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Improving Microbial Food Safety Through Engineering and Statistical Approaches in Food Microbiology


<p>To support the long-term goal of developing a flexible applied food safety laboratory, Hatch funds will be used to support the following initial, discrete projects:</p><p>Objective One: Genomics and Engineering Tools for Persistent Pathogen Identification and Control. </p><p>Objective Two: Single-Kernel Sorting to Remove Mycotoxins from Cereals. </p><p.>Objective Three: Systems Approaches to Valuing Reductions in Foodborne Pathogen Contamination of Foods.

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These Hatch funds will support my starting up an applied food safety laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The CDC has estimated foodborne pathogens cause 3,000 deaths per year in U.S. and reductions in incidence of disease from 4 of the top 5 bacterial foodborne pathogens has largely stalled since the 2006-2009 baseline. New food safety tools are necessary to drive improvements in these public health metrics. While big-data and next-generation genomics tools are rapidly transforming biology, including food safety microbiology, it is by no means a given they will be appropriately utilized to address applied food safety problems. I see my laboratory's research goals as developing new tools that apply engineering and statistical approaches to problems in food safety microbiology. My laboratory will focus on developing knowledge and training students to appropriately apply modern tools to a wide range of food safety risk analysis and management problems. To ensure my activities are broad enough to address the evolving world of food safety risks, initial research work in my laboratory will address (i) bacterial agents of foodborne disease, (ii) fungal toxins, i.e. mycotoxins, and (iii) systems approaches to food safety management. I will initially focus my efforts on the top two most burdensome bacterial foodborne pathogens in terms of costs of foodborne illness and deaths in the U.S., Salmonella and L. monocytogenes. Specifically, I will seek to improve the use of whole genome sequencing approaches in conjunction with improved data analysis to elevate environmental monitoring from the outmoded model of a subordinate prerequisite in a HACCP program to a cornerstone of risk-based preventative control in modern, FMSA-sensitive world. I will work on reducing mycotoxin in maize in developed and developing world supply chains, as these largely under-studied, chronic food safety risks impact both cancer prevalence and likely childhood stunting among at-risk populations. Finally, I will regularly seek opportunities to apply a systems-approach to food safety management. For example, while food waste has rapidly entered the academic and government discourse in recent years, to the best of my knowledge no researchers have estimated the contribution of food-safety related recalls to that waste.

Stasiewicz, Mathew Jon
University of Illinois
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