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Cracked? Preventing Salmonella in nuts focus for research

By Joe Whitworth+

21-Jul-2014

The research will tackle the problem in foods such as nuts
The research will tackle the problem in foods such as nuts

Michigan State University (MSU) has been awarded almost $400,000 by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reduce the Salmonella risk of low-moisture foods.

MSU researcher Sanghyup Jeong was awarded $380,000 to tackle the problem in foods such as nuts, which is becoming increasingly common.

Typically illness is contracted when people eat raw or undercooked foods such as contaminated egg, poultry, meat or unpasteurized dairy products, or contaminated raw fruits, vegetables and spices.

Understanding the problem

“This research project will deliver a robust tool and approach for understanding dry particle food flow and microbiological contamination by bacteria in dry nuts,” said Jeong, an assistant professor in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

“This should lead to future applications with other low-moisture food products and nanoparticle contaminants.”

Jeong said Salmonella outbreaks have been caused by bacteria in low-moisture foods such as grains, almonds, wheat flour, soy and black pepper.

“In 2000 and 2003, there were two outbreaks of Salmonellosis in California almonds, which prompted a recall of 13 million pounds of raw almonds in 2004,” he said.

“Given the potential for similar problems to occur in the almond industry, we must understand the cross-contamination process when developing intervention strategies to prevent future outbreaks.

“This will be possible via the discrete element method, a tool to investigate the characteristics of solid or soft grain interactions and flow from microscopic to macroscopic levels.”

Eight grants from NIFA

The grant is one of eight awarded to the MSU CANR by the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative and administered through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

They total $3.9m and focus on helping Michigan farmers manage extreme weather conditions and tackle food safety issues, and help small and medium-sized farms compete in an aggressive and competitive marketplace.

One example is Gale Strasburg, professor of food science and human nutrition, using a $975,000 grant to help turkeys better adapt to extreme weather changes that can affect the overall quality of the meat.

Julie Funk, associate professor of large animal and clinical sciences, is looking at reducing foodborne transmission of STEC via a nearly $300,000 grant to study the roles of pigs in transmitting shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or STEC, to humans.

Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research, is using genomic tools and almost $300,000 in reducing the number of foodborne outbreaks associated with fresh produce.

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