About FDA

Produce Safety Experts

Nega Beru, Ph.D
Office of Food Safety, Director

Dr. Beru is the Director, Office of Food Safety in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Previously, he served as Director of CFSAN’s Office of Plant and Dairy Foods, and the Division of Plant Product Safety in that office. Between 1991 when he joined FDA and 1999, he worked in the Office of Premarket Approval (now the Office of Food Additive Safety), where among other duties, he managed industry consultations with FDA regarding foods derived from genetically engineered plants in his capacity as a consumer safety officer, and later as a team leader in the Biotechnology Policy Branch where he also served as Acting Branch Chief. Dr. Beru received a bachelor's degree in the biological sciences from the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL in 1974, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1983 from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, also at the University of Chicago. Dr. Beru stayed on in the department as a postdoctoral research associate/instructor and joined the faculty of the Department of Medicine, Section of Hematology/Oncology as a research associate before joining FDA in 1991. Dr. Beru served as the US Delegate to the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods from 2007-2015.

Samir Assar, Ph.D.
Division of Produce Safety, Director

Dr. Samir Assar is the Director of the Division of Produce Safety in the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN). Since 2008, Dr. Assar has led the development of FDA’s policy, regulation, and guidance on produce safety, including those mandated by the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Dr. Assar provides strategic leadership in developing plans for research, training, and compliance activities that target a safe and abundant produce supply. Dr. Assar is committed to enhancing partnerships with produce safety stakeholders and has collaboratively forged initiatives and agreements aimed at protecting public health. Dr. Assar also serves as the FDA project leader for the Western Center for Food Safety at the University of California - Davis, whose focus is on research, education, and outreach on production agriculture and food safety issues. Dr. Assar received his M.S. and Ph.D. in Food Science from the University of Florida.

Patricia Borrusso, Ph.D.
Division of Produce Safety, Processed Produce Branch, Consumer Safety Officer

Dr. Patricia Borrusso joined the Division of Produce Safety in 2015 as a Consumer Safety Officer in the Processed Produce Branch. Dr. Borrusso contributes to the development of policy, regulations and guidance related to processed produce safety, with an emphasis on microbial safety of seeds. Prior to joining the Division of Produce Safety, Dr. Borrusso worked at CFSAN as an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellow, where she completed a systematic review of consumer food safety research and developed recommendations to inform future research, policy, and education efforts.

Dr. Borrusso earned a B.S. in Nutrition Science from Russell Sage College in 2009 and a Ph.D. in Biology from Drexel University in 2014. At Drexel, Dr. Borrusso’s research in the field of food microbiology focused on consumer food-handling at home, and identified several unsafe food-handling practices associated with the presence of microbial pathogens in the domestic environment.

Annemarie Buchholz, Ph.D.
Division of Produce Safety, Processed Produce Branch, Consumer Safety Officer

Dr. Annemarie Buchholz is a Consumer Safety Officer, and has been a member of the Division of Produce Safety (DPS) (formerly the Produce Safety Staff) since 2013. Before joining DPS, Dr. Buchholz spent almost three years working as a Commissioner’s Fellow for the FDA’s Division of Food Processing Science and Technology in Bedford Park, Illinois, where she conducted research on indicator methods to enhance process controls for fresh produce and validation strategies for fresh and fresh-cut produce washing. Then as a Staff Fellow at the Federal Laboratory Evaluation Office (LEO) she performed check evaluations with State LEO’s, conducted State Central Milk Laboratory on-site evaluations, and provided technical consultation to the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments program.

Dr. Buchholz completed her B. S. in Microbiology and Biotechnology at Rutgers University, where she worked in a laboratory completing experiments involving the survival of foodborne pathogens on deli meats and sprouts, which inspired her to pursue a career in food safety. After graduation, she accepted a support scientist position with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) branch of the US Department of Agriculture in Wyndmoor, PA. Dr. Buchholz earned a Ph.D. in Food Science from Michigan State University, where her research focused on the transfer of E. coli O157:H7 to leafy greens during simulated commercial processing. She was also involved in studying the efficacy of commercial sanitizers during leafy green processing, and typing L. monocytogenes from a delicatessen environment by PFGE and serotyping.

Cecilia Crowley
Division of Produce Safety, Processed Produce Branch, Consumer Safety Officer

Ms. Cecilia Crowley has diverse food safety experience. She has worked as a Food Quality Assurance manager in the fresh-cut produce industry, where she developed and implemented good manufacturing programs, and evaluated good agricultural practices (GAPs) and food defense programs. Since joining CFSAN in 2008, Cecilia has co-led the development of the Worker Health and Hygiene provision of the Produce Rule mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). She participated in the development and enhancement of draft commodity-specific guidance for produce such as leafy greens, melons, and tomatoes. In addition, Ms. Crowley provides policy and technical support during FDA’s response to processed produce foodborne illness outbreaks and import issues. She also has worked on compliance/enforcement actions and strategies to improve produce safety. Ms. Crowley has also worked on the enhancement of FDA’s domestic and imported produce surveillance assignments and other produce initiatives. She actively participates in outreach efforts, and has served as an instructor for the international and domestic Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) training program. Ms. Crowley has actively participated in several produce-related working groups, including the industry guidance for Culinary Herbs. She has served as a subject matter expert during several national level emergency exercises and national security events. Ms. Crowley earned a B.S. in Food Science from the University of Maryland, and an Associate of Arts in Medical Laboratory Technology at Montgomery College.

Chelsea Davidson, M.S.
Division of Produce Safety, Fresh Produce Branch, Staff Fellow

Ms. Chelsea Davidson joined the Division of Produce Safety as a Staff Fellow in 2016. As a member of the Fresh Produce Branch, Ms. Davidson contributes to the development of policy, regulations, and guidance, with an emphasis on agricultural water. Prior to joining DPS, Chelsea earned her M.S. in Horticulture & Agronomy with a specialization in postharvest handling from University of California, Davis, where her research focused on evaluating the effectiveness of wash water antimicrobials during retail handling of iceberg lettuce. Among involvement with other projects, she also led research efforts to validate a hot water pasteurization treatment for commercially-packed whole cantaloupes, and evaluated the pre- and postharvest microbiological quality of tomatoes. Ms. Davidson received her B.S. in Microbiology from Michigan State University, where she worked in a laboratory researching the transfer of human pathogens during postharvest processing of celery and leafy greens.

Gordon Davidson, Ph.D.
Division of Produce Safety, Processed Produce Branch, Staff Fellow

Dr. Gordon Davidson joined the Division of Produce Safety (DPS) in 2016 as a Staff Fellow. Dr. Davidson contributes to the development of policy, regulations, and guidance related to produce safety, with an emphasis on the microbial safety of tree nuts and fresh-cut produce. Prior to joining DPS, Dr. Davidson was a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis where he investigated the impact of growing, harvesting, handling, and storage practices on the microbiota of tree nuts. In addition to his research activities at UC Davis, Dr. Davidson was involved in numerous extension activities related to educating stakeholders on a variety of food safety topics. Dr. Davidson completed both his B.S. in Nutritional Sciences and Ph.D. in Food Science at Michigan State University where his research focused on the efficacy of sanitizing agents against E. coli O157:H7 during leafy green processing.

Dave Ingram, Ph.D.
Division of Produce Safety, Fresh Produce Branch, Consumer Safety Officer

Dr. Dave Ingram joined FDA/CFSAN in 2013 as a Consumer Safety Officer with the Division of Produce Safety in the Office of Food Safety. Previous experience includes over 14 years of service as a Food Safety Microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) in Beltsville, Maryland, where he integrated his experiences in clinical, food and environmental microbiology to further research in critical pre- and post- harvest food safety issues. Pre-harvest areas of interest include the potential for human pathogens to contaminate produce, especially leafy greens, as well as understanding how irrigation water quality management and the application of various standards for treating and handling soil-amendments may help to reduce the prevalence and persistence of on-farm foodborne pathogens. Dr. Ingram has investigated how virulence factor regulation and expression may influence the growth and persistence of foodborne pathogens in farm environments, as well as during postharvest processing and packaging of lettuce and other leafy greens. Dr. Ingram’s research has been instrumental in the development of the United States Composting Council (USCC) testing standards for human pathogens in compost and his work on the fate of human microbial pathogens during the production of compost and compost teas was used to develop compost tea Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS) by the National Organics Standards Board (NOSB). Dr. Ingram is pleased with his transition to the FDA, where he serves in many capacities in continuance of his commitment to promote public health by enhancing the safety of our nation’s food supply – mainly through the development of feasible, science-based regulations designed to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness. He received his B.S. in Biology from Dickinson College, and both M.S. (Microbiology) and Ph.D. (Food Science) degrees from the University of Maryland at College Park.

Joy Johanson, M.P.H.
Division of Produce Safety, Processed Produce Branch, Branch Chief

Ms. Joy Johanson is the branch chief of the Processed Produce Branch in the Division of Produce Safety. In this role, Ms. Johanson works on policies and programs related to improving the safety of minimally-processed produce. The Processed Produce Branch covers products such as fresh-cut produce, frozen produce, minimally-processed nuts, and sprouts. Ms. Johanson has worked on produce safety in FDA’s Office of Food Safety since 2008 and she participated in the development of the Produce Safety regulation.

Prior to joining FDA, Ms. Johanson worked for seven years at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, where, as a senior policy associate, she advocated for policies to promote healthful eating, such as to improve the nutritional quality of food sold in schools. She has also worked on food policy issues at Bread for the World and for a member of Congress. She received her B.S. in Biology from Wheaton College and her M.P.H. from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Karen Killinger, Ph.D.
Division of Produce Safety, Fresh Produce Branch, Staff Fellow

Dr. Karen Killinger joined FDA-CFSAN in July 2015 as a staff fellow in the Division of Produce Safety. Dr. Killinger contributes to the development of policy, regulation and guidance for fresh produce. She also serves as a technical expert for issues related to agricultural water, and contributes to projects involving FSMA education, training, outreach and technical assistance. Dr. Killinger engages in DPS outreach activities with stakeholders on a variety of topics. Previously, she was an associate professor at Washington State University for nine years. Her experience in food safety extension included leading workshops in Good Agricultural Practices, HACCP and Basic Food Microbiology, and her research experience included projects on pre- and post-harvest produce safety issues. She earned her B.S. in Food Science and Industry from Kansas State University, a M.S. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Ph.D. at Texas Tech University.

Rachael Kozolup, M.S.
Division of Produce Safety, Fresh Produce Branch, Staff Fellow

Ms. Rachael Kozolup joined the FDA as a staff fellow in the Division of Produce Safety. Ms. Kozolup contributes to developing policies, regulations and guidance related to the safety of fresh produce with an emphasis in worker health and hygiene. Ms. Kozolup previously worked in the Foreign Agricultural Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), where she promoted trade through capacity building and technical assistance in food safety to foreign governments and private industries. Ms. Kozolup has also worked in the Food Safety Inspection Service at the USDA where she assisted in drafting policy guidance for ready-to-eat meat and poultry products. She also contributed to Food Code Regulations regarding the consumption of raw ground beef and the processing of rotisserie chicken in retail establishments. She earned her M.S. in Agriculture and Life Sciences from Virginia Tech in 2014.

Michael Mahovic, Ph.D.
Division of Produce Safety, Fresh Produce Branch, Acting Branch Chief

Dr. Michael Mahovic joined the FDA in 2008 as a Consumer Safety Officer in the Division of Produce Safety, and is currently the Acting Branch Chief for the Fresh Produce Branch. Dr. Mahovic also serves as a technical expert in produce safety and plant pathology, with emphasis on microbial contamination during postharvest handling. Since joining FDA, he has also had an emphasis on the intersection between environmental stewardship and on-farm food safety, with particular focus on the safe use of soil amendments. He is involved in outreach with stakeholders, collaboration with federal and non-federal research institutions to address knowledge gaps, and in drafting produce-related FDA policy and guidance documents.

Dr. Mahovic was instrumental in developing the produce safety final rule by providing his expertise in work on Biological Soil Amendments, among other provision areas. He has also served as the produce technical advisor during multiple efforts on behalf of the Agency, including outbreak response, research, education/ training, compliance/enforcement and other activities. Dr. Mahovic earned his B.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Florida, Gainesville. Both degrees are in Plant Pathology, specializing in Postharvest Plant Pathology, with dual minors in Postharvest Plant Physiology and in Food Science. His degree and subsequent postdoctoral appointment at Virginia Tech’s Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center were 50/50 research and extension. 

Amber Nair, M.S.
Division of Produce Safety, Fresh Produce Branch, Consumer Safety Officer

Ms. Amber Nair is a Consumer Safety Officer in the Division of Produce Safety (DPS) at FDA/CFSAN. As a member of the DPS, she has provided input to the scientific/technical and policy development of FDA’s produce safety rule. Ms Nair’s current duties include actively participating in domestic and foreign outreach efforts involving education and training of farmers and FDA farm investigators, serving as a subject matter expert to provide technical support in FDA’s response to foodborne illness outbreaks and compliance cases associated with produce, and assisting with the development of domestic and foreign strategies for Produce Rule implementation.

In 2013, Ms. Nair transferred to the Division of Produce Safety from the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) New York District Office where she was a domestic investigator for three years. During her tenure as an investigator, she initiated inspections that led to regulatory actions taken against non-compliant firms that introduced processed food and produce into the U.S. market. She has conducted several traceback investigations including response to suspected Salmonella outbreaks in cilantro and spinach, as well as collected environmental and finished product samples. Before joining the FDA in 2010, she served as the Food Safety Coordinator for a food manufacturer that distributes products for a Fortune 500 food company. While in this position, she conducted a hazard analysis on the firm’s processing systems, authored a food safety plan to control identified hazards, trained production staff on the principles of Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP’s), and developed the company’s product traceability program. Ms. Nair received her B.S. in Food Science from Rutgers University and her M.S. in Regulatory Science from the University of Maryland.

Kruti Ravaliya, M.S.
Division of Produce Safety, Fresh Produce Branch, Consumer Safety Officer

Ms. Kruti Ravaliya joined the Division of Produce Safety as an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Fellow in July 2013, and transitioned to be a Consumer Safety Officer in April 2015. Ms. Ravaliya has been involved with the Division of Produce Safety in a variety of means, most significantly in developing the Supplemental and Final Agricultural Water Quality provision area in the Produce Safety Rule. She earned her M.S. in Food Science, with minors in Biotechnology and Food Safety, at North Carolina State University in 2013, and a B.S. in Food Science and Spanish from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2007. Her M.S. thesis, under the direction of Dr. Lee-Ann Jaykus, titled “Evaluation of a Novel Microbial Source Tracking Method to Identify Fecal Contamination in the Fresh Produce Production Environment” was a sub-study within a larger project focusing on identifying presence of fecal contamination in imported fresh produce using molecular-based methods. In a previous position within the food industry, Ms. Ravaliya worked in food product development with the International Food Network. During her tenure there, she worked on a variety of platforms; the most notable included an ultra-high temperature pasteurized dairy beverage, frozen meals, hydrogenated vegetable oil-based spreads, protein-filled candies, high-intensity sweeteners, and direct-compression tablets.

Scarlett Salem, M.S.
Division of Produce Safety, Fresh Produce Branch, Consumer Safety Officer

Division of Produce Safety, Fresh Produce Branch, Consumer Safety Officer Ms. Scarlett Salem joined the Division of Produce Safety (DPS) in 2012 and has been involved with the development of policies, regulations and guidance related to fresh produce safety and serves as a technical expert on issues regarding co-management of environmental stewardship and food safety. Ms. Salem plays a lead role in the DPS outreach strategy that includes facilitation, coordination, and oversight of program-specific stakeholder engagement relating to FSMA, education, and research efforts, among other objectives. Scarlett also serves as the second project officer for the Western Center for Food Safety at UC Davis, an FDA Center of Excellence that conducts research and education to address knowledge gaps in agricultural production. Ms. Salem is a point of contact for the Produce Safety Alliance.

Prior to joining DPS, she served as an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education Fellow with the FDA Division of Toxicology in Laurel, MD. Ms. Salem earned her B.S. degree in Exercise Science and a Minor in Spanish from Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer, NC. She proceeded to earn her M.S. Degree in Biology from Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA during which she investigated the behavioral displays of the lizard species, Anolis carolinensis. She is currently working on her MPH through the University of Maryland, College Park.

Fazila Shakir, M.H.S.
Division of Produce Safety, Fresh Produce Branch, Consumer Safety Officer

Ms. Fazila Shakir has assisted with developing policies, regulations and guidance related to the safety of fresh produce, including sprouts. She also co-leads the FSMA Phase 2 Work Group which has been developing implementation plans for the Produce Safety Rule. In addition, Ms. Shakir works on surveillance and sampling activities related to fresh produce. Prior to joining CFSAN, she worked for four years in international public health. She was involved in the implementation and evaluation of USAID-funded public health programs related to infectious diseases in Latin America and Africa. She received her Masters of Health Science in Infectious Diseases Epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and her Bachelors of Science from University of Maryland, College Park.

Leanne Skelton
Division of Produce Safety, Senior Policy Analyst

Ms. Leanne Skelton is currently on detail from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to the Division of Produce Safety, and has been since late 2009. Initially, she worked on produce safety rule development and efforts aimed at supporting the rule. Now that the produce safety rule is final, she continues to be engaged in a variety of activities both at FDA and USDA that support stakeholder outreach, education, communication, and compliance. Some highlights include membership on the Produce Safety Alliance executive committee, preventive controls implementation team, NASDA-FDA Implementation Strategy workgroup, and the Joint FDA and USDA GAPs Review Project. She routinely engages with other Federal, State, Tribal and industry partners by providing presentations focusing on FSMA. Ms. Skelton brings 30 years of experience with the fresh fruit and vegetable program area at USDA, where she is on staff with the Specialty Crops Program within the Agricultural Marketing Service. Prior to this detail assignment, Ms. Skelton was Chief of the Fresh Products Branch within AMS. She began her career with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets as a Farm Products Inspector. Ms. Skelton holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University. After college, she was a Peace Corps volunteer, working as an agricultural research officer in the Cook Islands.

Michelle Smith, Ph.D.
Division of Produce Safety, Fresh Produce Branch, Senior Policy Analyst

Dr. Michelle Smith serves as the Senior Policy Analyst in the Division of Produce Safety, Office of Food Safety. She provides technical assistance and collaborative support to numerous public and private efforts to advance produce safety through guidance, education/outreach, and research. Dr. Smith was the lead author of FDA’s Good Agricultural Practices guide which became the basis for many national and international standards. She also served on the Systems Review Workgroup, assessing food safety systems in other countries to determine if the systems deliver a comparable level of public health protection to those in the U.S. Since 2009, she has been working on portions of FDA’s Produce Safety Rule, with emphasis on: Regulatory Approach, Alternatives, Variances, Withdrawal of Qualified Exemptions, and Sprouts. Dr. Smith is also active in public and private efforts to promote implementation of the Produce Rule through education/outreach, technical assistance and training.

Dr. Smith joined FDA in 1991 as a Food Technologist in the Division of Food Chemistry and Technology, Food Standards Branch. In 1997, she moved to the Office of Plant and Dairy Foods and Beverages to lead development of the FDA GAPs guide and was promoted to an Interdisciplinary Scientist in 1998. In 2009, based on her extensive experience in policy and regulatory development, Dr. Smith became a Senior Policy Analyst in the Office of Food Safety. Prior to FDA, Dr. Smith worked at the University of Maryland, Horticulture Department, teaching New Product Development, Food Law and Policy Development and conducting research on postharvest handling, processing and storage of produce, juice and beef and poultry products, providing technical assistance to the local food industry. She also worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture- Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Seed Research Lab in Beltsville, MD. Dr. Smith earned her Ph.D. in Food Science & Technology from the University of Maryland, an M.S. in Crop Physiology, and a B.S. in Soil Science.

Insook Son, Ph.D.
Division of Produce Safety, Processed Produce Branch, Microbiologist

Dr. Insook Son is responsible for contributing to the development of FDA policies for microbiological food safety, with special emphasis in food microbiology of processed produce. Prior to joining the Division of Produce Safety, Dr. Son worked for seven years as a researcher in the Division of Microbiology in FDA/CFSAN. She researched and developed microbiological detection methodology for Shigella, Salmonella, and Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). She has also served as a technical/scientific expert in performing analyses of pathogen-positive sample findings on contaminated fresh and fresh-cut produce, including leafy greens, stone fruits, and cantaloupes. She has been involved in FDA foodborne outbreak investigations as a certified PulseNet analyst. Prior to joining FDA, Dr. Son was a postdoctoral research associate at USDA/ARS, Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Lab in Beltsville, MD. At USDA, she conducted scientific investigations related to milk and dairy farm environmental samples and participated in Agricultural Research Service collaboration with the Regional Dairy Quality Management Alliance (RDQMA). She received her Ph.D. in Food Science and Technology from the University of Georgia.

Mary Tijerina, M.S.
Division of Produce Safety, Fresh Produce Branch, Consumer Safety Officer

Ms. Mary Tijerna is a staff member of the Fresh Produce Branch within the Division of Produce Safety. Ms. Tijerina is involved in the development of policy, regulations and guidance related to fresh produce safety, with emphasis on microbial contamination. She provides input to produce sampling assignments as well as participating in outreach efforts and grants oversight. Ms. Tijerina also works on FDA’s foreign surveillance inspection program for fresh produce. Prior to joining FDA in 2013, she managed a national network of fresh produce-testing laboratories for the USDA Science and Technology Programs. Ms. Tijerina also has extensive experience working for the USDA Agricultural Research Service as a Category III Scientist performing molecular research. As a Research Associate for the Rice Division of Louisiana State University’s Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, Ms. Tijerina was actively involved in investigating rice plant diseases and examination of novel rice pathogen bio-controls. Ms. Tijerina earned her M.S. in Biology from the University of Texas and her B.S. in Microbiology from Louisiana State University.
 

Page Last Updated: 05/24/2016
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