New centre addresses Australian food safety gap

27 May 2014

A centre aimed at ensuring the continued safety of fresh food produced in Australia and New Zealand, hosted by the University of Sydney, opens today.

"The University of Sydney is delighted to host the new industry funded Fresh Produce Safety Centre.We see the Centre as the embodiment of the University's desire to reach out to industry, identify research gaps and address research priorities in fresh produce safety," said Professor Mark Adams, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment at the University.

The centre will work with every sector of the fresh produce supply chain including growers and processors through to researchers and peak industry bodies.

The newly appointed board of directors said the centre has been established to address an important gap in the industry; the need to promote research, outreach and education on fresh produce safety throughout Australia and New Zealand.

"Australia's fruit and vegetable industry is worth over $7 billion and international markets seek out Australian products because of its record of food safety. We want to ensure our supply chains continue to operate on the best available information," said Associate Professor Robyn McConchie, from the University's Faculty of Agriculture and Environment.

Professor McConchie and Michael Worthington, CEO of Produce Marketing Association A-NZ, working with Horticulture Australia, have brought together industry stakeholders to support the Fresh Produce Safety Centre.

"While government, industry and quality assurance agencies are implementing protocols based on the best available information, there is a lack of general awareness of the risk of microbial contamination of fresh produce and more importantly, there is a lack of Australian based research to inform the Australian industry of best practice, " Associate Professor McConchie said.

"This centre will not only enhance our produce safety practices but will also deal with outbreaks in the region, particularly crisis mitigation, management and consumer communication."

Associate Professor McConchie is currently investigating the survival of Salmonella in soils treated with chicken manure and the potential use of crops such as buckwheat and mustard that contain antimicrobial compounds, to kill Salmonella.

"Salmonella is the second highest cause of food-borne disease in Australia, and improper use of manures during vegetable production is potentially a significant source of preharvest contamination so this research has great potential for addressing the problem."

This research for the Fresh Produce Safety Centre is being done in partnership with researchers at the University of California, Davis.

The Fresh Produce Safety Centre is being hosted by the University under a project with the PMA A-NZ, the Australasian region's leading fresh produce trade association. The FPSC has been funded by Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) using voluntary contributions from industry and matched funds from the Australian Government.

The Fresh Produce Safety Conference: Accelerating Australian & New Zealand Food Safety Research, will be held at the University of Sydney on 11 August 2014

Contact: Verity Leatherdale

Phone: 02 9351 4312 or 0403 067 342

Email: 4221040d17315d1e1f0e460f0605070b5d130b2a4a0d0533006a16561019131c