Summary of Awards to Date

Characterization of antibiotic resistant foodborne pathogens in fresh produce.

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Jun. 1, 2008 - May. 31, 2011

Award Number


Funding Agency

Center for Produce Safety


Chandra Reddy, Ph.D.
Tennessee Tech University


Kilonzo-Nthenge, K.


Recently, there has been alarming increase of bacteria resistant to antimicrobial drugs world-wide. Annual cost of treating infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria is estimated to be 4-5 billion dollars. World-wide increase of foodborne infections with antibiotic resistant pathogens is of growing concern in human medicine. Since antimicrobials are used in livestock and crop production to control pathogens, there is concern about antibiotic resistance development in these pathogens and subsequent transfer to humans through contaminated food. Antibiotic resistance among bacteria associated with food animals has been well documented; research regarding resistance profiles of bacteria isolated from raw produce is lacking. Many outbreaks have been traced to produce and this will continue to occur until fresh produce growers, retail stores, and consumers increase their knowledge and awareness of the risks and consequences of foodborne pathogens. There is data gap between research and the level of fresh produce safety awareness in growers, retail stores, and consumers. Food safety doesn't begin at the grocery store or in the kitchen. It begins on the farm. Research data is needed to determine all major sources of antibiotic foodborne pathogens in fresh produce. Educational programs on safe ways of handling and storing fresh produce are essential to improve fresh produce safety. Data on the prevalence and types of antibiotic resistance in microorganisms isolated from fresh produce may help explicate the role of foods in the transmission of antibiotic-resistant strains to human populations. The aim of the proposed work is to obtain patterns and profiles of antibiotic resistant microorganisms isolated from farms and fresh produce. This data will be integrated with previous microbiological data (in our laboratory) from foods of animal origin; chicken, beef, pork, turkey, lamb, guinea fowls, and goat. The integrated data will represent database for foodborne pathogens and their resistance to antibiotics. This will provide insight on profiles of pathogenic microorganisms in the environment which is essential in implementing prevention and control measures. Educational programs will lead to improved hygienic fresh produce handling practices by farmers and consumers. Therefore, research findings and educational programs will provide useful model information which in turn will guide mitigation efforts and will also be an asset to outbreak investigations.