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Improving Food Quality and Safety of Our Food Supply 

NIFA supports food safety programs that improve the safety and quality of the U.S. food supply for a healthy population and improved quality of life.

Impacts

Photo featuring Chris Callahan (left) and the "DewRight" invention courtesy of University of Vermont Extension.

Photo featuring Chris Callahan (left) and the "DewRight" invention courtesy of University of Vermont Extension.

"Dewing" Right for Food Storage - $10,000 a year. That's the amount of money artisanal cheese and meat producers can save by using "DewRight," an invention from an agricultural engineer with University of Vermont Extension. DewRight measures temperature and humidity in high-humidity environments, like those required by food storage and processing facilities. The accuracy of existing sensors can be off by as much as 6 percent, while DewRight improves that accuracy by 67 percent. This reduces spoilage and increases yield and quality.

Studying Enteric Diseases to Enhance Prevention, Control, and Food Safety - Researchers at South Dakota State University are developing a new generation of test methods and vaccine candidates for Salmonella, E.coli, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, and other emerging enteric pathogens in animals and food products. Researchers have developed a “humanized pig” model to study the function of human gut microbiota and dietary effects. Piglets, implanted with pathogen-free human gut microbiota, ate Western or Mediterranean diets and then were tested for immunological, microbiological, and metabolic parameters. This research will help in the development of biologics to improve the enteric health of humans and animals.

New Technology Enhances Inactivation of E. coli - Demand for goat meat is increasing in the United States due to its nutritional values and the growing foreign-born population. Goat meat, like other foods, is susceptible to foodborne pathogens. Fort Valley State University researchers developed a non-thermal processing method to inactivate E. coli on goat meat and promote meat hygiene practices to benefit smaller producers. This approach combines ultraviolet light with lemongrass oil and improves the microbial quality of goat meat.

Safer Shopping Practices Identified - Researchers at Tennessee State University report that meat juice contaminates over 60 percent of the surfaces of meat packages, which then transfers to shoppers' hands and grocery carts. Meat juices contain a high prevalence of human pathogens such as Campylobacter and Salmonella. This study reports that using secondary plastic bags to handle poultry packages at the store essentially eliminates the risk of cross-contamination during shopping. Researchers also warn that re-packing at home exposes home kitchens to contamination.

Photo of Dr. Menshi Lin courtesy of the University of Missouri.

Photo of Dr. Menshi Lin courtesy of the University of Missouri.

Detecting and Separating Chemical and Biological Contaminants - Early and rapid detection of contaminants is an important step in ensuring food safety, and a researcher at the University of Missouri has developed a system that will detect, separate, and extract foodborne contaminants from fresh produce. The surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy platform uses hybrid nanocellulose films and separation devices to help maintain the safety and sustainability of agriculture and food systems in a cost-effective and environmentally friendly manner.

Turning the 'Fungal Highway' into the Yellow Brick Road - "Fungal highways" on cheese rinds can spread bacteria that quickly ruins quality or causes foodborne illnesses — however, cheesemakers may be able to manipulate these same highways to help cheese mature faster and taste better. Researchers from Tufts University discovered they could manipulate the "speed limits" on the highways to alter the microbial ripening processes, possibly improving both food safety and profits for cheesemakers.

 

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