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Food Safety & Biosecurity

Epidemiological Approaches to Food Safety

Epidemiology is the study of the occurrence and the risk factors of disease or health-related events in a population and the application of this knowledge to the control of that disease or event. The only existing research program within USDA to fund large epidemiologic (population-based) studies in food safety is based in NIFA, the National Research Initiative's Epidemiologic Approaches for Food Safety (NRI 32.1).

Epidemiologic research has provided an ideal approach to study foodborne diseases, pathogens, and risk factors for disease in real world settings, thus providing the scientific underpinning for food safety policy.

Since 1999, NRI 32.1 program has provided approximately $5 million per year (as of 2002, a total of $20,410,000) to fund epidemiologic studies. These projects span the food safety continuum: from farm to fork; food animals, aquaculture, and produce; and various foodborne pathogens in different regions of the United States. The topics for these funded grants include a number of foodborne pathogens including Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, and Vibrio; different food animal species (cattle, pigs, oysters) and produce (lettuce, melons); and steps along the food production chain (on-farm to processed food).

The funded projects involve multiple institutions and geographic regions. As research is completed, the results have provided needed information for changes in management practices, intervention strategies, and even policy development.


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