Sid Thakur, associate professor of swine health and production medicine at NC State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, is the recipient of $274,693 grant from the Center for Produce Safety to study the contamination of fresh produce from pathogens related to food animals.
The two-year grant, “Food Safety Risks at the Fresh Produce-Animal Interface: Identifying Pathogen Sources and Their Movement on Diversified Farms,” is in response to the popularity of the “Eat Local” movement, which has contributed to increased interest in produce from local, diversified farms raising livestock as well as growing produce.
The proximity of produce and food animals may lead to the potential contamination of the produce through direct or indirect contact with animal manure. According to the researchers, more detailed information is required to potentially reduce the risk of pathogen transmission to produce.
“The primary goal of this project will be to determine the potential transmission of Salmonella, Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 and non-O157:H7 STEC from animal operations that are in close proximity to vegetable production systems on an experimental research station or on commercial diversified farming operations,” says Dr. Thakur, who is a member of the Department of Population Health and Pathobiology and directs the Thakur Molecular Epidemiology Laboratory.
The project will involve a controlled study on an agriculture research station to determine the impact of multiple farm variables including buffer zone distances, temporal factors, and the air and insect transmission of pathogens between animal and plant operations.
The information from the controlled study will be complemented with data from commercial farms. The study is expected to help the produce industry develop control measures to improve food safety.