UMD Researchers Seek Tomato and Leafy Greens Farm Participants

Sasha Marine, UMD Postdoctoral Research Associate; scmarine@umd.edu

In recent years, outbreaks of Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli in fresh vegetables and the resulting public concern over food safety has prompted regulators to re-evaluate production and post-harvest practices. Research has demonstrated the importance of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Good Hygienic Practices (GHPs) for preventing contamination and the subsequent growth of pathogenic microorganisms. As a result, protocols (referred to as “metrics” by the food industry) have been established by specific commodity groups and retailers, as well as by state and federal organizations. However, knowledge gaps remain as to the risk factors and adaptability of these protocols to different climates, regions and types of farming operations. It is important that any protocols be suited to implementation on small- and medium-sized farms, which are typical to Maryland and Delaware.

Thanks to a multi-state grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, University of Maryland researchers Kathryne Everts and Christopher Walsh will be collecting data from several small- and medium-sized farms in Maryland and Delaware to examine the influence of water sources and environmental parameters on the microflora on tomatoes and leafy greens. The scientific and technological knowledge gained from the 3-year project will be used to develop, refine and defend national food safety protocols for domestic and imported produce. Data generated from this project will also be incorporated into an upper-division undergraduate course being developed by Walsh and faculty at the University of Delaware and the University of Florida.

Farmers wishing to participate in this project may contact Sasha Marine (scmarine@umd.edu).

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