14 Land-Grant Universities Work Together to Improve Food Safety Practices and Quality Control

In *All, Food Security, Nutrition & Health by Ag is America

When we think of food safety, we usually think of clean kitchen practices at home or handling raw meats properly. But food safety and quality control issues can be a huge issue in grocery stores, too, when it comes to products like packaged salad, carrot sticks, and pre-sliced fruit. These ready-to-eat containers that we buy in grocery stores can spoil easily and have been responsible for foodborne illness outbreaks, which cost billions of dollars due to recalled products, healthcare expenses, lost wages, and worker productivity.

Although these conventional food safety methods can be convenient, they often damage the flavor, texture, and nutritional value of fresh-cut produce. To combat these issues, the USDA has partnered with 14 land-grant universities and international institutions to find solutions. This research has already lead to improvements in consumers’ access to safe, high-quality fresh-cut products and boosting consumers’ satisfaction and confidence. Here are some of the accomplishments this research has already made, and what these schools continue to work on:

  • Scientists have been able to determine the optimal ripeness for cutting and processing fresh produce so it lasts longer. They’ve also designed biodegradable packaging made from renewable resources that can control humidity and release antimicrobials. These innovations have dramatically changed the quality of these foods.
  • Scientists have experimented with different cleansing techniques, sanitizers, protective coatings, pathogen detectors, and more tools that can find, remove, and kill dangerous bacteria and the biofilms they form.
  • None of this research matters until new practices are implemented. The scientists have produced educational materials and training courses that have allowed federal agencies, industry members, growers, processors, and consumers to accept and adopt these new practices.

These are just a few of the discoveries and improvements these schools have made to help improve food safety and quality control through the entire farm-to-consumer process. Big thanks to these land-grant universities for their impactful research: University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Auburn University, University of California-Davis, Cornell University, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Illinois, Iowa State University, Louisiana State University, University of Maryland, Michigan State University, Mississippi State University, Rutgers University, and Texas AgriLife Research. To learn more about their accomplishments in food safety, read more here.

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