Multistate venture aims to boost food safety research

By Joe Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Research powerhouses join forces in food safety venture
Three US universities have joined forces in a bid to strengthen food safety research and ensure experts state-wide work together.

Michigan State University, Ohio State University and Purdue University had a workshop this month aimed at maximizing opportunities to secure grants from external agencies.

The Food Safety Midwest Workshop was the first meeting of the Tri-State Research/Extension Funding Progam (TSREFP).

Complimentary efforts

Karen Plaut, director and associate dean for research, college of agriculture at Purdue University, told each state has a network of scientists and the willingness to work together will ensure efforts will be stronger and complimentary to each other.

“In the case of the food safety area, there was a session at the end of the workshop where everyone talked about what areas they want to have more information, collaboration etc.

“If the area is a research topic, the group would work together to determine how to ask the most important questions and then apply for funding to answer those questions. 

“For extension and outreach, the group may get together and determine ways to deliver the information into the tri-state region. 

“Our specialists may go to Michigan or Ohio and their specialists may come here so that information can be delivered from an expert.  This saves us from having to duplicate the expertise in each state.”

Proposals are not renewable and will be funded at a maximum total of $50,000 for no more than two years. Staff from a state outside the Tri-state area may be part of the proposal, if they bring specific research/extension expertise to the plan.

Cooperation critical  

“Cooperation in food safety is critical – there are many steps that are important for the safety of our food starting from the agricultural producer, through the manufacturer, distributor and the consumer just to name a few – we all have a role to play and building programs that allows us to address all these groups of people will enhance the safety of our products. 

“FSMA has not been implemented yet but by working as a team our institutions will be better able to work with the industry to keep the food supply safe once FMSA is enacted.”

Bioenergy and bioproducts, local foods, water quality, nutrient and waste management, animal welfare, and commercial agriculture and farm management are also focuses of the new venture.

Food industry help

The ultimate goal is the consumer, said Plaut.

“Having said that, there are ways that the partners can help the food industry. Discussion and identification of critical control points in manufacturing, predicting contamination risk, providing new and improved detections devices will all help the food industry minimize food safety issues.”

The deadline for proposals is 30 September, then the group could submit some grants together to federal agencies, develop a website and decide what are the most important aspects that they need to address over the next year.

Jeff LeJeune, microbiologist with Ohio State University Extension and Ohio State's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, said: "We identified some priorities in areas where we might work together, and one of them was in educational materials for good agricultural practices for producers.

“We're talking about how we can adopt things here in Ohio that are being done in Indiana and Michigan, and how what we're doing in Ohio can be exported, if you will, to Indiana and Michigan."

Related topics: Regulation and safety, Food Outbreaks

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