Sep. 1, 2009 - Aug. 31, 2011Award Number
Center for Produce SafetyAmount Awarded
Christina DeWitt, Ph.D.
Oklahoma State University
VanOverbeke, D., Hilton, G., McGlynn, W., Cuesta-Alonso, P., and Marquis, B.Summary
We see the impact of food safety almost daily now in the local news. Since January 1, 2008 the United States recalled over 60 meat and poultry products equating to 150 million pounds for pathogen contamination alone. Traditionally meat and poultry have been the primary products affected by product recalls, with Escherichia coli O157:H7 in red meat representing the bulk of the pounds recalled. Unfortunately, we are now seeing the traditional pathogens of concern for red meat becoming pathogens of concern for horticulture products. Examples are the discoveries of E. coli O157:H7 in spinach and Salmonella Typhimurium in peanuts. In the past year, over 3,900 peanut containing products have been recalled as a result of a S. Typhimurium outbreak at one processing plant alone. Food Safety recalls affect the producer, processor, and consumer. In the best case scenario it is only an economic hardship that the processor and producer have to bear. In the worst case scenario it results in a company shutting its doors, people losing jobs, a tax base being lost by the community and state, and people losing their lives. Research is being conducted to find processes and technologies that will mitigate the negative impact harmful bacterial pathogens, toxins, and allergens have on our food supply. It encompasses investigations of on-farm treatments to reduce E. coli O157:H7 in both animal and fresh cut vegetable products. It seeks alternative techniques to further reduce this and other equally harmful pathogens/toxins in food products during processing. Finally, it also includes investigations into the development of rapid state-of-the art methods to detect pathogens/toxins/allergens in foods before they make it to the consumer's table.