Next generation genomic tools are being used in a project to reduce foodborne outbreaks associated with fresh produce.
Joan Rose, a professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University (MSU), is approaching the end of the first year of the project with another year to come.
The grant of almost $300,000 was awarded through the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative and given through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Rose’s project is looking at improving the understanding of the food-environment microbiome from the field to the store, supporting food safety monitoring practices and transforming how testing.
Identify and characterize
She told FoodQualityNews.com that the technology would enable them to identify new targets present in different water environments and characterize the risks.
“This technology gives us a glimpse at things that we have never had the opportunity to look at before, I am amazed at what we are finding and what we don’t know.
"The other challenge is the bioinformatics field to analyse our findings which is still developing.
“This project is going to provide new knowledge on the microbial world and allow us to find out how viral pathogens get into our food systems.“
Rose will study genetic material from environmental samples to generate a virome (the genomes of all the viruses that inhabit a particular organism or environment) view of cantaloupe, tomato and lettuce, and changes in those foods as they travel from the field to the store.
Lettuce, tomatoes and cantaloupes
She said the first batch of samples on lettuce had been processed and they were at the bioinformatics stage with cantaloupe and tomatoes to be done as the season permits.
“It will address emerging diseases like norovirus and give us a big window into what we don’t know about produce such as how some viruses spread and how does the disinfection process work.
“It is an opportunity to understand animal, food safety and human health and look at the supply chain and all the things that can be or are being done to make food safer.”
Rose said the project goal is to provide a comprehensive view of the virome of food from the natural field environment through the built food delivery system to guide efforts toward identifying new targets for monitoring food safety.
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.