College of Agriculture & Natural Resources

Food Safety

Food Safety Initiatives

New Initiative Aims at Safer Food Imports - at the Source, Not Our Border

(May 21, 2010) UMD and the Waters Corporation will build and operate the first U.S.-based laboratory for training foreign food producers - an important step to increase the foreign scientific capacity needed to uncover contamination before commodities ship.

At the new facility, they'll be taught U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved microbiological and chemical analytical procedures.

"Inspection at the border is not an option," says Jianghong Meng, who directs the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN), the University of Maryland-FDA center that will operate the lab and conduct the training.  Keep Reading...

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The Train the Trainers Program in Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) is designed to work with agricultural professionals to improve their understanding of GAPs with the goal of improving the food quality and safety of fresh fruits and vegetables for the US market.

Training Locations: Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, China, Peru.  To Learn more, go to the JIFSAN Train the Trainers webpage.

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Growing Globally: Since business means that not just people are traveling across borders, researchers in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture work to ensure safe food transactions. Nearly half of the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed by Americans come from outside of this country, says Chris Walsh, professor of horticulture and international training coordinator with the Joint Institute for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN). Seafood imports are even greater. He spends a lot of his time in other countries teaching trainers good agricultural practices in order to protect U.S. consumers from foodborne illnesses.

"People trained in plant protection or pest management can treat fruit and vegetable crops to kill insect pests, but there's no way to remove human pathogens from fresh produce if it becomes contaminated," he says. "We educate for the prevention of foodborne illnesses since it is impossible to use technology to remove microbial contamination.

"Foodborne illnesses are a major problem affecting people and markets all over the world. There are an increasing number of rules and buyer specifications. Supermarkets don't want to go bankrupt handling other people's problems." He says farm-loss estimates for last year's E. coli spinach recall in California hit $100 million.

"More than half of our food-borne illnesses can be traced back to fresh fruits and vegetables, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and the Food and Drug Administration. We need more science to figure out why this happens, plus education and implantation to manage this risk. It's a complicated world out there on the farm."

With Mexico being America's largest fresh vegetable supplier, Walsh has spent a lot of time in that country. He is functionally fluent in Spanish and always tries to bring trainers with some facility in the local language to whatever country he's visiting.

Though students don't travel with him on his trips, Walsh brings back extensive photographic presentations to share with his classes. It's important to him that students know-no matter their area of interest in horticulture-how their food is produced, where it comes from and how global trade has changed our diet.

"There's a lot to food safety that does not relate to national security, but has tremendous impact on our day-to-day lives."

(from TERP Magazine, Winter 2007)

 

U.S./ Russian Federation Scientific Conference to Share Knowledge And Information Concerning the Safety of Animal Products

April 18-20, 2006

A Russian ban on poultry from the U.S. due to suspected salmonella contamination underscores the need for scientists in trading countries to discuss food safety and to reach agreement on developing testing standards.  Lack of agreement on standards can cause international trade conflicts and a sudden decrease in demand for food products.

The University of Maryland and The Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences hosted a three-day conference in April 2006, aimed at informing government and industry officials in both countries about meat and poultry processing and inspection and creating a forum to discuss harmonization of food safety standards.  Researchers, meat and poultry processors, and government officials were some of the 200 people who attended the conference.  (The programme for the conference is listed under “Publications,” on the IPAN website.)

The conference also provided U.S. and Russian scientists to meet and to increase their understanding of the methods used in creating a safe food supply, and to agree to joint goals for the future.

 

Presentations and Current Issues

Harmonization of microbiological and other laboratory methods between Russia and the U.S. was the central topic of the conference.  Other topics included zoonotic diseases, food preservation, and animal feed and environmental issues.    Many of the slides presented at the conference can be found in English and Russian at Agromagazine, an internet-based professional journal hosted by Moscow State Agro-Engineering and the University of Maryland.

Red Meat:  Exchanges of scientists and industry professionals from the two countries for the sharing of science and technology regarding:

  1. Conversion of meat animals to safe, wholesome and high quality foods (e.g., HACCP, decontamination, interventions)
  2. Means and methods for preservation (e.g., freezing, packaging) of raw materials prior to processing, and consumer products prior to consumption
  3. Harmonization of chemical, physical and biological (especially microbiological) tests and methodologies to assure the quality, safety and wholesomeness of beef, pork and poultry
  4. Detailed – even proprietary – information regarding development of GMOs and their potential effects on the biology of all other plants and animals
  5. Zoonotic diseases (e.g, BSE, AI, FMD) and biological agents (e.g., botulinum toxin, ricin) which could be used as bioterroristic threats.

Poultry – Current Issues 

  1. Harmonization of Microbiological & Other Laboratory Method Between RF and U.S.
  2. Promote HACCP or Other Food Safety Programs (Provide Training Opportunities – “Train The Trainer”)
  3. Efficient Utilization of Recovered Meat Processing “Waste By-Products” Encourage Sharing of Treatment Technologies between RF/U.S.
  4. Host Russian/U.S. Exchange on Fact Finding Mission (Russian/U.S. Poultry Production/Processing System)
  5. Develop Training Courses on Topics of Mutual Interest (in U.S. and RF)

This conference was supported in part by a grant from the Emerging Markets Program of USDA/FAS.   Conference organizers also included Iowa State University, the University of Nebraska, and ACDI/VOCA.   Principal organizers were The V.M. Gorgatov All-Russian Meat Research Institute (VNIIMP), University of Maryland, Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, USDA/FAS, RF Ministry of Agriculture, USDA Emerging Markets Program, Iowa State University, University of Nebraska, US APEEC/IPDP.   Dr. Irina Tchernukha, VNIIMP; Dr. R.J. Miller, UMD; Dr. P. Sorokin, Moscow State Agro-Engineering University; and Darlene Adams, University of Maryland, were integral in planning the conference.

(From TERP Magazine, Winter 2007)

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