USDA announces food safety research agenda

Nov 24, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) last week announced a comprehensive research agenda for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of its food safety programs.

The "unified food safety research agenda" ranges from studying the virulence of major foodborne pathogens to developing effective food-safety training strategies, the department said.

USDA's Research, Education, and Economics mission area worked with its Office of Food Safety, other government agencies, and stakeholders to develop the research agenda. The agenda ranks general research needs as follows: (1) characteristics of foodborne pathogens and strategies for controlling them, (2) development of sampling and detection methods, (3) risk assessment, and (4) food safety education and training.

In the first area—foodborne pathogens and control measures—the agenda includes:

  • Investigating the behavior of Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and other foodborne pathogens in order to develop targeted control measures
  • Developing pre-processing measures for reducing key foodborne pathogens and antibiotic-resistant microbes in meat, poultry, eggs, and fresh produce
  • Developing new and improved processing methods to reduce key pathogens in meat, poultry, fresh produce, seafood, and ready-to-eat foods
  • Developing rapid and sensitive methods for detecting abnormal prions to prevent the spread of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease)

In the sampling area, the USDA wants to develop "high-throughput" methods for detecting and quantifying foodborne pathogens and to find better methods for monitoring pesticide residues in food, among other objectives.

The department also released a list of research needs related to meat, poultry, and egg products that the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will encourage nongovernmental organizations to work on. That list covers much the same ground as the overall USDA agenda but goes into more detail. The FSIS does not conduct research but does identify research needed to fulfill its public health mission, the USDA announcement noted.

The Agricultural Research Service is the USDA's chief scientific research agency, while the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service is USDA's main research funding agency.

See also:

USDA's Nov 19 news release
http://www.usda.gov/documents/NewsReleases/2003/11/0391.doc

FSIS's research priorities
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/programs/research_priorities.htm

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