When it comes to food safety in meat, catching pathogens and other issues at the source is of the utmost importance. Still it’s something that food producers wrestle with on a daily basis, while food safety agencies search for ways to improve conditions. This week the USDA is encouraging such advancements, by awarding scientists at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln (UNL), Kansas State University, and ten other schools a $25 million research grant to work on improving food safety conditions by reducing the risk of E. coli during beef processing.
The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded the grant to a research team consisting of 48 scientists, led by UNL veterinary scientist Jim Keen. Over the course of the next five years, Keen and his team will undertake seven related projects with the united goal of better understanding how non-O157 type Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria infect cattle and move through the beef production process, hopefully leading to a better understanding of how to prevent that bacteria from entering the nation’s food supply in the first place.
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This is the largest grant that the University of Nebraska has ever received from the USDA – and one of the most significant, as the issues it tackles hit close to home for many Nebraskans. “This research has enormous ramifications here in Nebraska and across the nation,” said UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman in a statement from the school. “Beef is big business in the state, and the industry prides itself on delivering a safe product to consumers. This project will help ensure the safety of beef products, through the research conducted at participating institutions, the transfer of this knowledge to collaborators in the beef industry and educational programs for consumers.”