The new Center for Produce Safety at the University of California (UC), Davis, has named Dr. Devon Zagory as interim executive director. The center was established earlier this year to work with the agricultural and food industries, government regulatory agencies, trade associations, research institutions, and consumer groups to enhance the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables through research, education, and information exchange.

The Center for Produce Safety was established following national E. coli outbreaks last year. Initial funding for the center came from a coalition of the Produce Marketing Association, Taylor Farms of California, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the University of California.

Zagory has 25 years of experience working on produce safety with agricultural producers, fresh-cut industries, and university researchers. He has worked internationally as a consultant in the fields of food microbiology and modified atmosphere packaging. Zagory was a founder of Davis Fresh Technologies, now NSF Davis Fresh, and continues to serves as senior vice president for Food Safety and Quality Programs.

“The Center for Produce Safety will address the quest for safer fruits and vegetables on a number of fronts,” said Zagory. “The center will serve as a nexus for developing and implementing safer practices with its many collaborators. We must reinforce consumers’ confidence in the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables as an integral part of a healthful diet.”

“We are confident that Dr. Zagory, with his strong knowledge of produce safety and his extensive experience with the produce industry, will effectively launch the Center for Produce Safety’s outreach objectives,” said Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis. “Food safety is an important issue for university researchers and food producers throughout the U.S. The Center for Produce Safety will work to ensure a safe and secure food supply for all consumers.”

The Center for Produce Safety will be located in UC Davis’ Western Institute for Food Safety and Security. The center will 1) serve as a central database for research information on produce safety, 2) will fund scientific studies to mitigate risks in produce, and 3) will provide science-based field-level training and best management practices in an effort to reduce future outbreaks of food-related illnesses.

Zagory has a doctoral and a master’s degree in plant pathology from the University of California, Berkeley, and a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science from UC Berkeley. He spent eight years as an associate pomologist in the former Department of Pomology (now Plant Sciences) at UC Davis.

Zagory was co-chair of the Technical Committee of the International Fresh-cut Produce Association and was editor-in-chief of the Third Edition of the IFPA Food Safety Guidelines for the Fresh-cut Produce Industry. He has written numerous chapters and scientific publications, and has given many presentations on produce microbial safety, packaging, quality, and operations.