November/December 2022 - 23

Getting at root cause
By John Gurrisi
Vice President of
Food Safety and
Fresh Express
Q: What does fresh
produce food safety
look like at Fresh
A: We consider food
safety a company value.
It is embedded in our
DNA; while priorities
and initiatives can
remains constant. When
other departments come
to me or my team to
ask what we think about projects they
are considering, that's when we know
food safety is continually top of mind
throughout the organization.
Our produce safety approach, " 7
Steps of Prevention, " starts with Good
Agricultural Practices and certifications.
Step 1: Our customized GAPs ensure
raw product excellence across all Fresh
Express operations. It addresses and builds
on 15 prevention sets. Step 2: Certification
ensures our standards are being followed
and we can measure across-the-board
excellence via multiple checkpoints, audits
and ongoing surveillance. This includes
" boots on the ground " inspections by our
specially trained field teams.
Step 3: We use risk-based hazard analysis
to troubleshoot and prevent food safety
risks before they happen. Step 4: We
continually share related knowledge and
train across our organization. We also work
with like-minded competitors; we think
food safety should not be a competitive
advantage. Step 5: Traceability ensures we
can trace salads from where they are grown
to where they are sold within minutes; we
are currently upgrading our proprietary
system to utilize technology including
RFID. Step 6 covers the safety and security
of our facilities and employees, Step 7
is about real-time response, including
reassuring consumers and customers.
Q: How does research factor into it?
A: There are many unknowns in the world
of fresh produce food safety ― we don't
food safety
know what we don't know. Center for
Produce Safety focuses on produce safety
like no other organization, by funding
cutting-edge research and providing the
necessary structure for researchers to do
their best work. As a member of CPS's
Technical Committee, I'm proud to be
part of the whole process of overseeing
these projects and lending credibility to
them. Our whole company is proud to
be part of CPS.
Q: Tell us about CPS research projects
that are particularly relevant to
A: Cyclospora is a challenge for us and our
industry about which little is known. So
Fresh Express has put a lot of effort and
investment towards learning more. CPS
has made Cyclospora a priority over the
last several years, and great information
is coming out of that research.
For example, researchers presenting at
the 2021 and 2022 CPS Research Symposia
documented limits of current testing
for Cyclospora (Kniel, RFP year 2019*,
Mattioli 2019*, Ortega 2019*). Currently,
no single DNA-based testing method can
discern Cyclospora cayetanensis from its
closely related parasitic relatives. CPS
researchers recommend further advanced
testing to confirm C. cayetanensis
presumptive positives.
That work was a big " aha! " moment
for our company. We'd been doing some
research testing for Cyclospora, but
it is expensive, and difficult to find a
certified lab that can do it; now, CPS
research results have called into question
whether testing is even viable at this time.
Until more information or other testing
methods are available, we will continue
our internal research.
A current CPS project, AFECCT
(Rosenthal 2021*), is assessing options
for filtering out Cyclospora. Our industry
can treat irrigation water to kill E. coli or
Salmonella, but those sanitizers will not
kill Cyclospora. So we're left with working
to prevent it ― which can be much more
 Mia Mattioli's team looked for C. cayetanen¬sis
in water sources in Georgia growing regions,
complementing similar testing projects around the
U.S. Photo: Mia Mattioli
challenging ― or at filtering the water.
This project is assessing whether common
filters ― sand, zero-valent iron, or a
combination of the two ― can filter out
the Cyclospora oocysts.
A CPS project starting in 2023 that also
jumps out at me is looking at whether
treating produce with bacteriophages can
reduce the risk of Listeria monocytogenes
without degrading product quality. I am
looking forward to seeing those results.
If we can get at the root cause, we can
develop mitigations. That, in turn, will help
ensure and increase the level of produce
safety for all consumers ― including us
and our families. Consumers should have
the confidence to eat romaine without
worrying about where it was grown. This
is another example of the research CPS is
conducting at the growing level, working
alongside regulatory bodies and private
industry. Center for Produce Safety helps us
find answers to countless critical questions.
To learn more about these and other
CPS research projects, visit www.
Gurrisi is vice president of food
safety and quality for Fresh Express, the top
producer of fresh-cut salads in the U.S. He
is a member of Center for Produce Safety's
Technical Committee, which guides CPS's
produce-specific research program.

November/December 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of November/December 2022

November/December 2022 - 1
November/December 2022 - 2
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