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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory » Research » Research Project #431992

Research Project: Improving Food Safety through Cold Chain Management and Stakeholder Outreach

Location: Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-32420-009-005-A
Project Type: Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Oct 1, 2016
End Date: Jul 31, 2022

Complete tasks proposed in the USDA-NIFA research grant pertaining to the evaluation of effects on fresh-cut produce quality and safety, and energy use for open- and closed-door display case configurations; also support the economics team in evaluating the sales impact from open and closed-door cases. The second objective is to complete tasks proposed in the USDA-NIFA research grant pertaining to extension/outreach to industry stakeholders and consumers by leading the extension team in disseminating project research findings, and translating scientific information into action steps for improved food safety practices.

Cooperators at Iowa State University will lead the retail quality and safety portion of the project (Objective 4) and the extension/outreach portion of the program (Extension Portion in Objective 5). Cooperators will also coordinate with the economics team and support their work in evaluating the sales impact from open and closed-door cases. Cooperators will quantify the benefits of more uniform temperature, with regard to pathogen growth, product quality, shelf life, and operational energy savings (Objective 4: Evaluate effects on fresh-cut produce quality and safety, and energy use, of retrofitting doors to open display cases). In retail-level studies, he will partner with at least two retail chains to quantify the current status of display cases with and without doors, and conduct a) field tests involving use of transmitting thermometers affixed unobtrusively to the bottoms of bagged-salad push shelves, b) purchases destined for microbial testing and quality evaluation, and c) measurements of energy use to compare open- and closed-door displays for fresh-cut leafy green vegetables. These retailers are in the process of retrofitting or replacing open multi-deck produce cases with doors in selected locations. These tasks will be completed in Years 1-3 of the project. In Years 4 and 5, results will be disseminated. Cooperators will develop a comprehensive food safety extension program targeted to consumers, post-harvest handlers and retail foodservice handlers and evaluate effectiveness by before-and-after assessment. Specifically, she will 1) develop a public website to display all of the research and extension materials developed for post-harvest handlers, retailers, and consumers, along with an interactive internal website for the project team to share research findings and rapidly disseminate materials to industry and consumers (Year 1 set up; Years 2-5, add content); 2) develop food safety training modules (DVD and online format) and on-the job training kits (print ads, no technology) for retail employees and management that can be utilized at hiring and for refresher courses (Year 1-2); 3) develop five on-demand videos to present research findings and feature the most common food safety problems and additional training examples (Year 1-3); 4) develop an educational campaign for consumers to educate them about open display cases versus closed-door display cases and new food safety technology (Years 1-2); 5) presence at state and national conferences to display the research findings and developed extension materials (Years 3-5); and 5) conduct research to track short- and long-term knowledge and behavioral changes for those utilizing the developed extension materials (Years 3-5).