USDA Awards $24 Million in New Food Safety Grants

In late April, the USDA announced nearly $24 million in new funding for research projects aimed at protecting consumers from microbial and chemical contaminants in food.

These grants, awarded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), focused on mitigation strategies for antimicrobial resistance, the physical and molecular mechanisms of food contamination, and the safety of fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables.

The two largest of the 35 grants—approximately $800,000 each—went to Kansas State University and Ohio State University, for projects dealing with antimicrobial resistance mitigation.

The Kansas State team, led by epidemiologist Harvey Morgan Scott, PhD, is investigating the potential risks and benefits of three major classes of antibiotic alternatives for growth promotion in cattle and pigs: heavy metals, essential oils, and beta-2 adrenergic agonists. Their project will also focus on the role of mobile genetic elements such as plasmids in the development of resistance among enteric bacteria.

The Ohio State group, under principal investigator Thomas Wittum, PhD, a previous NIFA grantee, focuses on mitigation strategies at the production systems level, the individual animal level, and the bacterial flora level—the competition of multiple bacterial strains for the same ecological niche in the microbial flora. At this level, the investigators write that they hope to identify “candidate susceptible strains that may be able to fully displace resistant strains and replace them in their ecological niche.”

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