Improve Food Safety for All Americans

Research to keep our food pure

Development and evaluation of science-based messages to improve consumers’ storage, handling, and preparation of poultry and poultry products

Antimicrobial resistance monitoring of zoonotic and indicator bacteria in Tennessee local foods and agricultural lands

Developing an immunochemical fingerprinting analysis for identification of Salmonella

Developing novel mitigation strategies for Aflatoxin detoxification in foods

Sensory profiling of processed liquid foods

Development and Evaluation of Science-Based Messages to Improve Consumers’ Storage, Handling, and Preparation of Poultry and Poultry Products
Dr. S. Godwin
Consumers can reduce their risk of foodborne illness from Salmonella and Campylobacter infection by safely purchasing, storing, handling, and preparing poultry and egg products. This project develops and evaluates research-based, consumer friendly, web-enhanced educational materials, including mobile game applications, to educate consumers on practices to reduce their risk of foodborne illness from poultry products and eggs. The overall goal of this project will be accomplished through four objectives: 1) Characterize consumers’ purchase, storage, handling, and preparation of poultry and egg products and their awareness and understanding of existing food safety messages; 2) assess and prioritize the risk of contamination or cross-contamination from purchase or in-home storage, handling, and preparation of products; 3) Develop and test science-based and consumer-focused messages identified in Objectives 1 and 2 and educational programs on safe purchase, storage, handling, and preparation of products; and 4) Evaluate messages and educational programs to assess the impact on improving consumers’ purchase, storage, handling, and preparation of products. Consumers’ increased adoption of recommended practices ultimately will lead to a reduction in foodborne illness from the handling and consumption of poultry and egg products. Dr. Sandria Godwin, Project Director. This project is being conducted in collaboration with Kansas State University and RTI International. Funded through a grant from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program (Grant No. 2012-68003-19606) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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A full curriculum on the safe handling and use of poultry products has 
been developed through this project and is available here

Antimicrobial resistance monitoring of zoonotic and indicator bacteria in Tennessee local foods and agricultural lands
Dr. Agnes Kilonzo-Nthenge
Antibiotic use in food animals for treatment, disease prevention and growth promotion permits resistant bacteria and resistance genes to spread from food animals to humans through the food-chain. The exploitation of antibiotics has resulted in the development and spread of antibiotic resistance. Despite the significant efforts that have been made to understand the many different facets of antibiotic resistance in the food chain and interventions needed to meet the challenge, strategies should focus more on agricultural farm lands as potential hotspot source for antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and antimicrobial resistant genes (AR). To mitigate antimicrobial resistance in the food chain, quality data on the profiles and patterns of both pathogenic and commensal bacteria and their resistance, categories of antibiotics used in agriculture is urgently needed. The overall goal of the proposed project is to identify environmental reservoirs of antimicrobial resistance and determine antibiotic susceptibility of zoonotic and indicator bacteria isolated from Tennessee farmlands and Farmers' Market foods. Promotion of knowledge and research, and advocacy and communication to raise awareness of antibiotic resistance in the food chain will be the main focus of this project. Monitoring the prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in Tennessee agricultural lands and foods is an essential step for developing an increased understanding of antimicrobial resistance. The extent of antibiotic use in Tennessee agriculture will be determined through surveys on which background information on knowledge and actual activities carried from animal and produce farms will be assessed. Farm samples: produce, soil, animal, and water from Tennessee water sheds will be collected and analyzed for antimicrobial resistance of zoonotic and indicator bacteria. Farm produce from Farmers' markets will also be analyzed of antimicrobial resistance. Data on profiles and antibiotic resistant patterns of bacteria, and usage of antibiotics collected in the proposed study will be disseminated to the stockholders. An educated Tennessee community will allow informed practical decisions thereby forming a solid basis for broadly accepting policy changes aimed at limiting antibiotic resistant bacteria in the environment and ultimately in the food chain.

Developing an immunochemical fingerprinting analysis for identification of Salmonella  
Dr. Fur Chi Chen
The reduction of the level of human illness from foodborne pathogens has significant economic importance and is on the higher priority in the USDA Strategic Plan. Salmonella is one of the most important foodborne pathogens. Every year, Salmonella is estimated to cause one million illnesses in the United States. Advanced detection technology is needed to provide reliable and efficient identification of Salmonella. This project seeks to develop a new method which is reliable, fast, and economic for food industry and regulatory agencies. The proposed method is a process of subtyping Salmonella using fingerprint profiles generated from antigenic fragments. This is desirable because currently there is no such method available. Developing a fingerprint database derived from such method may serve as groundwork for further comparisons with other molecular subtyping methods. Having a reliable means of comparison can then be used to validate the developed method and to assess the relations of the method to other subtyping methods.

Developing novel mitigation strategies for Aflatoxin detoxification in foods
Dr. Ankit Patras
Ultraviolet (UV) treatment of water is a well-established technology, primarily applied for disinfecting drinking water and wastewater. UV penetrates relatively well into these fluids, enabling effective treatment of the bulk fluid. In recent years there has been a growing appreciation for the benefits of UV treatment, such as minimal byproduct formation compared with conventional chemical disinfection. As a result, there is a growing interest in applying UV technology for treating fluids in which UV does not penetrate easily (i.e. liquid foods). These opaque fluids present new challenges for reactor modeling, design and performance testing. This project is intended to address these challenges by developing new techniques and concepts for reactor testing, modeling and design, extending conventional techniques into this new regime. Dose Delivery will be tested for a range of ultra-violet transmittance values (%/cm). The above described concepts and processes will be tested for a range of foods using a collimated beam bench system and a full scale-pilot reactor. Once established, UV irradiation at 254 nm will tested and assessed on aflatoxins (G1, G2, B1, B2). The rigors of computational and analytical approaches integrated with experimental approaches additionally provides market leading knowledge, and the knowledge base to address issues critical to validation of novel food process technologies being scrutinized by end users, consultants and regulators. The strategic objective of the research project is to operationally define and engrain through disciplined implementation, a holistic Roadmap for accelerating the innovation processes in aflatoxins detoxification in foods.

Sensory Profiling of Processed Liquid Foods
Dr. Ramasamy Rav
Numerous methods to improve the measurement of human responses have been developed and keep getting better and better.  Different methods provide different types of information. Hence so it is important to screen the methods, to identify and select the appropriate sensory methodology that provides more realistic human perceptions of the foods tested.  Literature survey indicated that the detailed sensory analysis or profiling using advanced descriptive techniques are scanty.  Appropriate sensory analysis method would reveal more insights on the product quality rather than just performing the  consumer liking studies. In this investigation, we will analyze sensory quality of UV-C processed liquid foods using advanced  descriptive sensory methods and techniques for better understanding of the treatments on the product quality.


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