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Water Conference Exceeds Expectations

Chris Brunner, May 5, 2014

Karen Ross, Mike Taylor, Rob Atwill

Karen Ross, Mike Taylor, Rob Atwill, Western U.S. Irrigation Water Conference, UC Davis

FDA’s Western Center for Food Safety (WCFS) located at UC Davis hosted the Western U.S. Irrigation Water Conference April 24-25.  More than 100 participants came together to discuss possible impediments to the widespread adoption of the soon-to-be-released irrigation water quality criteria established under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

FSMA is the most comprehensive reform of the nation’s food safety laws in more than 70 years. The goal is to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from response to prevention of contamination.

Agricultural water is a recognized route of contamination for raw produce. FSMA’s Proposed Agricultural Water Standards seek to prevent or reduce the introduction of pathogens to raw produce via water.  “Although the goal for these regulations is to improve the safety of the nation’s produce, the current proposed rules pertaining to water might be contentious among growers and be challenging to implement, especially during a drought cycle.” explains Rob Atwill, principal investigator of the WCFS and director of the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security (WIFSS).

Further, Atwill said, “The conference was a good opportunity to bring together the various agencies and stakeholders tasked with implementing the proposed rule for agricultural water quality. Throughout the two days we discussed various impediments to implementation, but equally important, the audience was engaged in discussing viable solutions and steps forward that will be beneficial for implementation by the agricultural industry and regulators.”

Michele Jay-Russell, program manager of WCFS, felt the conference exceeded expectation by bringing together a dynamic group of researchers and stakeholders representing key produce production areas from the western United States across to the Midwest, Eastern Seaboard and Southern agricultural regions.

“I am pleased that WCFS could play a role in furthering the discussion about the important role water plays in food safety,” said Atwill.

Dr. Atwill and Samir Assar, director for Produce Safety Staff at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition co-chaired the conference. Representatives from eight different states were in attendance. Participants included regulatory and resource management agencies dealing with microbial water quality and produce food safety, academics from land-grant universities actively engaged in food-safety research, stakeholders tasked with adopting these agricultural water quality regulations and individual growers at the forefront of produce safety compliance.

Mike R. Taylor, J.D., Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture were among the more than 30 guest speakers.  Taylor gave an update on the status of the FSMA Proposed Rule for Produce Safety and goals of the regulations for agricultural water quality criteria. Ross presented an update on the impacts of adopting these agricultural water criteria for California agriculture.

Melissa Partyka, Staff Research Associate and Graduate Student at WIFSS, was event coordinator, and Ronny Bond, Claudia Bonilla and Chris Brunner provided event staff support.

View the complete Program: Western U.S. Irrigation Water Conference