Fresh Express spokesmen said the pledged money would allow food safety experts from academia and government, who have been meeting as volunteers since last May, to fund specific research projects through a competitive grant process. The processor said the group would make the research grants independently and without restrictions from the company.
The group is chaired by Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota. Osterholm said in a statement released by the company that the panel had identified five areas worthy of more research, including how E. coli is absorbed by leafy greens and whether it survives in harvested fields.
Studies identifying sources of contamination, how E. coli stands up to different processing methods and identifying new ways of keeping the bacteria from infecting lettuce and spinach also would be among the team's priorities, Osterholm said.
Fresh Express products were not implicated in the recent scare, but parent company Chiquita Brands International reported third-quarter losses of $96 million last year that it attributed to consumer concern about eating leafy greens.