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Creating a Practical Tool for Risk-Based Sampling


Our goal is to ultimately help growers do a better job of in-field testing for foodborne pathogens, so the growers can continue to improve on the safety of their produce,” Stasiewicz said. “Risk-based sampling is something we know the industry is trying to move toward. If we know there are locations in the field that are at higher risk of contamination than others, we take a higher number of samples in those locations to detect potential contamination of the field.

“We’re building what hopefully is an easy-to-use interface so growers or other interested parties can evaluate whatever sampling program they want to apply.”

Many programs typically involve collecting 60 samples from a field, combining them in a container and creating what’s known as an n60 composite. But the exact location from where the samples are collected varies, depending on the program. In a generic program, for example, a person may walk straight and collect samples every 100 yards. Another plan may involve a person walking a “Z” pattern as they collect samples. But those sampling plans don’t necessarily focus on areas of the field that have a higher risk of contamination, such as under power lines where birds may sit, close to open water sources or near signs of obvious animal intrusions, Stasiewicz said.

Further details about this project can be found here.

2019 Conference Summary

A Day in Brief

Environmental Change: Implications for Fresh Produce Food Safety was the theme of the 2019 annual fresh produce food safety conference hosted recently by the FPSC A-NZ in Sydney.

The day was opened by Michael Johnsen MP, NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture on behalf of the Minister. The NSW Government is pushing ahead with an agenda that will influence climate change to build resilience in the agriculture sector.

Read the conference summary here.


USA: Researchers confirm flies can transfer E. coli from feedlots to produce fields


Along with feedlot dust blowing in the wind and surface irrigation water flowing adjacent to feedlots, flies captured in leafy greens plots near feedlots are capable of transferring E. coli from animal operations to produce fields.

Set for publication in August in the “Journal of Food Protection,” new research from a team of experts links contamination of leafy greens with E. coli from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), also referred to as feedlots, via “pest flies.”  

“Most fly isolates were the same predominant pulsed-field gel electrophoresis types found in feedlot surface manure and leafy greens, suggesting a possible role for flies in transmitting E. coli O157:H7 to the leafy greens,” according to the research abstract.

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New genomic treatments in berries

Melbourne Presentation – 10am, Friday 16 August 2019

Meet Professor Kevin Folta (University of Florida) to hear about new genomic treatments in berries.

As a guest of Marcus Oldham College, and co-hosted by FPSC A-NZ, Kevin will be in Melbourne on Friday 16 August 2019.

Kevin’s research focuses on:

  • Genomics of Fruit Flavours- We use strawberry as a model to identify the genes and mechanisms that control fruit traits. The goal is to develop highly-focused, gene-specific, DNA-based tools to speed traditional breeding.
  • Light Control of Plant Growth, Development and Metabolism. We are modulating key traits in fruits and vegetables using narrow bandwidth light. These non-chemical treatments allow manipulation of consumer-centric traits. Our interest is custom spectra as well as custom plants that fit a specific controlled environment.
  • Small Molecule Discovery – We have devised a clever system to identify potentially new plant growth regulators, using the plant to assemble novel molecules. This system allows us to define new chemistries as well as identify potential vulnerabilities for the design of herbicidal compounds that may have limited non-target toxicity and low environmental impact.

In particular, we will learn how new genomic treatments to manipulate consumer-centric traits will be affected by the changing climatic conditions in Australia.

More information about Kevin can be found here >

This small event will be held at 10am in Melbourne’s CBD. Please contact if you’re interested in attending or for more information.

Review of Food Standards Code

Review of Food Standards Code chapters 3 and 4 – Food Safety Management Requirements

FSANZ is reviewing chapters 3 and 4 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code) to ensure a consistent and current approach to through-chain food safety management in Australia. Requirements in chapters 3 and 4 only apply in Australia.

In June, the FPSC A-NZ submitted a response, in summary, below.

  • The Review is limited to discussion in the foodservice sector and the possibility of a primary production and processing standard (PPPS) for high-risk horticultural products.
  • We welcome the current approach that applies a risk-based approach to clearly define the product scope for a possible standard.
  • The industry released new Guidelines for Fresh Produce Food Safety 2019 in June.
  • Need for caution about concentrating on products rather than the processes used to produce them.

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Fresh Produce Tampering

How to prevent, prepare, recover

As published in the June 2019 edition of Produce Plus, Jessica Purbrick says we’ve learnt a lot since September 2018.

Whilst food tampering isn’t new, what is new is the sudden and unprecedented number of copycat occurrences that found a platform and voice across social and traditional media.

What we saw in Australia and New Zealand after the reporting of the ‘needles-in-strawberries’ incidents was the rapid update of copycat behaviour by individuals seeking to gain recognition and social media trending hits.

These 2018 incidents proved how unprepared many organisations are in dealing with the issue. We have all learnt from these events. These learnings provide a strong platform to reflect on what worked well and what didn’t, and to allow future issues to be managed quickly and from a place of knowledge, not reaction.

The challenge now for the fresh produce industry is to prepare, create and deliver a robust incident response plan that averts a crisis which harms consumer confidence (locally and in our global markets) in our fresh produce food safety practices.

Read the full article here.

Reducing listeria contamination from salad vegetables

Research conducted in 2010 found that Listeria monocytogenes was not predominantly spread by water and chicken manure, two common farm inputs in Australian vegetable farming. It is however more prevalent in summer and in particular in Victoria.

Silage and baled hay produced high numbers of L. monocytogenes which are fed to and ingested by ruminants (cows, sheep, goats). This issue with this feed is that it passes through the animals usually without causing infection to them and becomes trapped within dust when the faeces become dry in hot weather.

The dust carrying the L. monocytogenes can then settle on and contaminate vegetables after being blown large distances by strong winds. Leafy vegetables (eg. curly parsley) can trap dust more effectively and show higher levels of detection than smooth leaf vegetables, such as cos lettuce.

A project recommendation is that intensive livestock operations (feedlots) and grazing cattle, sheep and goats should be kept as far from vegetable production as possible and particularly in the direction of prevailing summer winds.

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Foreign object contamination of fresh produce

There can be unintended additional contents, also known as physical contaminants and foreign objects, in fruit and vegetable purchases. Growers aim to eliminate these from the fresh produce sent to retailers and processors. Most retail and food service specifications have a zero tolerance for pests, dead or alive, or other physical contaminants. Consumers also have a low tolerance of additional contents.

Physical contaminants is a broad category that includes but is not limited to soil, stones, sticks, weeds, insects, frogs, glass, nails, plastic and rubber, pens, pins, paper clips and jewellery. Some are a social media novelty while others have genuine injury potential. Some come from the environment and others are from harvest, handling and packing. Some can result in withdrawals, recalls and negative media coverage.

A series of Q&A’s below address the topic of contamination of pests and objects.

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Consumer expectations met through new fresh produce food safety guidelines

“The Guidelines for Fresh Produce Food Safety 2019 ensure Australian produce has the highest safety standards of any produce anywhere in the world”, said Peter Tuohey, Chair, Melbourne Market Authority.

Launching the 2019 version of the Guidelines today at Hort Connections in Melbourne, Mr Tuohey acknowledged that Australian horticulture had seen some damage in recent years through contamination and tampering that impacted producers, retailers and exporters.

“However it is by continuing to evolve and change the standards within these Guidelines that we will meet our consumer expectations”.

“These Guidelines set out the procedures and steps to prevent or deal with contaminations, and covers a comprehensive list of practices and potential hazards to assist growers, packers, transporters, wholesalers and retailers along the supply chain”.

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US: Industry members, food safety veterans urge companies to invest in traceability

Produce Retailer: Panelists at the Center for Produce Safety Symposium described better traceback as essential to containing foodborne illness outbreaks and urged companies to invest in that infrastructure. The somber and frank discussion, moderated by Produce Marketing Association CEO Cathy Burns, started with a review of the recent spate of E. coli outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce. Burns asked each member of the group to share his biggest takeaway from the romaine debacle.