Assessing and ranking food safety risks for the fresh food sector
In 2014, an outbreak of yersiniosis affecting around 220 people was attributed to fresh produce, probably lettuce and carrots, although this could not be confirmed. Ongoing concerns about this emerging disease, the general drive for better traceability of fresh produce, and the vital and growing importance of the horticultural sector, have motivated a joint research project by the Centre, United Fresh and New Zealand Food Safety (MPI) to assess and rank food safety risks. The results will be made available for pan-industry benefit and give the industry a clear steer as to what they need to focus on.
Centre affiliated scientists from ESR and Plant & Food Research, will compile and examine data from a variety of sources, including industry, and convene expert working groups to consider the information and develop food safety priorities. The project was first mooted at a very successful joint Centre/United Fresh industry workshop in March, just as Covid-19 landed in New Zealand. Centre Director Dr Catherine McLeod says, “In the new strictures of the Covid-19 economy, when public health and food exports are top of the agenda, sharing research costs and prioritising food safety makes a lot of sense. New Zealand produce is recognised internationally as being very safe; everything hangs on us keeping that reputation.”