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2025 AGENDA: The 2025 Fresh Produce Food Safety Innovation Agenda

Five years on from the inception of the Fresh Produce Safety Centre Australia & New Zealand, we’ve achieved strong collaboration by bringing together, in a non-competitive space, the key influencers and networks from across the globe in fresh produce food safety.

With rich online resources of interpreted leading research, articles and tools, we have actively developed partnerships beyond our networks to bring to the fresh produce sector the best opportunity to tackle emerging food safety issues.

The Guidelines for Fresh Produce Food Safety continue to represent the most recent research-based evidence and thinking in food safety. As the custodians of the Guidelines, we ensure they are readily available as a practical resource for growers, packers and along the supply chain.

We have also developed research partnerships – ARC Training Centre in Fresh Produce Food Safety, Freshcare Limited and Australian Horticultural Research – to undertake Australian based research that provides local evidence to inform domestic and export requirements such as withholding periods for animal manures, composts and irrigation water. These findings are segue directly into the biennial updates of the Guidelines.

Key Food Safety Challenges

An emerging food safety issue is the effect of climate change. It is a theme that is gaining momentum with growers, industry bodies and the research community who are starting to delve into the ramifications on food safety of unpredictable weather patterns and climate conditions.

Without the historical intelligence and records growers rely upon to enforce their decisions, we are racing to create the knowledge bank that will allow safe fresh produce to flourish in this new and changing era.

We are responding to this challenge by undertaking global desktop research in partnership with The University of Sydney to better understand the food safety risks associated with a range of climatic conditions. Initial findings from this research are due to be completed in November 2019.

Consumer scrutiny about fresh produce traceability and food safety are increasingly a challenge for the fresh produce sector in Australia and New Zealand. With incidences from listeria to needles to frogs and spiders in packaged goods, consumers are uncertain about the robustness of the supply chain from farm to retailer.

2025 Agenda: The 2025 Fresh Produce Food Safety Innovation Agenda is our response to this challenge.

2025 Agenda

In June 2019, we hosted 30 key influencers from Australia and New Zealand’s horticultural and innovation sectors to a one-day Innovation Forum. The result was a mandate that FPSC A-NZ lead the conversation and activities to investigate opportunities.

Tasked with empowering the Australian and New Zealand fresh produce industry with novel and innovative systems and processes that leads to safer fresh produce for consumers, the 2025 Agenda focuses on transformational risk management in fresh produce food safety by tapping into indigenous and global talent within fresh produce, the research community, and the technology and innovation experts outside our natural space to help find solutions.

This style of thinking is our opportunity to delve into what the future of fresh produce food safety looks like beyond 2025. We are at the start-line of the opportunity to write the future for fresh produce and reaffirm consumer trust in our systems and processes.

The initial scope (Stage One) of the 2025 Agenda is to undertake:

  1. A desktop analysis to produce a review of food safety compliance systems across the globe with an understanding of what components can be used in A-NZ that are transformational.
  2. A study of the food safety audit to map a typical compliance system leading to the identification of process improvements at each stage, both as a technology solution and best practice human input.

Timing

The initial scoping activities will be completed by March 2020.

Upon completion of these activities, broad-spectrum industry engagement to peak industry bodies and growers, scheme owners, and government will occur to allow for full transparency of the process to-date, consultation on the findings and further opportunities for involvement.

Stage Two of the 2025 Agenda is set to begin in mid-2020.

Partners

Key stakeholders involved in the 2025 Agenda are: Perfection Fresh, Costa Group, T&G Global, RockIt, Amazon Web Services, Vodafone, IBM Food Trust, CHEP, Escavox, HarvestMark/Trimble, Intela Data Science, Merieux Nutrisciences, Freshcare Limited, GS1, HARPS, Optimum Standards, University of Queensland, and New Zealand Food Safety Science & Research Centre.

Download a copy of the 2025 Agenda here. For further information about involvement and opportunities please complete the form below.

 

 

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 > https://hos.ifas.ufl.edu/people/on-campus-faculty/kevin-m-folta/

This small event will be held at 10am in Melbourne’s CBD. Please contact jessica@fpsc-anz.com 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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