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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania » Eastern Regional Research Center » Characterization and Interventions for Foodborne Pathogens » Research » Research Project #439564

Research Project: Incidence of Bacterial Pathogens in Regulated Foods and Applied Processing Technologies for Their Destruction

Location: Characterization and Interventions for Foodborne Pathogens

2021 Annual Report

Objective 1: Determine the recovery rate, population levels, relatedness, persistence, and harborage sites of target pathogens in raw, further processed, and/or ready-to-eat foods from production through to consumption to assist in risk assessments and communication. [C1, PS1] Sub-Objective 1.A: Determine the prevalence and levels of Lm, STEC, and Salmonella in RTE foods at retail, raw organ meats from abattoirs, and frozen bakery products containing meat and vegetables from food retailers. Sub-Objective 1.B: Determine the relatedness of Lm, STEC, and Salmonella recovered from foods using molecular typing methods such as PFGE and WGS. Sub-Objective 1.C: Assess perceptions, food safety attitudes, and self-reported behaviors related to observed food safety hazards by consumers who shop at grocery stores. Objective 2: Validate lethality (heating) and stabilization (cooling) processes for ready-to-eat (RTE) and not ready-to-eat (NRTE) meat and poultry products. [C1, PS5] Sub-objective 2.A: Validate lethality and stabilization processes to control of Salmonella, Lm, and Cperf in non-intact and specialty/ethnic pork and beef products. Sub-objective 2.B: Validate consumer-relevant cooking times, temperatures, and appliances to control target pathogens in (multi-species) bakery products containing meat and vegetables. Sub-objective 2.C: Validation of cooking and cooling profiles for large mass meat products to achieve stabilization performance standards that prevent growth of Cperf. Objective 3: Develop, optimize, and validate biological, physical, and chemical interventions and processes to control target pathogens in raw, RTE, and specialty/ethnic foods. [C1, PS5] Sub-objective 3.A: Apply interventions to control target pathogens in RTE meats and multi-component meat-based salads and salsas. Sub-objective 3.B: Validate food-relevant interventions to control target pathogens in plant-sourced meat alternatives. Sub-objective 3.C: Evaluation of the impact of processing parameters of dry-cured fermented meat on lethality towards STEC, Salmonella, and Lm. Sub-objective 3.D: Develop and/or validate strategies to control pathogens in forcemeats.

The overarching theme of this research plan is to identify where pathogens enter the food supply, where, how, and why they persist in foods, and/or what can be done to reduce their levels or to eliminate them along the farm to fork continuum. Target pathogens will include Listeria monocytogenes (Lm), Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens (Cperf), and Shiga toxin-producing cells of Escherichia coli (STEC). Target foods will include raw and ready-to-eat meats, dairy, baked foods, and vegetables, as well as simulated meats and specialty/ethnic foods, targeted for human and animal consumption. A primary focus will be to identify entry points, sources, and levels of target pathogens in foods or within food processing, food service, and retail environments, and to elucidate factors contributing to their survival and persistence. Phenotypic and molecular methods, including pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS), will be used to identify and differentiate isolates from the farm through distribution and at retail to determine pathogen relatedness, niche, persistence, and succession. Another focus will be to validate processes and interventions such as fermentation, drying, high pressure, biopreservatives, food grade chemicals, and heat (e.g., grilling and sous vide), alone or in combination, to inhibit/remove undesirable bacteria and better manage pathogen presence, populations, and/or survival during manufacture and/or subsequent storage of target foods. We will also develop and optimize methods to deliver antimicrobials to food systems, including electrostatic spraying and various strategies to introduce interventions into/onto foods or food containers/packaging (e.g., SLIC®). Our findings will assist numerous producers and processors with meeting current regulatory guidelines and assist regulators such as the DHHS FDA and the USDA FSIS with making science-based policy decisions, thereby enhancing the safety of the Nation’s food supply.

Progress Report
This is a new project recently approved under OSQR NP103. Please see annual report 8072-41420-019-00D for further details.