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Land-grant universities boost food safety for freshcut produce

USDA-funded research also addresses practical application of safety measures and training

Editor’s note: This information is from agisamerica.org, a website supporting the work of the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities.

Food safety and quality control are huge issues in grocery stores when it comes to products like packaged salad, carrot sticks, and pre-sliced fruit.

Ready-to-eat foods from retailers 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.

To address such problems, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has partnered with 14 land-grant universities and international institutions. Research projects have already lead to improvements.

Achievement and continuing work includes:

  • 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.
  • 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.

For additional information on specific projects at 14 institutions, click on the following links:

The U.S. Congress launched the land-grant university concept in 1862 as a response to a growing demand for agricultural and technical education.

The Morrill Act of 1862 granted federal land to states to establish land-grant universities to focus on the practical teaching of agriculture, science and engineering. In 1890 and 1994, Congress expanded the Morrill Act to create additional land-grant universities in the western and plains states.

In 1914, Congress widened the reach of land-grant universities under the Smith Lever Act, which established Cooperative Extension Services to bring research from land-grant universities to farmers, consumers and families. With Cooperative Extension, land-grant universities are able to offer their resources directly to the public.

Today, there is at least one land-grant university in every state and territory of the United States, including the District of Columbia.

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