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NDSU researcher receives USDA food safety grant

An NDSU food safety research project is one of 35 projects the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture will fund to improve food safety by helping control microbial and chemical contamination in various foods. The announcement was made April 24.

A total of $24 million in funding was announced. The NDSU project, “Dynamics of Listeria Monocytogenes Populations in Environmental Reservoirs in the Preharvest Environment of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables,” received $147,603. The principal investigator is Peter Bergholz, assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary and Microbiological Sciences.

The project is intended to help lead to on-farm safety practices to prevent contamination of fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Our ability to predict and prevent foodborne illness outbreaks associated with produce is currently limited by a lack of models of foodborne pathogen transmission at any stage along the food production chain from farm to fork,” Bergholz said.

The study will look at how to measure the environmental abundance of Listeria monocytogenes, a deadly foodborne pathogen, and the impact of precipitation on its abundance in soils.

“Produce growers, food safety auditors and researchers will benefit from advances in our ability to accurately quantify and predict changes in the population size and mobility of this foodborne pathogen in food cultivation environments,” Bergholz said.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture made the awards through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Food Safety program. The program’s goal is to protect consumers from microbial and chemical contaminants that may occur in the food chain, from production to consumption. This year, the Food Safety program focused on developing effective mitigation strategies for antimicrobial resistance, understanding the physical and molecular mechanisms of food contamination, and improving the safety of fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables.

In addition, the program addressed critical and emerging food safety hazards to help prevent contamination and outbreaks.

“Foodborne illnesses affects approximately one in six Americans each year, making USDA’s investment in food safety science a high priority that will have direct impact on thousands of lives,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. “Our goal is to reduce the number of illnesses and protect the food supply through research, education and Extension efforts focused on all levels of the food chain.”

The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative is National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s flagship competitive grants program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.

NDSU is recognized as one of the nation's top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.

Source: NDSU NEWS

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