An independent collaborative approach was developed for stimulating research on high-priority food safety issues. The Fresh Express Produce Safety Research Initiative was launched in 2007 with $2 million in unrestricted funds from industry and independent direction and oversight from a scientific advisory panel consisting of nationally recognized food safety experts from academia and government agencies. The program had two main objectives: (i) to fund rigorous, innovative, and multi-disciplinary research addressing the safety of lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens and (ii) to share research findings as widely and quickly as possible to support the development of advanced safeguards within the fresh-cut produce industry. Sixty-five proposals were submitted in response to a publicly announced request for proposals and were competitively evaluated. Nine research projects were funded to examine underlying factors involved in Escherichia coli O157:H7 contamination of lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens and potential strategies for preventing the spread of foodborne pathogens. Results of the studies, published in the Journal of Food Protection, help to identify promising directions for future research into potential sources and entry points of contamination and specific factors associated with harvesting, processing, transporting, and storing produce that allow contaminants to persist and proliferate. The program provides a model for leveraging the strengths of industry, academia, and government to address high-priority issues quickly and directly through applied research. This model can be productively extended to other pathogens and other leafy and nonleafy produce.

This content is only available as a PDF.