Final Project Addresses Concerns with Produce Transportation, Wins Top Student Award

Final Project Addresses Concerns with Produce Transportation, Wins Top Student Award

By: Esther Haviland

J.R. Foster HeadshotJ.R. Foster, a December 2022 graduate of the Master of Science in Food Safety degree program, is the 2022 recipient of the Edward & Mary Mather Outstanding Food Safety Student Award (Mather Award). 

The Mather Award recognizes one student who excelled in designing and implementing their final food safety project. This non-thesis applied project encourages students to connect their project topic with a food safety element or concern they face in their current job.

“I'm truly grateful for this honor," says Foster. "The critical thinking and literature skills I developed, and the community of food safety professionals I now belong to, is my biggest 'Win' of being in the program and what makes this program stand out."

Foster's consultative report titled Cost-Benefit Analysis on Utilizing Top Ice as a Cooling Method for Produce Within the Supply Chain, investigates the cost and food safety benefits of cooling raw agriculture commodities (RAC) during transportation. Many RAC suppliers use ice as a cooling method mainly because of its low cost. However, when water is introduced, the risk of pathogen transfer to the product becomes greater. Foster reviewed company documents and current scientific literature related to cooling methods and pathogens reduction to assess the effectiveness of top ice cooling. His findings suggest standardizing the product specifications and replacing ice with other forms of preservation to maximize quality and freshness, which could save a company thousands of dollars annually.

"Pursuing this master's degree has grown my knowledge of the science behind food safety and has accelerated career advancement opportunities,” says Foster.

Foster is a food safety manager for the Texas-based H-E-B Grocery Company. He has been with the company for 14 years and currently manages H-E-B's Temple and Houston warehouse and transportation facilities, ensuring a safe food system. Some of his other responsibilities include maintaining GFSI standards, reviewing and evaluating the company's HACCP plan, and ensuring FSMA compliance. 

Foster completed his undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Business. He resides in Texas with his wife, Julie, and their three children.    

The Mather Award is made possible through the support of the founding director of the Online Master of Science in Food Safety degree program, Dr. Edward Mather, and his wife, Mrs. Mary Mather. 

A panel of faculty judges determines the recipient of the Mather Award. They review the food safety applied projects for each calendar year's graduates and score each project on originality, quality, and application to a solution for a food safety problem.