Sep. 1, 2010 - Aug. 31, 2015Award Number
Center for Produce SafetyInvestigator
Samuel A. Besong, Ph.D.
Delaware State University
American consumers do enjoy the safest and healthful food supply in the world, yet foodborne illness, a preventable and underreported disease, continues to pose serious health. Despite the multibillion dollar investment by the United States government to improve the safety of the nation's food supply, there are still reported cases of people getting sick from consuming contaminated foods. The recent salmonella outbreak that is linked to the consumption of raw alfalfa sprouts and caused the infection of 22 people in 10 states (CDC report, May 21, 2010) indicates that foodborne illnesses continue to be a major health and economic problem for individuals, businesses and the nation. Global concern of foodborne illness, particularly from ingestion of foodborne bacteria, necessitates a rapid detection within food and environmental matrices. Rapid identification of pathogens is crucial for effective control of potential outbreak from foodborne pathogens. Therefore, additional efforts should be invested in the discovery of antimicrobial compounds/bioactive components from plants that can be added to food products as additives to prevent the growth of pathogens. In addition, food contamination can be prevented by developing a rapid method for detecting foodborne pathogens postharvest. On the other hand, online sales (ecommerce) of ready-to-eat foods have increased significantly in recent years and there is potential for continued growth. The internet has provided a unique opportunity for small food manufacturers to sell their food products directly to consumers at a lower price. This new system of selling is booming, yet food safety information related to the quality of products in this emerging market is either scarce or not available. Food producers who only sell their products directly to consumers may avoid a number of industrial food safety management practices. Since food products from eCommerce/online vendors could reach consumers directly, without going through the traditional wholesale and retail distribution routes, they may also bypass existing federal and state food safety monitoring programs. Therefore, it is important to search for antimicrobial components in plants like bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina) that can be used as food additives to prevent food contamination by pathogens by using the land-grant tri-partite approach (research, education and outreach). A critical component of this project is to provide a unique opportunity for students to increase their knowledge and skills in the field of Food Microbiology/Food Safety. Demographic changes in the US require academic institutions to recruit and train more minority scientists for jobs in Food and Agriculture industries and help to meet the needs for diversity in this global economy.