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It’s About Food Safety for Michele Jay-Russell

Chris Brunner, November 25, 2013

Dr. Michele Jay-Russell, program manager, Western Center for Food Safety

Dr. Michele Jay-Russell, program director at the Western Center for Food Safety  is being kept busy these days with details related to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). When Jay-Russell is not testifying at hearings, she’s busy in a spinach field conducting raw manure experiments.

Jay-Russell recently appeared at a one-day Senate Agriculture Committee Informational Hearing  about the proposed produce safety rules that are part of the Food Safety Modernization Act.  The November hearing, chaired by California State Senator Cathleen Galgiani, gathered together food safety experts, government officials, representatives for citrus and almond growers, from around California.  Jay-Russell testified about the current and future research investigating on-farm food safety practices; the role of scientists in developing alternatives within FSMA; and the role of education and outreach in regards to food safety practices.

FSMA-related training and outreach material related to on-farm food safety practices is based upon the research done by UC Davis scientists and their collaborators. The close alignment of WCFS, WIFSS, CPS and allied food safety programs on campus allows new research to be immediately incorporated into training and outreach materials.

Back in Davis, Jay-Russell and her team of scientists are conducting research to see how long E. coli in raw manure survives in the soil, and how much gets onto leafy greens harvested months later.

The Food and Drug Administration sees raw manure as a food safety risk and FMSA is proposing a rule requiring produce growers to wait nine months between applying raw manure to a field and harvesting crops.  There is confusion amongst organic growers however because the FSMA ruling contradicts a USDA standard which allows farmers just four months between application and harvest.

What a dilemma; in steps Jay-Russell and her team to apply the scientific experimentation to determine just how long it takes this nasty little bug to die off. This is the challenging life of a food safety scientist.

Read complete story in National Public Radio article, “Why Slather This Spinach Field In Poop? It’s All For Science”

Read the news report on the FSMA hearing in the Stockton Record, and Dr. Jay-Russell’s complete testimony.