As the tour moved from Hillsborough County to Palm Beach County, participants saw citrus, blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, radishes, lettuce and leafy greens, both in the fields and being harvested and packed. Business owners and operations managers explained their efforts to maintain high food safety standards.

UF personnel also made brief presentations. They outlined food-safety challenges affecting some of Florida’s major fruit and vegetable crops, described their work and answered questions from the agency delegates.

Keith Schneider, an associate professor in the food science and human nutrition department, discussed research aimed at keeping tomatoes safe from Salmonella bacteria, which can enter fruit through cuts or bruises.

Schneider also described his Extension efforts, training more than 1,000 tomato industry workers on state-mandated safety practices. He began that work in late 2008, shortly after the state enacted law establishing food safety best-management practices for tomatoes.

Microbiologist Michelle Danyluk, an assistant professor at UF’s Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, described her research on fresh fruit, fruit juices and vegetables. She said she was pleased that the question and answer session covered more than just food safety, because many of the attendees had little previous exposure to growers’ day-to-day activities.

Other UF faculty presenters: Max Teplitski, an associate professor in the soil and water science department; citrus processing specialist Renee Goodrich-Schneider, an associate professor in the food science and human nutrition department; and horticultural scientist Tim Spann, an assistant professor at the Lake Alfred center, who discussed citrus issues such as greening disease.

Growers and industry spokespeople also discussed issues with the group.

Representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, state regulators and grower associations also attended.

For more information on the Center for Produce Safety, visit http://cps.ucdavis.edu.