USDA-NIFA grant awarded to Arkansas food scientist to investigate low-moisture food safety

The U.S. Division of Agriculture’s Nationwide Institute of Meals and Agriculture has awarded an Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station researcher a $200,000 grant to study extra about how a lot moisture is required to permit bacterial survival in low-moisture meals. 

The institute acknowledges the hazards of pathogens in low-moisture meals as simply two months in the past the FDA confirmed 5 completely different strains of Cronobacter sakazakii micro organism at an Abbott Diet plant in Sturgis, MI, that makes toddler method that was linked to 4 diseases and two deaths.

Jennifer Acuff, the awarded researcher and assistant professor in meals security and microbiology with the College of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, says her analysis will assist develop foundational information on how micro organism persist in low-moisture meals processing environments.

“We don’t actually understand how a lot water or vitamins are required to maintain these contaminating populations, however we all know they’ll persist within the dry surroundings for a very long time,” Acuff mentioned. 

In response to Acuff, the aim of the grant is to develop protocols for a laboratory that simulate these persistent micro organism in order that they’ll examine easy methods to forestall their formation or mitigate the dangers as soon as they do type in a low-moisture meals processing surroundings.

“Many low-moisture meals are additionally thought of ready-to-eat, so this places shoppers at a selected threat as a result of they don’t seem to be anticipating the meals to be unsafe and won’t be doing something to it that would kill pathogens, comparable to cooking,” Acuff mentioned. 

Acuff’s analysis is designed to assemble knowledge that can enable collaborative analysis sooner or later on cleansing, sanitizing and processing in a low-moisture meals surroundings.

Acuff and her lab will look at how cross-contamination can happen from the persistent bacterial populations to the non-contaminated merchandise within the presence of restricted water and vitamins. 

Acuff will determine an acceptable surrogate microorganism that’s nonpathogenic however can mimic the habits of a pathogen, in order that the laboratory outcomes will be validated in meals processing vegetation with out introducing a pathogen to the surroundings.

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