A Food Safety Ecosystem for Produce
Fresh produce carries a risk of foodborne illness. It is often consumed raw and without cooking. Microbial pathogens are more likely to persist in contaminated foods. In addition to the obvious impact on public health, cases of foodborne illness can damage the reputation of produce as a healthy food choice. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a key component of a balanced diet, and outbreaks may reduce consumption and the health benefits associated with them. Outbreaks linked to produce also hurt growers and jeopardize exports.
Using a systems approach that extends from field to consumer, Martin Wiedmann, Food Science, along with Aaron A. Adalja, Hotel Administration, Renata Ivanek, Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, Randy W. Worobo, Food Science, Michelle D. Danyluk (University of Florida), and Laura K. Strawn (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University), is developing a battery of digital tools to reduce the introduction and transmission of microbes that cause foodborne illness.
New computational modeling developed through this research will enable better decisions about science-based, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable strategies and food safety plans; and improved geographic information system (GIS) tools will provide timely, field-specific information to identify increased risk of contamination and appropriate interventions. In addition to generating a library of computational and digital tools applicable to the produce industry, this project will train a large number of students and industry professionals in the development and use of these tools. Overall, the project fosters a food safety ecosystem that enhances public health and supports large producers, processors, and retailers, as well as small firms.
Award Number: 2019-51181-30016