In the spring, when area farmers markets start up, there is no need to hesitate about the safety of that jam or can of pickled vegetables you buy. That’s because many vendors routinely submit their goods to be checked by Richard Dougherty (pronounced Dock’-er-tee), WSU Extension food science specialist. He evaluates the safety of more than 300 new food products, for farmers markets and others, each year.

Since his arrival at WSU in the fall of 1990, Dougherty has continued to not only raise the bar on food safety in the Northwest, but has developed ties between the university and the food industry at large. His dedication to this university and food safety have earned Dougherty the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Public Service for 2006.

“This award is about as much as I can ever expect to receive. It validates the projects that I have been involved in for the last 15 years,” said Dougherty.

Dougherty developed the food science consumer outreach program, a comprehensive food safety education program that protects the safety of the food supply and meets the needs of food processors and regulators.

“This program uses two educational methods: workshops and individual consultations,” said Alan R. McCurdy, a professor in WSU’s food science and human nutrition department.

In addition, Dougherty works closely with the State of Washington Department of Agriculture. “Dick has been very instrumental in helping to bridge the gap between food producers, food processors and the consuming public,” said Claudia G. Coles, food safety program manager for the state.

“I didn’t do this by myself; I had a whole lot of people helping,” Dougherty said. “This is an award to all those who’ve put the time into it.”