Scientist for Irradiation Research
By Jim Core
January 22, 2004
NEW ORLEANS, La., Jan.
22Agricultural Research Service (ARS) microbiologist Christopher H. Sommers
has been named the agency's "North Atlantic Area Early Career Scientist of
2003." ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures chief scientific research agency.
The "early career" award is given to ARS scientists who have made
outstanding scientific contributions, have worked with the agency seven years
or less, and have completed their highest academic degree within the past 10
years. Sommers is based at the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, Pa. The agency's
North Atlantic Area includes research locations in Delaware, Maine, Maryland,
Massachusetts, New York, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Sommers is the lead scientist for food irradiation at the ERRC's
Food Safety Intervention
Technologies Research Unit. He is being recognized for pioneering food
irradiation research that enhances food safety and helps industry and
regulatory agencies meet food safety goals.
"Dr. Sommers' ongoing studies of food irradiation are critical as we
continue to seek ways to improve food safety," said Edward B. Knipling,
ARS acting administrator. Knipling presented a plaque to Sommers and other
winning scientists at a ceremony here today during the ARS National Scientific
Leadership Meeting and Annual Recognition Program. Sommers will also receive a
cash award and additional support for his research program.
Sommers, an ARS employee since 1999, studies ways to use irradiation to
improve the safety and shelf life of meat, poultry and ready-to-eat meat
products. The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration in 1997 approved food irradiation to control microorganisms
on fresh and frozen red meats. FDA is reviewing the use of irradiation for
ready-to-eat meats such as hot dogs, bologna, deli turkey meat and ham.
Sommers identified the radiation doses required to eliminate the food-borne
pathogen Listeria monocytogenes from ready-to-eat meat products, and
determined the radiation resistance of strains responsible for food-borne
illness outbreaks in the United States. He also completed work on food
additives that inhibit the growth of radiation-damaged pathogens in food
products during long-term refrigerated storage. He also has studied irradiation
of food-borne pathogens involving fruits, vegetables and juices.
Sommers earned an associate's degree in surgical technology at the
Naval School of Health Sciences
in Portsmouth, Va., his bachelor's degree in biology from the
State University of New York at Albany
(1986), and his master's degree (1989) and doctorate (1993) in biology from the
University of Rochester.