Project: Research project

Project Details


Foodborne illness is recognized as a significant public health problem in the United States. A 1999 estimate from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) attributes 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths to foodborne pathogens annually. Due to the implementation of standardized sanitation and pasteurization practices the incidence of milkborne illness in the United States was sharply reduced from 25% of outbreaks in 1938 to less than 1% in 2004. However, large outbreaks due to consumption of contaminated dairy products occasionally still occur. Therefore, government agencies recognize the need for continued vigilance at every stage in the dairy food system, from production, processing, pasteurization and distribution of milk and milk products. Pasteurized fluid milk and high fat dairy products are categorized as high risk, where other dairy products such as soft unripened cheese and unpasteurized fluid milk are considered moderate risk. FDA recommends that improvements to dairy safety need to focus on the entire dairy system, rather than a limited number of control points. Therefore, we propose research directed at improving the safety of pasteurized fluid milk, addressing critical control points from pre-pasteurization contamination of milk through the time that it enters the distribution system and ultimately reaches consumers. We will investigate the survival of the pathogens Salmonella sp., Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Listeria monocytogenes, in environments such as soils, compost, and cow manure, as reducing the persistence of pathogens within these settings will decrease the transmission to raw milk. We will also investigate thermal and non-thermal pasteurization methods of reducing pathogens contaminating raw milk, and study whether certain stress conditions promote survival of pathogens to these mechanisms of inactivation. Lastly, we will develop novel DNA-based methods of tracking individual strains of pathogens from the farm through the food system, as such methods will identify the source of the contamination, leading to scientific-based approaches of reducing the spread of such organisms into the food supply.

Effective start/end date10/1/109/30/11


  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture: $547,259.00


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