2015 Fresh Produce Safety Conference: Advancing Research and Outreach for Safe, Fresh Food

The Fresh Produce Safety Conference 2015: Advancing Research and Outreach for Safe, Fresh Food was held on 12 August 2015 in Sydney. This premier event for fresh produce food safety professionals was a great success.

The event provided:

  • key learnings from recent high profile food safety cases
  • evidence-based food safety best practice
  • latest findings in current fresh produce research projects
  • the opportunity to network with other food safety professionals from Australia, New Zealand and internationally
  • the opportunity to contribute to the Fresh Produce Safety Centre’s research priority setting process

The Fresh Produce Safety Conference is the annual event of the industry-led and industry-managed Fresh Produce Safety Centre. The conference is recognised as the key event on the fresh produce safety calendar in Australia and New Zealand. The 2015 conference brought together industry practitioners and researchers to examine and discuss fresh produce safety issues relevant to Australasia.

Program highlights

Click here to see the Fairfax Media video wrap-up of the 2015 conference.

Keynote speaker: Future food safety â€” the role of technology, Dr Laura Strawn, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Tech

International speaker: Current Challenges for US Food Safety Research, Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, Executive Director, Center for Produce Safety

PANEL: Understanding the Gaps – What are the implications?

PANEL: The Guidelines for Fresh Produce Food Safety – What do I need to know?

CASE STUDIES: Active research on food safety


  • What’s at stake? Hep A, Yersinia and other nasties, Richard Bennett, FPSC Technology Manager
  • Priorities for the next FPSC calls for research proposals: Interactive session with Barry McGookin, General Manager, Innovation, Capabilities and Skills, FIAL &Richard Bennett, FPSC Technology Manager
  • Enteric viruses in fresh berries and leafy greens in Australia, Dr Valeria Torok, research scientist, South Australian Research and Development Institute – SARDI


Download FPSC Conference Program



  • Dr Valeria Torok, Research Scientist, South Australian Research and Development Institute – SARDI

PANEL: Understanding the Gaps – What Are the Implications?

  • Belinda Hazell, FPSC Director;  Lead Project Manager, TQA Australia
  • Dr Tom Ross, Associate Professor in Food Microbiology, Food Safety Centre, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture; University of Tasmania
  • Alan Pollard, CEO, Pipfruit NZ

PANEL: The Guidelines for Fresh Produce Food Safety – What Changes Do I Need to Know?

  • Joseph Ekman, FPSC Director; Technical Committee Chair, FPSC;  Technical Director, Fresh Produce Group
  • Scott Ledger, Technical Committee, FPSC; Hort VC Group
  • Clare Hamilton-Bate, Executive Officer, Freshcare


CASE STUDIES: Active Research on Food Safety

  • Remediation of Soil Contaminated with Salmonella enterica to Expedite Plant or Replant of Vegetables: Associate Professor Robyn McConchie, Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, University of Sydney
  • Sanitisers in the Vegetable and Fruit Industries: Dr Robert Premier, Global FS Pty Ltd
  • Identification and development of biological control agents against bacterial pathogens on vegetables: Dr Mark Turner, Associate Professor in Food Microbiology, School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Queensland

Research Questions

  • Barry McGookin, General Manager, Innovation, Capabilities and Skills, FIAL
  • Richard Bennett, FPSC Technology Manager

Download FPSC Conference Program

Conference Sponsors

The Fresh Produce Safety Centre thanks the following sponsors who helped make the Fresh Produce Safety Conference 2015 possible.

Dept of Industry Logo


Houston Logo


FIAL-logo-with-Govt-2014 (2)


AUS-QUAL Cert Mark_Plain


Agsafe Logo Colour


FPSC Supporters

The Fresh Produce Safety Centre (FPSC) thanks our founding supporters who have pledged funding for the establishment and ongoing operation of the Centre.


Richard Bennett

RBRichard Bennett is the Technology Manager for the FPSC. Richard has had a full career working in numerous aspects of horticulture including in the nursery, seed and fruit processing industries, and as an industry development officer, trainer, agronomist and executive officer for a number of fruit grower associations. Richard has qualifications in orchard management, applied science, agribusiness and food safety. As a technical horticulturalist, Richard became increasingly concerned that many of those making demands of growers or involved in implementing food safety systems did not generally understand agronomy, food safety risk, how to communicate with growers and the impacts of their expectations. Richard has worked on numerous resources to improve the food safety culture and performance of Australian horticulture. Richard is regarded as a go-to person on quality assurance, food safety, environmental management, product standards and specifications, product identification and traceability, business continuity, compliance issues and crisis management. Richard has developed and implemented Approved Supplier Programs mainly for processors, and implemented SQF 2000 and Freshcare in fruit, vegetable, nut and wine grape businesses.

Dr Mike Butcher

MBDr Michael Butcher represents an industry sector with 500 growers, 65 pack houses and all major pome fruit exporters. Michael has been responsible for the development of production programmes that meet all market access food safety and phytosanitary requirements for 65+ markets and works in close association with the NZ Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and its Food Safety and Plants Export divisions. Michael has been with the New Zealand pome fruit sector since 2000 and has worked with regulators to ensure the technical aspects of export requirements are available to sector producers, packers and exporters. Michael has been involved with and in the horticultural industry all his career and brings a range of skills to the Board of the Fresh Produce Safety Centre, in particular; Governance and compliance having served as a Trustee for the NZ Agrichemical Education Trust for 14 years, worked with many of NZ’s regulators throughout his career and operated as an IANZ signatory and graduate of their Audit Course; Research Management in his roles with Pipfruit New Zealand Inc., and previous to that in his role as manager of a GLP certified research and laboratory facility; he has been involved in food safety planning for the pome fruit industry and has responsibility for its Crisis Management System which includes food safety responses; he is part of the strategic planning and management group within the industry body; has many years close involvement with extension, technical outreach and communication to industry members and has been responsible for the development of many extension tools in a range of media (written, video, interactive web programmes, seminars and field discussion groups) for the sector.

Allison Clark

ACAllison Clark is the General Manager, Marketing, for Houston’s Farm. Allison is also a Board member of TQA Australia Ltd and a member of the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) Food Safety Centre Advisory Committee. Allison has extensive experience across the fresh produce supply chain (growing, processing, transport, wholesale, through to retail) and has had experience engaging with a number of peak industry bodies along with regulatory bodies including FSANZ and the Tasmanian State Training Authority. Allison has been involved in projects of national significance associated with food safety and compliance including the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries National Food Safety Auditor Management Framework Feasibility Study and FSANZ Identification of Food Safety Systems in Australian Primary Production Industries. Allison has undertaken technical roles in high risk processing operations (including fresh cut salads) which have encompassed design and development of systems, managing compliance elements, undertaking internal audits and training team members. Allison was Chair of the Fresh Salad Producers Forum which developed the Good Agricultural Practices Guide for the Australian Freshcut Salad Industry and she still maintains a role in providing advice to this industry segment when sought. Allison was also part of the team which developed the successful ARC Training Centre for Innovative Horticultural Products. Houston’s Farm Research and Development remains a Project Organization for this Centre. Allison holds an Executive Certificate in Food Business Management (Monash) and is studying for an MBA (Agricultural Innovation) through the University of Tasmania.

Joseph Ekman

JEJoseph Ekman is Fresh Produce Group’s Technical Director, responsible for leading the team responsible for food safety and quality compliance, product technology and quality control. His role is to provide technical security for Fresh Produce Group’s diverse and innovative fresh produce programs. With an honours degree in postharvest management of fresh produce and 28 years of research, extension and industry experience, Joe brings a unique blend of theoretical and practical knowledge to his role. Joe has extensive knowledge, skills and sector experience in on-farm and supply chain food safety, quality and environmental issues. Joe is a qualified food safety trainer and auditor. He is a founding member of the national horticulture industry working group that researched, designed and delivered fresh produce sector food safety guidelines and contributed to the design and development of the Freshcare on-farm food safety program. Joe’s history in research, extension and technology transfer roles plus direct industry experience means he understands the opportunities and challenges for identifying risks and translating scientific research into industry practice.

Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli

bfBonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli received her Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Business Management at California Poly State University, San Luis Obispo and her Masters of Business Administration from Sacramento State University. After fifteen years as Executive Director at the California Wheat Commission, she joined the Center for Produce Safety (CPS) in 2008 as its Executive Director working to leverage public and private expertise and research dollars to address critical risk management issues in the growth, harvest, processing and distribution of fresh produce. As Executive Director she focuses the CPS’s attention on critical food safety issues affecting the fresh produce industry and establishes collaborations among public agencies and private industry to maximize the impact of research budgets. In her past, Bonnie has been chairman of the U.S. Wheat Food Aid Working Group and chairman of the U.S. Wheat Phytosanitary Committee. Bonnie has also been a member of USDA Agriculture Trade Advisory Committee and the USDA’s Grain Inspection Advisory Committee.

Clare Hamilton-Bate

claire hamilton bateClare Hamilton-Bate has a strong background in both the Australian and International fresh produce industries. With a degree in horticulture, Clare has worked in all sectors of the industry from primary production, through the wholesale and retail sectors and, in a range of industry support roles. In her role as Executive Officer of Freshcare, the industry owned on-farm assurance program, Clare is responsible for the overall structure, management, promotion and day to day activities of the Freshcare Program; providing food safety & quality and environmental certification and, associated services to both the fresh produce and wine grape industries. Whilst primarily focussed on fresh produce, Clare’s food safety and quality experience also extends across several other food and agribusiness sectors. Her hands on experience at all stages of the supply chain key to ensuring practical and effective outcomes both in her Freshcare role and in a number of other industry support roles. Clare is a regular contributor to industry journals & publications and participates in a number of industry committees and working groups. In 2010, she was the very proud recipient of an Australian HACCP Conference Award – for an ‘Outstanding individual working in an industry support organisation’.

Belinda Hazell

BHBelinda Hazell has extensive experience in the horticultural and agricultural sector, spanning more than 25 years, including the family businesses of Hazell Bros Group (Agricultural Division) and more recently, 3rd Rock Agriculture. In 1998, Belinda was awarded the Tasmanian Farm Business Development Award for micropropagation of apple rootstocks. Since 2003, Belinda has been a principal management system consultant with Optimum Standard, responsible for design, development and implementation of systems and provision of ongoing business support to clients across a range of food safety systems including Freshcare, WQA, BRC, SQF, GlobalGAP, ISO 22000 and HACCP. Belinda is the Chair of Freshcare Limited, an industry owned, not-for-profit on-farm assurance program, established and maintained to service over 5,000 members of the Australian fresh produce industry. Belinda currently sits on the Freshcare Food Safety Technical Committee and Environmental Technical Committee to identify and/or address issues raised by stakeholder groups. Recently contracted as Lead Project Manager for TQA Australia, Belinda oversees their client portfolio and drives their significant agribusiness project management involvement across Australia. Belinda has extensive project management experience and holds a Cert IV in Training and Assessment (2009), a Diploma in Occupational Health & Safety (2008), an Advanced Diploma in Production Horticulture (1999) and is a Graduate of the Tasmanian Rural Leadership Program (1998). In 2012 Belinda commenced an MBA specialising in Agricultural Innovation at the University of Tasmania. In May 2014 Belinda was presented with a Tasmanian Women in Agriculture Award for Outstanding Contribution to Agriculture.

Scott Ledger

SLScott Ledger has 40 years’ experience working with horticulture businesses to improve knowledge and practices. Scott’s experience spans a wide range of crops, covering aspects such as technology development, monitoring and improving supply chain handling systems, implementing quality and food safety systems and developing pathways for access to export markets. In 2012, Scott retired from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Queensland Government (DAFF QLD) after 38 years’ service. Scott’s last role was leader of the Supply Chain Innovation R&D team within the Horticulture and Forestry Science Group. Scott and colleagues established the Hort VC Group in 2012. The company goal is to help horticulture businesses to improve knowledge and skills along the whole value chain from production to retail and strengthen the competitiveness and sustainability of the chains. Scott has worked with an Australia-wide network of technical experts since 1995 to help the Australian horticulture industry develop and implement on-farm assurance programs. This has included developing guidelines for approved supplier programs and on-farm food safety and developing and delivering training courses for farmers. The network was responsible for developing the original version of the Freshcare Code of Practice and the second revision of the Code, and the training course materials used for farmer training for the Freshcare program. Scott was a member of the project team that worked with representatives of the 10 ASEAN member countries to develop a voluntary standard for ASEAN Good Agriculture Practice, and delivered a training course on ASEAN GAP for trainers from each country. This AusAID project was an initiative of the Australian ASEAN Development Cooperative Program.

Associate Professor Robyn McConchie

rmAssociate Professor Robyn McConchie is Head of the Department of Plant and Food Sciences in the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment at the University of Sydney. She has been involved in postharvest research and education for over 30 years working on minimising pesticide use, and more recently food safety, grain storage and development of functional foods from waste. Robyn has led many international research and capacity building projects in postharvest and linking farmers to markets across SE Asia, the Pacific and Africa. For the past three years she has been working to address food security issues across 22 African countries, through improved storage and safety of grains. From 2006 – 2010 Robyn was Director of the University’s Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific. Robyn was a convener of the 7th International Symposium on Education, Research Training & Consultancy at the International Horticultural Congress in Brisbane, August 2014. Robyn is currently a nonexecutive Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust.

Barry McGookin

Barry McGookinBarry McGookin is an innovation manager with 30 years in the food manufacturing industry. For the last 15 years Barry has held senior technical and marketing roles leading national strategies with some of Australia’s largest food manufacturers. In these roles he has driven successful innovation, cost reduction and value engineering in consumer, food service, private label and export products. Prior to his current role, Barry joined a start up consortium, creating projects that achieved both environmental and profit improvement for Victorian small businesses. Barry has continued his national focus with roles on both the Safe Food and the Health and Nutrition implementation teams for the National Food and Nutrition Technology Translation and R&D Strategy. Currently Barry McGookin is the General Manager for Innovation, Capabilities and Skills at Food Innovation Australia Ltd., the Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre engaging industry with innovation and market access capability. To date he has supported connections and projects with potential to deliver $40M+ in additional sales to the sector.

Professor Mary O’Kane

mkProfessor Mary O’Kane is the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer and also a company director and Executive Chairman of O’Kane Associates, a Sydney-based consulting practice. Professor O’Kane is also Chair of the Development Gateway and Development Gateway International, Chair of the CRC for Spatial Information, Chair of the Space Environment Management CRC and a director of NICTA, Capital Markets CRC and Business Events Sydney. Professor O’Kane was Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Adelaide from 1996-2001. She is a former Chair of the board of the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy, a former member of the Commonwealth’s Review of the National Innovation System, Australian Research Council and the Co-operative Research Centres (CRC) Committee, the board of FH Faulding & Co Ltd and the board of CSIRO. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and a Fellow of Engineers Australia.

Alan Pollard

Alan PollardAlan was appointed Chief Executive of Pipfruit New Zealand in March 2012. Alan is a Chartered Accountant, having graduated from Victoria University of Wellington with a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration degree majoring in accounting and economics. Alan’s career spans both central government and professional service organisations. Alan has managed some of New Zealand’s largest law firms, including being a part of the team that put together the first trans-Tasman law firm merger. Alan has held a number of directorships including the Canterbury Development Corporation, and the Canterbury Economic Development Fund. He was President of the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce for 2009 and 2010, having served as a Director since 2005. Alan and his wife, Miranda, moved from North Canterbury where they bred miniature cows on their Ohoka lifestyle block, and have now settled in Havelock North.

Dr Robert Premier

Robert PremierDr Robert Premier is an international expert in food safety and quality. Robert has recently completed major projects for the ASEAN Secretariat delivering food safety based standards for Good Animal Husbandry Practices, Good Aquaculture Practices and the third ASEAN project on Good Agricultural Practices for fruit and vegetables. These food safety standards will be used by the 10 member countries of the ASEAN economic community to facilitate trade. Robert has also worked on an Asian Development Bank funded project to introduce Cambodia GAP, an audited food safety QA system for fruit and vegetables and has trained in food safety for fresh produce in Singapore and Brunei. Robert has also worked on a number of food safety related projects in Vietnam, Laos and Bangladesh for the FAO. Robert is currently working as a consultant for Global F.S. Pty Ltd in Australia, a company that is assisting growers that want to develop minimally processing plants within their farms, assisting food companies to reduce microbial contamination and to increase the quality of their products through novel packaging and the improvements in the distribution chain. Robert has previously held a number of positions in Australia, including the technical manager position for SaladFresh, the national quality and risk manager position with SaladFresh/Mrs Crocketts kitchens, section leader position of the postharvest and food sections at DPI Victoria and as a research microbiologist position with the Australian Government. Robert has over 35 years experience in microbiology and food safety, he holds a PhD degree from the University of Melbourne and two master degrees in the areas of food science and environmental science.

Catherine Richardson

CRCatherine Richardson has spent 30 years working in the quality and technical areas of New Zealand’s two major fresh fruit industries, Kiwifruit and Pipfruit. Catherine was a member of the small team that developed the initial quality system that has underpinned the internationally successful NZ Kiwifruit industry and played a key role in a number of significant industry development initiatives including the introduction of Integrated Pest Management programme throughout the industry. Catherine then moved to the Pipfruit industry as National Technical Manager for the NZ Apple and Pear Marketing Board where she was responsible for the Board’s substantial research programme and quality management programme. In 2009, after several years travelling and living in UK, Catherine returned to the Kiwifruit Industry as Quality Manager for Zespri International Ltd, leading a team responsible for understanding the requirements of customers in over 60 different countries and ensuring that Zespri product meets these needs. Catherine is passionate about the fresh fruit industry and the importance of constantly striving to provide consumers with fruit that is safe, sound, sustainable and, above all, provides an outstanding eating experience.

Associate Professor Tom Ross

dr-tom-rossAssociate Professor Tom Ross is a food microbiologist, specialising in mathematical modelling and microbial ecology of foods and works at the Food Safety Centre at the University of Tasmania. The Centre is recognised for both academic and practical contributions to microbial food safety and food safety management. In addition to microbial ecology and physiology studies, the Centre develops mathematical models and risk-based decision-support systems that are now widely used in the food industry and by government to improve food safety and food preservation. Tom is Director of the newly created ARC Industrial Transformations Training Centre for Innovative Horticultural Products at the University of Tasmania. Tom has written >120 scientific papers and book chapters on the topic of modelling of microbial behaviour in foods, with particular emphasis on application of predictive microbiology and quantitative risk assessment in food safety management. Tom has been a member of numerous expert consultations on food safety risk assessment and risk management, convened by the Australian government and industry organisations and, internationally, by FAO and WHO. Tom often conducts, or contributes to, international training workshops on food safety management, risk assessment and statistical sampling schemes. He was appointed to permanent membership of the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods in 2008, and in 2014 was awarded the Keith Farrer award by the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology for his achievements in research and education in food science.

Dr Mark Turner

mark turnerDr Mark Turner is an Associate Professor in food microbiology in the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences at the University of Queensland and is the current leader of the food science and technology group. Mark coordinates the Master of Food Science & Technology programs and teaches courses in food microbiology, safety and biotechnology. Mark leads a research group working in areas of lactic acid bacteria genetics, genomics and biocontrol applications in horticulture and dairy. He has run projects characterising sporeformers in dairy foods and antimicrobial activities of herbs and spices. Mark has current research funding from the Australian Research Council and is a chief investigator on two large industry transformation funding programs in food science. Mark currently supervises 2 postdoctoral researchers, 8 PhD students, 3 Masters students and 1 Honours student. Mark or his group members have presented invited or selected seminars in the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Vietnam, Singapore and China in food quality and safety. Mark has published over 50 peer reviewed research articles in international journals and is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Food Protection.

Michael Worthington

MW picture Michael Worthington was named CEO of Produce Marketing Association of Australia New Zealand (PMA A-NZ) in October of 2009. Michael served on the PMA A-NZ Council for three years prior to the establishment of PMA A-NZ Limited. Michael has 30 years senior management experience in large scale agribusiness with operational experience in a broad range of enterprises particularly in production, processing, supply chain logistics, sales & marketing (Australia, Asian, UK and US markets). As CEO for PMA A-NZ, Michael’s responsibilities include providing the full range of administrative functions, including supplying executive services to the board of directors and associated task forces, undertaking local member relations, sourcing and delivering relevant information for the local trans-Tasman industry, managing the annual Fresh Connections conference and handling local media relations. Michael also works closely with PMA’s U.S. headquarters staff to help build and strengthen the two-way partnership.

Gail Woods

Gail-WoodsAs a passionate advocate for the fruit and vegetable sector, Gail Woods is the Executive Officer of Fresh Markets Australia (FMA) which is the national industry body representing fruit and vegetable wholesalers and supporting businesses in Australia’s six central markets (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Newcastle). FMA runs FreshTest, the largest and most comprehensive chemical and microbial testing program in Australian horticulture. Gail is the General Manager of Brismark, which is the member organisation for fruit and vegetable primary wholesalers in Brisbane markets. Brismark represents its members and provides services to primary wholesalers, secondary wholesalers, commercial buyers, growers and industry groups, and job seekers at the Brisbane markets. With a Bachelor of Business in Accounting, Gail is a CPA with over 20 years’ experience in executive management in the multidisciplinary corporate environment, and volunteers as a Queensland Regional Councillor for United Way Australia, a global charity which works to advance the common good by creating opportunities for a better life for everyone.