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Produce Marketing Association names new chief science officer

Produce Marketing Association announced Max Teplitski has accepted the role of chief science officer for the association. Teplitski will lead PMA’s science, technology, supply chain and sustainability efforts when he joins the organization in January 2020.MaxT2

He brings a wealth of experience in leading national food-safety and nutrition programs, building and sustaining private-public partnerships, and globally recognized accomplishments in science and scientific policy bolstered by a rich research background in microbiology, biotechnology and sustainability of agricultural production. Prior to joining PMA, Teplitski most recently served as the acting director for the divisions of food safety and nutrition at the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. In this role, he oversaw NIFA's investment portfolio into research programs in food safety, human nutrition and health, novel foods and manufacturing technologies, as well as programs that incentivize purchase of fruits and vegetables among low-income consumers, increase self-reliance of communities in providing for their food needs, promote access to local food, and deliver customized FSMA training.

“I am proud to welcome Dr. Teplitski to the PMA family and community as our next Chief Science Officer. Max comes to us as an accomplished scientist with a long history of produce safety experience from his days as a leading researcher at the University of Florida and most recently as a USDA NIFA program leader,” said PMA Chief Executive Officer Cathy Burns. “Max has a demonstrated understanding of the microbiological and environmental challenges facing growers today and a view on emerging technologies that are changing the face of produce safety. He is also a staunch advocate of science and risk-based produce safety approaches, which has been a cornerstone of PMA’s produce safety offerings for the past 11 years under Dr. Bob Whitaker’s leadership.”

Teplitski’s research background is vast. For over a decade as a faculty member at the University of Florida, he led a research program focused on food safety, public and environmental health, and agricultural crop production, and has contributed to industry research through the Center for Produce Safety.

“Max was the principal investigator on three research projects funded through our competitive awards process,” said Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, executive director of CPS. “He is an excellent scientist and has a keen interest in understanding the needs of the produce industry. The industry has gained an incredible asset as he takes on this new role.”

Well-respected in academia, the public policy arena and the produce industry, Teplitski is regarded by other industry experts for his forward-thinking and problem solving.  “When insurmountable problems arise, I recommend folks go to talk to Max about possible solutions,” said Martha Rhodes Roberts, former assistant commissioner of agriculture in Florida and consultant to produce associations. “When faced with mounting foodborne outbreaks, Dr. Teplitski targeted his research to find solutions and found genetic markers for pathogen resistance.  He is one of the most future thinking, discerning individuals I know.”

Teplitski’s expertise and experience go far beyond food safety. Early in his career, he became interested in the interactions between plants and bacteria, especially in understanding how these interactions impact nutritional quality, sustainability of agricultural production and environmental health.  During his time at the University of Florida, he lived and worked on his own small farm, cultivating an impressive collection of fruits and vegetables from around the world.  Produce and floral are not just his job, but a passion that drives him to find the solutions that solve a multitude of challenges for growing, consuming and enjoying produce and floral. It is this passion that he is excited to bring to the industry through his new role at PMA.

“PMA has been a pioneer of translating scientific discoveries that benefit our industry in everything from food safety to traceability,” said Teplitski. “I look forward to building on the work that Dr. Bob Whitaker has done to lead with the science. I will aim for a two-prong approach: to continue the work to solve the biggest challenges facing our industry today, and to anticipate and strategically capitalize on opportunities that will unlock the hidden potential in produce and floral.

“This includes thinking about how to utilize new spaces that haven’t previously been conducive to growing foods. It can also include re-imagining how fruits, vegetables and floral are used not just on the table, but in every aspect of our lives,” added Teplitski. “I am very excited to be a part of an organization who is forward-thinking and socially responsible, and also thinks and plans ahead to be an authoritative voice on behalf of our members, to improve lives of consumers, and to advocate for science-based solutions for challenges that face produce and floral industries today and tomorrow.”

Teplitski will lead a growing team of experts at PMA who are focused on providing insight and leadership for the produce and floral industries on technology, sustainability, supply chain, and food safety.

“We have assembled a world-class science, technology and supply chain team at PMA to serve our members’ needs and Max is going to take that capability to new heights,” said Bob Whitaker, PMA’s retiring chief science officer. “Max has a solid grasp of key industry issues and will work with our staff and our members to create connections and provide content to drive solutions.”

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