Improve Food Safety for All Americans
Research to keep our food pure
Improving consumer’s preparedness to respond to emergencies and foodborne bioterrorism
Dr. S. Godwin, L. Speller-Henderson
Natural disasters or other events leading to loss of electrical power can endanger the safety of refrigerated and/or frozen foods. Additionally, concerns about foodborne bioterrorism have been heightened in recent years. Consumers need to be prepared for such emergencies and the possibility of foodborne bioterrorism to have food available and keep food safe. This project assesses the extent to which consumers are following the recommended practices for food defense and emergency preparedness and explore the barriers and motivators to adopting the recommended practices. This information will help identify areas in which there are gaps in consumers knowledge and behavior, and provide valuable information for developing targeted educational materials to address these gaps.
Characterizing senior's knowledge and use of food safety practices to develop educational materials targeted to at-risk demographic groups
Dr. S. Godwin
In the past decade, the number of adults aged 65 years and older has increased ten percent in the United States. Because of their weakened immune system, older adults are at a higher risk for foodborne illness and are more likely than any other age group to experience serious symptoms, require hospitalization, or even die as a result of the infection. This project examines whether there are differences in food safety knowledge and practices among seniors in different demographic subgroups (e.g., education level, socio-economic status, geographic location, age range, or culture), and will measure the effectiveness of targeted educational initiatives delivered to those subgroups that exhibit limited knowledge and/or exhibit risky behaviors.
An innovative approach for integrating health care providers into food borne illness prevention for older adults
Dr. S. Godwin, L. Speller-Henderson
The incidence and rate of morbidity and mortality associated with food borne illnesses increases with age. As the number of persons living to older ages increases, it is important to ensure that this at-risk population and those who provide care for them have access to quality food safety education. This study builds on research we conducted with older adults which identified health care providers as a desired source of information on food safety. However, previous research suggests that physicians who treat patients at high risk for food borne illness do not routinely provide information on food safety or possible resulting illnesses. The overall goal of this project is to integrate food safety education into preventive health care for adults aged 60 and older. This goal will be accomplished in three phases: (1) conduct focus groups and in-depth interviews to understand health care providers' knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding food safety education for older adults; (2) develop instructional materials on food safety for health care providers who deliver preventive health care to older adults and innovative educational materials that health care providers can distribute to older adults as part of preventive health care; and (3) disseminate and evaluate the effectiveness of the educational materials distributed to health care providers and older adults. Equipping health care providers with information on food borne illness prevention and working with them to disseminate this information to older adults will result in safer food consumption and handling practices among older adults.
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.
Characterizing antibiotic-resistant foodborne pathogens in domestic kitchens and retail foods
Dr. A. Kilonzo-Nthenge, Dr. S. Godwin, Dr. F.C. Chen
During the past decade, the threat of microbial resistance to antibiotics, especially those associated with foodborne illnesses, has become increasingly alarming. The purpose of this research is to ascertain the occurrence of pathogenic microorganisms in the domestic kitchen environment, retail foods, animal farms, and slaughterhouses and the possible resistance of these microorganisms to antibiotics. Consumers will be made aware of possible antibiotic resistant microorganism clusters in the eco-system and be educated on safe hygienic food handling practices.