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Food Safety from the Surface Up: A Conference


Provide a forum to explore the role of food surfaces in food safety and define additional opportunities for research and outreach.

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Illness from contaminated food is a worldwide health problem and an important cause of reduced economic productivity. A national conference on food safety will bring together scientists, educators, extension professionals and industry professionals working to improve food safety by combating contamination from microbes that thrive on animal carcasses and skins, fruit and vegetable coverings, preparation areas, equipment, human handlers and other surfaces. Safe practices are critical at every stage of food production from grower to consumer, especially as global trade increases, public food safety concerns heighten and bioterrorism safeguards intensify.
The conference reviews the "landscape" of surface contamination. The conference organizing group includes research and extension scientist members of the multi-state CSREES food safety project (S-295) and the Clemson Food Safety Program. The group will compile proceedings of the conference to summarize current knowledge of the role of surfaces in food safety and to develop recommendations for future research and education.
The conference will focus on food surfaces and how they contribute to food safety issues. While the interiors of intact animal tissues, of animal products, and of fruits and vegetables may be considered sterile, presenters will discuss how food safety issues arise from contamination of food surfaces and the scientific basis for their prevention and/or decontamination. Surfaces may be associated with food animals and plants and their environments, with food processing, food service and food preparation, and with human handlers. Potential topics include the following: food surface topology and its effect on microbial retention and cleaning; detecting and eliminating microbial pathogens on animal surfaces; pre-harvest animal interventions and environmental surfaces; decontaminating fruits and seeds; why and when to apply irradiation or other methods to food or other surfaces; options for post-process lethal treatments for ready-to-eat food surfaces; bio-films residence time and cleanability; removing microbial or pesticide contaminants; effectiveness and recommendations; rapid, effective tests for cleanliness; home food contact surface contamination and cleaning; current food safety messages about surfaces, risk assessment and the significance of surfaces to food safety. Opportunities for research and outreach will be explored in breakout groups and conference proceedings will be published.
Intensive planning for the food safety surface conference in conjunction with the Clemson Food Safety & Quality Program, the S-295 Multi-state Food Safety Project Technical Committee and Carolinas Association for Food Protection leadership occurred during this interval. The conference - FOOD SAFETY: FROM THE SURFACE UP - was held February 23-25, 2005 at Springmaid Beach Resort, Myrtle Beach, SC.
Presenters included D. Osborne (NCSU), J. Eifert (VPI), C. Winter (UC-Davis), D. Allen (Excel), G. Loneragan (WTAMU), M. Brashears (Texas Tech), X. Jiang (Clemson), J. Rushing (Clemson), R. Worobo (Cornell), L. Harris (UC-Davis), D. Garren (UFFVA), J. Dickson (Iowa State), P. Dawson (Clemson), M. Davidson (UT-Knoxville), K. Swanson (EcoLab), B. Sheldon (NCSU), J. Ball (Food Lion), M. Pierson (USDA), K. Glass (U. Wisconsin), L. Hoyle (Clemson), A. Fraser (NCSU), P. Greene (Ryan Rest. Group), J. Corby (NY Health Dept), K. Purvis (Charlotte Observer).
More than 130 participants from industry, academia and regulatory nationwide attended to discuss measures to define, prevent and address surface contamination of foods and food surfaces. Conference evaluation summaries, generated manuscripts and other outputs will be presented in project termination report.
The conference will result in new training materials for Extension agents, new educational materials for consumers, and publications in the AFDO Journal. All will heighten public awareness of food safety surface issues and contribute to the science of food surface safety.

Barefoot, Susan
Clemson University
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