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Enhancing Microbial Food Safety by Risk Analysis

Investigators
Padilla-Zakour, Olga; Worobo, Randy
Institutions
New York Agricultural Experiment Station
Start date
2013
End date
2017
Objective
Risk Assessment: Assess food safety risks in agriculture systems.
Risk Management: Develop science-based interventions to prevent and mitigate food safety threats.
Risk Communication: Communicate food safety messages to stakeholders.
More information

NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: There are many entrepreneurial and mass marketed food products available to consumers that can be classified as formulated, low acid (pH > 4.6) and acidified, and water activity (Aw) controlled foods. The range of formulations and processing/packaging conditions utilized to manufacture these products indicates a lack of understanding of the key parameters that result in a safe, high quality, stable product, and therefore foods can be over or under-processed, negatively affecting product attributes, safety and consumer acceptability. At the Food Venture Center at Cornell University, we work daily with farmers, food processors and food entrepreneurs developing new food products for the marketplace (>800/year), thus there is the need to have optimized, science-based guidelines to manufacture these foods. The recent outbreaks due to peanut butter (a low acid, Aw controlled food) confirm the need to conduct applied research targeted to these types of products. Typical food product categories that we will investigate include dessert sauces, spice-flavored simple syrups, bakery fillings, granola type products, and vegetable/legume/herb based spreads and oils. The food types will be grouped based on % salt; % sugars; type and concentration of antioxidants and antimicrobial compounds; thermal processing applied; treatment of ingredients prior to inclusion; and packaging system used. Model food systems will be designed to represent the different categories in order to study changes in formulation and processing conditions related to safety and stability. Processing and formulations will be optimized to retain or enhance stability while meeting the safety requirements associated with each category. Our proposed research is very targeted and timely as the number of specialty food products keeps increasing in the market place with new formulations and ingredients that were not typical years ago. We expect to produce very specific guidelines that can be implemented by the food industry and can be also used by extension professionals that provide advice to farmers, processors and entrepreneurs. In addition, once the results are published in peer-reviewed journals, regulatory agencies will recognize the work as the foundation for meeting the new science-based safety recommendations specified in the new Food Safety Modernization Act.

APPROACH: Formal instruction and direct consultation will be provided to the stakeholders and extension educators. Formal trainings will have an evaluation component for the participants to determine if there was an increase in knowledge or behavioral changes related to the implementation of food safety practices for food production. Evaluation of changes in knowledge or behavior will be assessed through formal and informal knowledge-based assessments of the participants. Assistance provided to stakeholders will be tracked in a contact data base in specifying the types of products that are being produced for sale and the safety guidelines that have been developed for the specific products.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
NYG-623844
Accession number
1001837
Categories
Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication
Commodities
Nuts, Seeds