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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory

 series of five photos of EMFSL scientists at work

EMFSL researchers are:

  • Characterizing protozoan parasites (utilizing biological, chemical and molecular techniques) found in livestock manures, and assess their transmission on and off of the farm,
  • Characterizing pathogenic enteric bacteria on dairy farms, their ecology, and routes of transmission within the dairy herd and to milk,
  • Investigating the transport of pathogens from manure/feces via water and animal/insect vectors,
  • Assessing the introduction, dissemination, persistence and survival of saprophytic vs. pathogenic enteric bacteria during growth (including organic and conventional growing practices), harvest, postharvest handling and processing of fresh fruits and produce, and
  • Developing rapid and sensitive methods for the identification of specific food-borne pathogens as well as rapid nondestructive methods for the detection of biological and chemical contaminants on fresh fruits and produce and on food processing surfaces.

These research areas are essential to understanding how pathogens are disseminated on farms, in the environment, and to food products, and to developing methods to detect, characterize, and mitigate contamination to prevent foodborne illnesses.

Working at several sites across the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) complex in Beltsville, MD, fifteen EMFSL research scientists and additional support staff are equipped with a variety of specialized research equipment for molecular characterization of pathogens (e.g. high throughput capillary nucleic acid sequencer, numerous fixed and portable real-time PCR devices, robotic processing devices, and nucleic acid extractors) and for non-destructive spectral characterization of food and agricultural commodities to develop rapid and highly sensitive spectral imaging methods and systems for rapid inspection and contaminant detection, along with animal facilities operated under BSL-2 containment.

Scientific disciplines represented in the laboratory include parasitology, molecular biology, bacteriology, animal science, soil science, hydrology, spectroscopy, spectral imaging, and engineering. Visiting scientists and post-doctoral research associates also contribute to the laboratory's work at BARC and its collaborations with researchers from universities, industries, and other government agencies across the U.S. and overseas.


series of three photos of EMFSL scientists at work

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Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory
Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, MD 20705
Phone 301.504.5607 | Fax 301.504.6608

Last Modified: 5/16/2017
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