Feb. 15, 2010 - Feb. 14, 2013Award Number
USDA - CSREESAmount Awarded
Renata Ivanek-Miojevic, Ph.D.
Texas A&M University
To reduce the incidence of produce related foodborne illnesses and protect the integrity of the nation's food supply, it is critical to identify new and improved ways to decrease pre-harvest contamination of produce by foodborne pathogens. While underutilized in food safety research and practice, it is well known that local factors, such as soil characteristics, weather and wildlife density, influence the probability of isolating microorganisms from produce and agricultural fields. Spatially explicit information on these and many other factors is readily available from the National Resources Information Databases. The current project will utilize these Databases and integrate them with the food system signals on the local production practices and surveillance through strategic pairing of the field detection of microbial contaminants in produce fields and the sophisticated spatial and statistical modeling approaches. This project will focus on major foodborne pathogens (Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157:H7) and indicator microorganisms in spinach production systems in Colorado and Texas. The utilized approach will allow identification of novel strategies to control foodborne pathogens in spinach at the pre-harvest level based on appreciation of the local management practices and ecological conditions. The resulting identified innovative approaches to improve microbial safety of produce and the related anticipated reduction in the incidence of human foodborne illness will benefit the produce production industry and society as a whole.