Food Safety

Grand Challenge: To develop intervention and control strategies for foodborne contaminants along the entire animal production chain and enhance detection of pathogens to ensure a safe food supply and decrease foodborne illnesses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 6 U.S. citizens (48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne illnesses each year. Although the U.S. animal-based food production system is amongst the safest in the world, meat and dairy foods production, processing, and distribution systems in the United States are diverse and vulnerable to the introduction of contaminants. Therefore, strategies to enhance food safety require a holistic approach from animals on the farm or ranch, through humane slaughter and processing, and ultimately to retailers and the consumer. Understanding factors that affect pathogen, toxin or chemical burden will help decrease contamination in the farm-to-fork continuum. Educational and research efforts will lead to development of risk management strategies. Research provides the means to ensure that animal and dairy products continue to be safe and secure for consumers, and that these products continue to meet regulatory requirements for domestic and international markets.

Key Questions:

1)  What technologies can be developed and used for the rapid detection and characterization of contaminated animal-based foods?
2)  What additional or alternative pre- and post-harvest intervention and control strategies can eliminate foodborne contaminants throughout the food production chain?
3)  What strategies and models can be used to identify effective management practices that improve food safety?
4)  What microbial populations (pathogens and normal flora) are found in animals and humans, in their surrounding environments, and in animal products for human consumption?
5)  What characterizes the behavior and fundamental biology of normal flora and foodborne pathogens? Can more effective technologies be developed to further differentiate pathogenic from non-pathogenic strains?
6)  What is the most effective means of informing consumers about proper food handling to reduce the risk of foodborne illness in humans? How do we reach the groups most at risk (young, elderly, compromised immune systems)?

Expected Outcomes:

1) Fundamental knowledge regarding microbial populations (pathogens and normal flora) in animal production systems from farm to fork.
2) More powerful and sensitive methods for the rapid detection and elimination of contaminants in animal-based foods.
3) Pre- and post-harvest strategies that use a holistic or systems-based approach to decrease foodborne contaminants throughout the food production chain.
4) Best management practices that improve the safety of all animal-based foods.
5) Educational materials for the public, especially at-risk populations or their care givers, on safe food preparation and handling.

Download the Grand Challenges Documents

Read each section:

Introduction

Animal Health

Agricultural Animals and Climate Change

Food Safety

Global Food Security

Animal Well-Being

Training the Future Workforce