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Enhancing Microbial Food Safety by Risk Analysis

Bisha, Bledar
University of Wyoming
Start date
End date
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: The long-term goal of this project is the establishment of a multi-disciplinary network of scientists that performs comprehensive and integrated risk-based research and outreach to improve the safety of food from farm to fork. Interested stakeholders, including food producers and/or processors, retailers and consumers, have identified the need for an approach that conducts applied research to determine the prevalence and ecology of foodborne pathogens (including antibiotic resistant bacteria) in fresh and processed foods coupling that to research aimed at establishing effective control methods to decrease pathogen contamination of foods. Several outreach objectives have also been developed in support of this project. These objectives include communication of risk-based management recommendations derived from the research aspects of this proposal to stakeholders as well as to those who interact with stakeholders. Communication strategies will be precisely tailored to the particular audience (processors, distributors, retailers, consumers). Message content will focus on risk-based strategies and microbial control opportunities deemed critical for each target audience to achieve the greatest strides in improving food safety in the U.S. Outreach to those who advise producers and consumers (e.g. educators, extension personnel) who are not part of the project will be achieved through ongoing symposia to disseminate key information concerning lessons learned during the course of this project. This project has been specifically designed to address the critical needs of the fresh and processed food industries by developing a thorough understanding of how these foods become contaminated with foodborne microbial pathogens. It is well established that the heterogeneous distribution of pathogens in food makes studying the ecology of these pathogens difficult. The problems facing the food industry are also sufficiently complex such that solutions to these problems are beyond the scope of any single investigator's programmatic outputs. This means they are most efficiently addressed through multidisciplinary efforts with expertise in risk analysis, microbial ecology, epidemiology of foodborne disease, and food safety microbiology. The research group at the University of Wyoming will focus on the development of rapid detection methods for foodborne pathogens, sample preparation method development for rapid detection, evaluation of currrent and novel processing technologies for enhancement of food safety and quality, and risk assessment of factors resulting in contamination of food including wildlife intrusions.

APPROACH: We will 1) evaluate current practices and processing technologies used in food production to ensure the safety of food, 2) develop rapid detection technologies and sample preparation methods for rapid detection, and 3) assess risk factors resulting in contamination of foods and develop mitigation approaches. The work will be performed on bacterial isolates and viral particles and not on live animals, thus not requiring IACUC approval.1) Sampling will be performed in commercial processing facilities (including cantaloupe processing facilities) on food products, water and food contact and non-food contact surfaces. Total counts, fecal coliform and E. coli counts will be used to asses the effectiveness of antimicrobial interventions on the quality of the products as well as an indication of safety. Specific pathogen testing will also be performed for Salmonella enterica and Listeria monocytogenes. Culture methods and molecular methods will be emplyed for final identification and typing of isolates.2) We will develop paper-based analytical devices as well as flow cytometry-based assays for detection of foodborne pathogens and indicator microorganisms. We will evaluate sample concentration methods for bacterial and viral pathogens from water, bioaerosols and other matrices to improve detection sensitivity and to streamline detection protocols.3) We will assess the role of wildilife to foodborne disease risk via contamination of leafy green produce, such as spinach and lettuce, when they visit agricultural fields. We will collect data in collaboration with the National Wildlife Research Center on when wildlife enter agricultural production areas, what species enter, where they enter, and how many of them are present at a given point in time, so we can better understand if and where introduction of pathogens causing foodborne diseases might occur. We will also collect fecal samples from wildlife visiting produce fields and test them for major microbial pathogens causing foodborne disease. This information will provide needed insight into the magnitude of the problem and will determine if actions should be taken to limit this risk and what those actions should be.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
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Project number
Accession number
Bacterial Pathogens
Natural Toxins
Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication
Sanitation and Quality Standards