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Food Science

Plants are capable of producing a great diversity of relatively small organic chemicals that are called “secondary”, or, more recently, “specialized” metabolites, because they are not involved in central metabolism (Gang, 2005; Weng and Noel, 2012). Currently, well over 200,000 distinct molecules are known to be produced by plants and found to serve many important roles. As pigments, scents, and flavors they attract pollinators and seed dispersers (Gang, 2005).

The incidence and prevalence of some chronic diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), obesity, and other inflammation-related human disorders, have risen dramatically in recent decades in United States and other countries. These alarming trends suggest that it is of critical importance to develop novel strategies for preventing these chronic diseases.

This project investigates new sustainable markets for New England seafood. Climate change challenges the socio-economic and environmental sustainability of New England's seafood industry. A warming Gulf of Maine compounds the complex puzzle of ecosystems, fish population dynamics, and catch limits for specific fisheries. Cascading effects on fishermen, seafood processors, markets, and restaurants provide a network of challenges that are difficult to disentangle.

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.

Small dairy farms face particular challenges as costs of production often exceed the set federal price for fluid milk. However, consumers have demonstrated a willingness to pay a premium for local dairy products, providing emerging market opportunities for small dairy farms. In Massachusetts, a significant barrier for dairy farmers hoping to capture this premium is lack of access to scale-appropriate fluid milk processing facilities. This project engages stakeholders to identify operational feasibility, market potential, and barriers to access institutional markets.

There is an opportunity for farmers to meet growing demand for local foods and increase farm profitability by entering a new market for retail sales of frozen value-added products. In particular, farmers could capitalize on opportunities provided by recent investments in regional food processing facilities by freezing produce for retail sales in winter.

House flies are the major vector of numerous food pathogens (e.g., Escherichia coli). It has been suggested that the fly crop is the major reservoir for the pathogen and also that this is where horizontal transmission of antibiotic resistance occurs. The salivary glands of most flies involved in vectoring pathogens are also involved in pathogen transmission and their nutrient and pathogen uptake while feeding. We know very little about those factors involved in the regulation of both crop filling and emptying.

There is a strong association of chronic inflammation with various types of diseases.

Many small and medium producers and processors are affected by the recent implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulation as the existing training does not address how to determine compliance and assumes that small and medium food processors (SMPs) begin training with a base level of food safety knowledge that many SMPs do not have. This project develops accessible, scale-appropriate, motivational mixed-media content to provide SMPs with the information they need to better understand how to implement Preventive Controls (PC) in their food businesses.

Producing shelf-stable acidified canned foods can help to add value to produce and introduce new markets, extend the agricultural season, and reduce waste. However, to successfully sell and distribute shelf-stable products, such as salsas, sauces, and/or acidified pickled products, processors must comply with the Code of Federal Regulations (21CFR114).

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