In late June, the University of Tennessee was jumping for joy when they discovered they had been awarded a grant in the amount of $450,000 to research food safety. According to the Associated Press, “The university said in a news release that its College of Agriculture will use the grant to continue research and outreach projects on antimicrobial resistance. The release said the funds will help establish stewardship programs for operators of small- and medium-sized ranches.
The release said that antimicrobial-resistant pathogens in animal production systems is a challenge to public health. The release said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that at least 23,000 people die in the United States each year due to infections caused by microorganisms that are resistant to antibiotics.”
Knowing that 23,000 people succumb to infections related to food safety and that this grant could lessen this number makes us extremely happy. Grants are such a great thing and when they are given for such amazing causes such as research I find that it is a win-win.
A Move in the Right Direction
In 2017, the USDA announced that it would support research, education and extension projects to promote food safety and a nutritious food supply for Americans. “Each year, 1 in 6 Americans gets sick consuming contaminated foods or beverages,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “NIFA support enables scientists to investigate and develop innovative approaches to detect and control microbial and other contaminants in our food, contributing to the production of safe, high-quality, nourishing food.”
This isn’t just about your average food safety from the consumer perspective though, a lot of these measures start with the actual farms where the crops are grown. The pre-harvest food safety protocols are where things begin and often people do not think of the farmlands and are very quick to think that food safety starts at home when in reality it begins way before.
In the 2016 fiscal year 59 grants were awarded for food safety totaling $24 million. These were spread out all over the United States and my state Virginia got nearly 1 million dollars at the well-known Virginia Tech.
“Among previously funded projects, University of Rochester and Cornell University scientists investigated compounds in wine grapes and pomace, a fermented grape mash and waste product, discovering that they inhibit tooth decay. A product that prevents tooth decay can be made from this readily available waste and would have significant societal benefits. Purdue University researchers investigated developing carbohydrates that digest slowly, trigger feelings of satiety, and control nutrient delivery rate to the body. The study shows that dietary carbohydrates, if delivered properly, can support weight management.
Among past AFRI Food Safety Challenge Area projects, scientists at Kansas State and Texas A&M Universities successfully launched a website, KSUantibiotics.org. The website offers resources on how to manage use of these drugs in animals while conserving their effectiveness for humans.
A project at Washington State University is investigating how a combination of biology, psychology, and ecology can be used to mitigate antibiotic resistance in livestock production. The scientists found that specific factors, such as positive rewards from supervisors, motivated how animal care providers used antibiotics.
NIFA’s mission is to invest in and advance agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges. NIFA’s investments in transformative science directly support the long-term prosperity and global preeminence of U.S. agriculture.”
These grants are being used for such amazing things, and it is mind-blowing to know that technology has come so far even in the last 2 years to determine things that affect communities on a day to day basis.
The grants are also used for community outreach as well with extension offices (which are often associated with local universities) everywhere citizens can come and learn about everyday food safety in a classroom environment. People of all ages attend these courses which are often advertised in newspapers and on local social media pages where people can get information to sign up and what the classes entail. At the end people are awarded a food safety certificate which can help people who are old enough to work get jobs in the food services industry. Younger kids who take these courses are known to help with their church dinners, volunteering in soup kitchens and other great opportunities in the community to feel like they are a part of things but also to be safe in the process. In many communities, these courses are offered in several languages as part the services offered to reach a larger audience.
Being a part of a country where food safety has become such a priority is a rewarding feeling as a parent. Knowing that we are together looking out for families literally from the ground up means a lot to parents like myself because without these grants and programs associated with them the number of 23,000 deaths due to food related infections could be a lot more. We hope that each year this number lowers and one day will be very few, but until then the rigorous research from fields across America straight into our kitchens continues to become better thanks to the grants provided.
Continuing education from farm to household is a key to food safety and while we may never know everything there is to know, every bit of information is critical in keeping families safe from food related illness and even the potential for death resulting from a food related illness. We try as a family to be as careful as possible and love knowing that farmers across America are learning new techniques as well to keep us safe. We are truly living in an amazing country.
We are always thankful for the farmer, but now even more so knowing that the farmers are learning right along with us as families and striving to keep us as safe as possible every day. We are also appreciative of the Federal grants that help us all learn and grow together as communities everywhere. Cheers to Food Safety and all of those who practice it, study it, and who practice it.
By: Samantha Cooper, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)