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Photo: Researchers sampling hide of restrained cow. Link to photo information
ARS scientists Tommy Wheeler and Steven Shackelford sample microorganisms from a cow's hide as part of developing technology to make beef safer. Click the image for more information about it.

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Photo: Scientist feeding medication to young turkey. Link to photo information
ARS and University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, researchers have developed a way to identify beneficial bacteria that can be fed to poultry to reduce the risk of contamination by bacteria that causes human food borne illness. Click the image for more information about it.

ARS Honors Technology Transfer Award Winners

By Laura McGinnis
February 13, 2008

WASHINGTON, February 13, 2008—Food safety researchers top the list of teams who are receiving 2007 Technology Transfer Awards from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief intramural scientific research agency. These awards recognize ARS researchers who successfully develop and deliver new technology for public use.

For developing technology to reduce pathogen contamination of beef and poultry, ARS research teams at Clay Center, Neb., and Fayetteville, Ark., received 2007 Technology Transfer Awards for Outstanding Efforts. They were recognized this week with six other teams at the ARS Annual Recognition Program.

"The research honored this year exemplifies our agency's commitment to developing agricultural solutions and making them available to researchers, scientists and members of the general public," said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling.

Scientists at the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) in Clay Center were recognized for developing a chemical hide-washing system that removes E. coli O157:H7 and other dangerous microorganisms from cattle hides before processing. The treatment is used on an estimated 40 percent of U.S. feedlot-raised beef cattle, and saves the U.S. beef industry millions of dollars every year. Since the industry adopted the technology, the amount of ground beef in the United States testing positive for E. coli O157:H7 has dropped by about 43 percent. The research was led by USMARC Director Mohammad Koohmaraie. (Team members)

Research conducted at the Poultry Production and Product Safety Research Unit in Fayetteville also helped reduce the risk of foodborne pathogen contamination. Research leader Ann M. Donoghue, with colleagues at the University of Arkansas, developed a new method for identifying beneficial probiotic bacteria. When consumed by poultry, such bacteria crowd out pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter inside the bird, improving bird health and food safety. Billions of chickens and turkeys throughout the world stand to benefit from the adoption of this research. (Team members)

ARS also recognized six individuals and groups for Superior Efforts in Technology Transfer:

  • Carlos B. Armijo, a textile technologist at the Southwestern Cotton Ginning Research Laboratory in Mesilla Park, N.M., developed a high-speed roller gin stand that increases the ginning speed of upland cotton by about 500 percent. These stands are being used by commercial and private ginning operations.
  • Rodney G. Roberts, a plant pathologist at the Tree Fruit Research Laboratory in Wenatchee, Wash., developed fire blight detection assays and a treatment protocol demonstrating that U.S. apples were not infected with fire blight and, therefore, unlikely to carry the disease abroad. This research led several foreign countries, including Japan, to allow imports of U.S. apples, opening up a multimillion-dollar market.
  • Led by research leader John B. Luchansky, the Microbial Food Safety Research Unit's Special Projects Team at the Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, Pa., developed a process to enhance the safety of ready-to-eat meat and poultry products. The Sprayed Lethality in Container, or SLIC, intervention method reduces the prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes by 99.999 percent within 24 hours. Several food processors in the United States and England have adopted the SLIC technology. (Team members)
  • A new, low-glycemic-index sweetener is the byproduct of ARS research into value-added carbohydrates. Under the leadership of Gregory L. Cote, scientists at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill., have been converting agricultural materials into prebiotics. Working with industry scientists, the team applied the technology to sugar and corn syrup, resulting in the creation of Xtend™ sucromalt. (Team members)
  • Charles Onwulata, a food technologist in the ERRC Dairy Processing and Products Research Unit in Wyndmoor, has developed a method for enriching snacks and cereals with byproducts derived from the cheese-making process. The byproducts improve the nutritional value of snacks by raising their protein content without affecting taste, texture or appearance.