- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Conservation and food safety professionals, food safety auditors, federal and state agencies, environmental groups, scientists and members of the agricultural industry are invited to discuss strategies to ensure food safety while protecting natural resources on Aug. 21 in Watsonville.
The sixth annual Farm, Food Safety & Conservation Network Co-management Forum will be held at the Watsonville Civic Plaza Community Room from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 21.
“Co-management requires networking among stakeholders to understand different types of risks in the produce industry,” explained Mary Bianchi, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties and one of the organizers of the forum.
Craig McNamara, president of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, will be the keynote speaker. A panel of UC Cooperative Extension and UC Davis scientists will discuss the latest research on managing nitrate, pathogens and pesticides. Representatives of grower organizations and regulatory agencies will discuss policy related to co-management. After lunch, participants will visit a local organic farm, then reconvene to discuss management strategies that meet production and conservation goals.
Registration is free and includes lunch. To register, visit https://ucanr.edu/survey/survey.cfm?surveynumber=11031.
Co-management takes into consideration that practices designed to conserve natural resources may impact food safety, and food safety practices may impact natural resources. For example, produce buyers often prefer bare ground around crops because they allow food safety managers to see wildlife tracks indicating animal intrusion in the crop, but vegetation buffers may be more effective at reducing movement of pollutants to surface waters.
The forum is being hosted by the Farm, Food Safety & Conservation Network, a Central Coast-based working group whose members bring expertise from diverse interests to support food safety, environmental quality and agricultural viability.
Conservationists, growers, food safety experts discuss food safety, water quality
Fresh produce growers are encouraged and sometimes required by law to protect soil and water quality on their farms as well as support wildlife populations by preserving their habitat. At the same time, growers must protect their crops from contamination by pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses.
Strategies to ensure food safety while protecting natural resources was the subject of lively discussion among conservation and food safety professionals, auditors, federal and state agencies, environmental groups, scientists and members of the agricultural industry who gathered in Watsonville on Wednesday, April 18.
Achieving food safety and conservation objectives while maintaining a strong bottom line is extremely challenging for the produce industry at all levels of the supply chain.
Hank Giclas, senior vice president for strategic planning, science and technology at Western Growers said, "Despite the challenges, growers are committed to providing safe food while ensuring conservation of vital natural resources and these forums are important settings in which a free flow of ideas and experiences are exchanged to further both objectives."
The University of California Cooperative Extension, in collaboration with the Farm Food Safety and Conservation Network brought together 100 people for the fifth annual Food Safety and Water Quality Co-management Forum.
Those attending heard the latest information on existing and pending regulations and food safety guidelines that affect co-management and the most recent science of risk assessment. They also engaged in frank discussion of co-management challenges and solutions at all levels of the supply chain, from large company policies to field level practices of individual growers.
"Co-management requires networking among stakeholders to understand different types of risks in the produce industry," explained Mary Bianchi, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
Co-management takes into consideration that practices designed to conserve natural resources may impact food safety, and food safety practices may impact natural resources. For example, produce buyers often prefer bare ground around crops because they allow food safety managers to observe tracks indicating animal intrusion in the crop, but vegetation buffers may be more effective at reducing movement of pollutants to surface waters. A co-management approach might minimize the use of bare-ground buffers near waterways to reduce adverse impacts on water quality management. Food safety professionals with co-management savvy will also recognize that vegetated buffers between areas frequented by wildlife, such as rangeland, can minimize the movement of pathogens in surface waters flowing toward the crop, particularly on sloped terrain.
Bianchi, who helped organize the meeting, was pleased with the results of the event.
"We surveyed the participants before and after the forum," she said. "Before the forum, 27 percent of the participants said they felt they had adequate access to science-based information about co-management. After the forum, 55 percent of the participants felt they had access to science-based that would help them make decisions, and 79 percent of the participants felt that they could incorporate what they learned into the decisions they make."
A panel of industry leaders discussed the evolving food safety guidelines and policy, including the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, and Good Agricultural Practices harmonization. The panel included Greg Komar, Growers Express director of food safety; Laura Giudici-Mills, owner of LGM Consulting; and Dave Runsten, Community Alliance with Family Farmers director of policy and programs; and Giclas of Western Growers.
Scientists led a discussion on the fate and transport of pathogens in the farm landscape and how science can be applied to assess risk and inform co-management decisions in the field. The scientific panel included Mark Ibekwe, USDA Agricultural Research Service microbiologist; Trevor Suslow, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis; Michele Jay-Russell, Western Institute for Food Safety and Security program manager at UC Davis; Andy Gordus, California Department of Fish and Game environmental scientist; and Bianchi.
Following the panel discussions, participants visited an organic vegetable and berry farm near the Watsonville Sloughs. The landowner, growers and food safety professionals discussed how they manage for food safety and environmental quality.
"We had a very diverse group attending, which is what the goal of the Farm Food Safety and Conservation Network is, to bring together diverse stakeholders in the hopes of building collaborative relationships around the topic of co-management," said Komar of Growers Express. "This forum, in my opinion, was very successful at doing just that."
Mary Bianchi, UC Cooperation Extension farm advisor, (805) 781-5949, email@example.com
Lisa Lurie, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Farm Food Safety and Conservation Network Coordinator (831) 420-3662, firstname.lastname@example.org
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is funding the $25 million, coast-to-coast project, to which UC Davis is providing expertise in livestock health, foodborne disease and consumer food marketing.
The project, announced Jan. 23 by the USDA, aims to reduce the occurrence of and public health risks associated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. The research effort is led by the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
UC Davis researchers collaborating in the project include James Cullor, a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine; Christine Bruhn, a food science marketing specialist and director of the Center for Consumer Research; and Terry Lehenbauer, director, and Sharif Aly, assistant professor, both of the Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center in Tulare.
Cullor and his colleagues in the veterinary school's Dairy Food Safety Laboratory -- in Davis and Tulare -- will conduct research aimed at reducing the microbial counts on cattle hides during processing, looking for ecologically responsible methods for enhancing food safety. They also will test radiofrequency technologies, which use electrical currents oscillating at specific frequencies to inactivate E. coli on beef carcasses during processing.
Bruhn will collaborate with North Carolina State University and Kansas State University to reduce health risks associated with undercooked hamburgers. The researchers will encourage television food programs to include safe food-handling practices and messages.
In addition, Bruhn will work with health care professionals to raise the number of food-handling messages directed toward consumers who are at increased risk for foodborne illness, especially children and people with diabetes. She also will investigate consumer interest in the use of irradiation or high-pressure technologies to enhance the safety of ground meat.
Lehenbauer, Aly and their colleagues at the Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center will participate in animal research needed for understanding the epidemiology and ecology of non-Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, after information from preliminary studies is used to develop the scientific protocols for these animal-sampling projects. The research team will focus on dairy cattle, including male Holstein cattle that are being raised for beef production
Other participants are the University of Delaware, New Mexico State University, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, the University of Arkansas, the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, and a consortium of government, academic and industry scientists and food safety professionals.