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Enhancing Microbial Food Safety by Risk Analysis

Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Co-Principal Investigator/Co-Project Leader: 
Department of Project: 
Food Science Dept.
Project Description: 

The results of this project will directly impact industries that handle foods most commonly implicated in foodborne disease outbreaks, including low-moisture foods (especially spices, nuts, and dried fruits); fresh, minimally, and shelf-stable processed produce; dairy; fresh and further processed seafood, meat, and poultry products (including fully cooked and ready-to-eat products subject to post-process contamination), as well as other multi-component and processed foods. Moreover, the threats and specific needs for food safety in the food industry are constantly evolving and require continued risk-based solutions in the face of these changes. Therefore, the project proposes risk-based solutions for the effective control of foodborne pathogens across food commodities in the U.S.  The data generated by this project serves as the foundation for the development of predictive models that can be used to better understand pathogen contamination at specific points of food production and for validation of pathogen reduction interventions. Furthermore, this group will work to standardize protocols among laboratories so that research results can be more easily and directly compared. These outcomes will contribute to the long-term profitability and sustainability of the food industry by providing enhanced tools for microbial control and mitigation. Having a mechanism to establish formal collaborations under the umbrella of a single goal will enable scientists in this group to access external funding more successfully than if collaborations were formed ad hoc because of the multi-disciplinary nature of food safety research. Furthermore, the scientists in this project are highly committed to 1) the recruitment of a diverse student population, 2) responsible research conduct, 3) outreach and education to communicate current research, and 4) the advancement of food safety science by keeping one another accountable for their share of results. This multi-state project also proposes integrative and innovative approaches to teaching food safety at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students will be exposed and trained in the use of modern molecular techniques such as next generation sequencing, metagenomics, and bioinformatics. Partnerships with industry colleagues will allow students to work on current and emerging food safety challenges and to think creatively and critically to solve them.  The need for training programs to support the next generation of food safety professionals and to increase the ethnic and cultural diversity among food safety researchers to better reflect the demographic composition of the U.S. population is clear.  Greater diversity is critical from the perspective of educational opportunity, but also relative to food safety and public health because various regional and ethnic groups may face different food safety challenges. Cultural and personal sensitivity and competence among food safety professionals is necessary, and the project proposes to train a new generation of food safety students with both a strong technical background and the soft skills needed to help them succeed in their future careers.

Food Science topics: 
Food Safety