:

securing and managing research funds,
leveraging research funding,
managing the industry-driven research projects,
maintaining the website,
providing education, communication and information

Look who has pledged!

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Number of severe E. coli strains grows

In addition to the better-known E. coli O157:H7, the group includes E. coli O26, O45, O111, O121, O130 and O145.
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that as much as one-third of infections are caused by these other strains.
These strains are known scientifically as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli because they have the traits of one or both Shiga toxins.
Although some outbreaks of these nasty strains have been linked to fruits and vegetables, they are nearly always traced to warm-blooded animals, including birds, that have passed over or through farms.
To read the full article from The Grower, click here.

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Emerging Pathogens: E. Coli O104:H4

A strain of E. coli known as O104:H4, made worldwide headlines when an outbreak in Germany in May 2011, sickened approximately 4,000 people and killed 50.
This event, linked to fresh sprouts, quickly became the deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in history.
It had evolved from a type of E. coli known to be harmless enteroaggregative E. coli and had acquired the genes to produce Shiga toxin from more virulent strains known as enterohemorrhagic E. coli.
Microbiological research laboratories around the globe began pooling resources to coordinate the world’s first “open source” analysis of a microbial genome. In turn, this spurred an unprecedented level of focused study by international collaborators that is still going on two years later.
Like other enteroaggregative E. coli strains, O104:H4 groups together in defensive brick patterns within a host’s intestines, inducing mucus production that both shields and feeds it. Combine that with the ability to produce Shiga toxin, and O104: H4 possesses the right cocktail of genes to become especially harmful in an outbreak.
To read the full article on Food Safety News, click here.

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Report summarising the outcomes of 2012/13 of the FPS A&NZ

The FPS A&NZ have made available the final report summarising the outcomes from the project “A New Collaborative Paradigm for Fresh Produce Safety”. This project was funding by the University of Sydney and the Produce Marketing Association Australia and New Zealand (PMA A-NZ) with matched funding from the Australian Government, accessed through Horticulture Australia Limited.
You can download the report here and read about the outcomes of the many activities conducted in the year.

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Know the bugs causing foodborne illness

Food Standards Australia & New Zealand (FSANZ) have released the second edition of “Agents of Foodborne illness” (June 2013).
This publication is intended for the food industry, food safety consultants and food regulators. It contains information about pathogens that cause foodborne illness, including bacteria, viruses, parasites and infectious prion particles. The sections contain information about:

growth and survival characteristics
symptoms of disease
virulence factors
epidemiological data including a summary of large, well-document outbreaks
occurrence in food
susceptible populations
dose-response relationship

This is an excellent resource to begin understanding what pathogens cause many of the foodborne illnesses. It contains a great deal of recommended readings for each of the areas covered.
download a copy of  Agents of Foodborne illness (2nd Edition, 2013).

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Researchers create rapid E.coli detector

A group of researchers at Canada’s University of Alberta have created a gadget they say can quickly detect the presence of E.coli bacteria in food. The test, which can be used at food-processing facilities, makes millions of copies of the genes in the meat being tested and provides results in under an hour. See the full article at Food Business Review (7/17)

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Brief Report: CPS Research Symposium Key Messages, part 1.

Brief Report, CPS Research Symposium 26 and 27th June 2013 ,Wegman’s Conference Centre Rochester, NY State.

The CPS at the University of Davis has been very supportive of the initiatives in Australia to establish an affiliated Fresh Produce Safety Centre. Over the past year they have very generously shared their research outcomes, they have given presentations to our industry, and this year invited Australian researchers to apply for research grants to work collaboratively with US scientists on issues important for the Australian fruit and vegetable industry.

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New Presentation: “Fresh Produce Safety: A Collaborative Model” Summary by Dr. Robyn McConchie

A presentation delivered at PMA Fresh Connections last month by Dr. Robyn McConchie provides a summary of the the outcomes achieved by FPS A&NZ.
Click here to view the presentation.
Over the past year the program has raised awareness of the risks involved in food safety through a number of avenues:

Forum in November last year Bob Whitaker, Bonnie Fernandez- Fenaroli and Lorna Christie
Development of this website with a monthly newsletter
Formed a partnership with the CPS in the US on funding research and also sharing of information so that the wheel wouldn’t be reinvented   – they have very generously shared their research outcomes so as to build on that work rather than start from  scratch.
We have also spoken at the Biennial Freshcare Workshop in April where we also drew on the knowledge and expertise of those involved in  QA to identify the most pressing research needs of the industry
Importantly we have canvassed industry on every occasion to scope out the feasibility of setting up a similar centre that would be independent but affiliated with the CPS in the US. Affiliated in the sense that we share information and outcomes.
Conducted an industry survey through the registered newsletter recipients who represent all stakeholders of the industry – Does Industry need a Fresh Produce Safety Centre?

After this Survey, it was established that the industry did want and need a Fresh Produce Safety Centre. How it will operate, what its roles will be and where to from here can all be seen in the full presentation by Dr. McConchie.

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‘What it takes to instill a food safety culture in your business’ new presentation

Food Safety in our industry is a consumer-right, requiring a collaborative effort from all sectors of the industry. Dr Douglas Powell, Professor of food safety at Kansas State University was at PMA Fresh Connections 2013 Conference last week to challenge businesses not to rely on regulation, but to rely on their staff to deliver safe food.
If you missed Doug’s presentation, it is now available for download below in three abridged segments:

What it takes to instill a food safety culture in your business
The case for instilling a food safety culture in your business
Sprouts – a special problem

Speaking to following his presentation, Doug said:
“Having lived here [Australia] for over two years, I don’t see that public culture of food safety. There were 140 people sick in Canberra, because they were using raw eggs in mayo and yet there was no media coverage about it.”
“The thing I hear most in food safety, whether it’s produce or anything else is – ‘We’ve always done it this way and I’ve never made anyone sick’. What it probably means is that you don’t have the surveillance systems to pick it up.”
“This is a reality – there will be outbreaks, like with rockmelon and peanuts in Australia and you as an industry have a chance to come together and get proactive, or wait until the next outbreak.”
Doug’s blog, ‘Barfblog’ is a handy source of current food safety information. You can check it out at

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SURVEY RESULTS: Does the Industry need a Fresh Produce Safety Centre?

A primary objective for FPS A&NZ was to scope out the feasibility for a dedicated body to identify research needs and provide appropriate food safety solutions for the Australian fresh produce Industry.
FPS A&NZ has made strong progress towards this objective and it was decided to survey the industry to determine the level of support for the establishment of a Fresh Produce Safety Centre. The survey was sent to the entire list of individuals who have registered to receive regular newsletters from FPS A&NZ, representing a large range of sectors in the fresh produce industry.
The survey contained questions aimed at gauging  industry’s in-principle support for the establishment of a Fresh Produce Safety Centre; whether the University of Sydney was an appropriate ‘base’ for the Centre; what should be the overarching role of the Centre; and what were the priorities for food safety research.
From the responses, there was overwhelming support, in principle, for the establishment of a Fresh Produce Safety Centre (98%) and for it to be “housed” at the University of Sydney (95%).
The survey also revealed that the role of the proposed Centre was to call and manage research in food safety and importantly to provide industry wide education and information and news on fresh produce safety, while representing the industry on regulatory matters was the most unpopular role for the Centre.  Results like this provide information that will assist in ensuring that the roles of other organisations will not be duplicated.
Research priorites needed to address the gaps in knowledge in food safety covers a wide variety of areas, but the top three topics as chosen by the respondents were Microbial contamination on-farm followed by topics Pathogens in the postharvest supply chain and Water – Postharvest.
The survey unequivocally indicated that there is widespread support for the establishment of a Fresh Produce Safety Centre for the whole fresh fruit and vegetable industries that will identify and conduct industry-driven research projects and provide valuable information, education and outreach on all aspects of fresh produce safety.
Download the full survey report here.

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