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Food Safety from Milking to Marketing for Vermont Artisanal Cheese Makers

Investigators
Donnelly, Catherine; Barlow, John; Conner, David; Heiss, Sarah; Nwadike, Londa; Hill, Jane
Institutions
University of Vermont
Start date
2012
End date
2015
Objective
The objective of this project is to support Vermont's growing artisanal cheese production regional food chain with food safety microbiology, epidemiology and consumer research, and extension activities directly linked to human health concerns. The proposed project addresses food safety research and extension gaps for Vermont's artisanal cheese makers.

First, food safety pathogen epidemiology and detection research is addressed across the entire on-farm cheese production chain.

Second, research on a novel pathogen detection technology that may be scalable to all size dairy operations, including small-scale on-farm artisanal cheese makers is proposed. The integration of these detection technologies with an improved understanding of pathogen epidemiology will fill gaps in our current abilities to mitigate food safety risk on dairy farms producing cheese or other raw milk products.

Third, proposed research on consumer beliefs, attitudes, and practices brings the project full circle from milk production to marketing and back to production again by providing artisan cheese makers with knowledge on consumer issues.

Finally, extension efforts which will help disseminate research results and knowledge to key stakeholders are integrated into this proposal at multiple levels, and form the foundation for establishing future research and collaborations on artisanal cheese production and food safety.

More information
Non-Technical Summary:
A vibrant artisanal cheese sector benefits Vermont's economy and working landscape. Demand for artisanal cheeses, including raw milk cheeses, is increasing in the United States, and Vermont is a leader in on-farm artisanal cheese production with more cheese makers per capita than any other state. In parallel, consumer interest in unpasteurized fluid milk is also on the rise and Vermont recently enacted legislation allowing direct to consumer sales of unpasteurized milk. Food safety risk differs for these two value-added products, and this is reflected in higher regulatory and human health concerns for retail raw fluid milk compared to raw milk cheeses. These conditions likely contribute to potential confusion among consumers regarding food safety risks associated with raw milk products. This project takes a three-pronged transdisciplinary approach to understanding and managing artisanal cheese food safety, including on-farm and consumer research addressing raw fluid milk marketed direct-to-consumers and raw milk products produced on Vermont farms.The first approach identifies pathogen epidemiology and testing, food safety concerns and practical risk management practices at the site of dairy product production. The second approach seeks to understand consumer attitudes, beliefs, and practices related to raw milk products with the goal of designing messages that would help manage risks at the level of consumption and guide marketing efforts. The third approach integrates the findings from the research efforts to develop outreach and extension materials targeting artisanal cheese producers and stakeholders including farm service providers (e.g. veterinarians and milk quality specialists).

Approach:
This project takes a three-pronged transdisciplinary approach to understanding and managing artisanal cheese food safety, including on-farm and consumer research addressing raw fluid milk marketed direct to-consumers and raw milk products produced on Vermont farms. The first approach identifies pathogen epidemiology and testing, food safety concerns and practical risk management practices at the site of dairy product production. These efforts will include a field study that incorporates molecular epidemiologic testing of materials from diverse sources acroos the farm and cheese production system, and evaluation of new technologies for pathogen detection. The second approach seeks to understand consumer attitudes, beliefs, and practices related to raw milk products with the goal of designing messages that would help manage risks at the level of consumption and guide marketing efforts. These efforts will include focus group discussion and consumer surveys. The third approach integrates the findings from the research efforts to develop outreach and extension materials targeting artisanal cheese producers and stakeholders including farm service providers (e.g. veterinarians and milk quality specialists). These efforts will include stakeholder meetings and development of outreach materials.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
VT-H01923
Accession number
232538
Categories
Education and Training
Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication
Commodities
Dairy