UPDATED: $42 million in grants go to food safety - The Packer

UPDATED: $42 million in grants go to food safety

06/24/2011 02:36:00 PM
Coral Beach

(UPDATED COVERAGE, June 29)The National Institute of Food and Agriculture is giving extension grants totaling almost $42 million to 24 institutions for projects aimed at reducing foodborne illnesses and deaths from microbial contamination.

Many of the projects funded by the institute, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, involve fresh produce such as tomatoes, spinach, lettuce and other leafy greens, according to a news release.

The grants range from $12,000 for the Ninth International Symposium on the Microbiology of Aerial Plant Surfaces in Corvallis, Ore., to $5 million for a Washington State University project on microwave research for the control of pathogens in ready-to-eat foods.

A complete list of the projects is available on the institute’s website.

Ten of the projects specifically involve fresh produce and 12 deal with chicken, beef, pork and seafood. A number of the projects involve more than one commodity, such as a University of Delaware study that is receiving $5 million to refine processing technologies to destroy human noroviruses in “high-risk foods, shellfish (oysters and clams), fresh and frozen berries, berry purees, green onions and salsa,” according to the institute’s website.

There are also projects involving food allergens, milk, food safety training and the emerging threat of ochratoxin, a fungal toxin that can contaminate fresh and dried produce, meats and grains.

Projects receiving grants are based in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Produce specific projects include:

  • University of California-Berkeley, $490,100 to study the role of bacterially-produced substances on the internalization of human pathogens on produce;
  • University of California-Davis, $361,100 to examine whether a particular plant hormone is a risk factor in the persistence of E. coli on leafy greens and whether it can help minimize the potential of E. coli contamination;
  • University of Delaware, Newark, $4,998,000 to identify and optimize processing technologies to destroy human noroviruses in high-risk foods, including fresh and frozen berries, berry purees, green onions and salsa;
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, $499,500 to identify the specific salmonella genes that allow it to attach to and persist on tomatoes;
  • Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, $499,700 to identify the specific molecular mechanisms that underlie the interactions of E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella (S. enterica) with minimally-processed leafy vegetables;
  • University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, $499,100 to characterize the molecular mechanisms involved in the interactions of E. coli O157:H7 with lettuce and spinach plants.
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $499,425 to examine the means by which Salmonella survives and multiplies on plants, particularly tomatoes, and how plants defend themselves;
  • Ohio State University, Columbus, $500,000 to advance understanding of the interactions between norovirus/porcine sapovirus  and leafy greens, improving measures to reduce or eliminate norovirus-related nfoodborne illnesses;
  • Texas A&M University, College Station, $499,972 – develop a comprehensive understanding of bacterial foodborne pathogen adhesion to produce surfaces and possibilities for prevention; and
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, $499,993 – identify tomato genes that restrict human pathogen colonization, research the mechanism that promotes the growth of human pathogens on the plant and identify mechanisms used by human bacterial pathogens to colonize plant tissue.

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