Center for Food Safety

New software from CAES improves accuracy of DNA sequence analysis

Posted on
Monday, March 7, 2022

Researchers from the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety have developed software that functions as an important step in improving the accuracy of DNA sequence analysis when testing for microbial contamination.

Sepia is a cutting-edge read classifier, written by College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Assistant Professor Henk den Bakker, that is out now as open-source software. And it should make genome sequencing much faster for researchers studying bacteria.

The length of chromosomes of bacteria typically range between 1.5 million base pairs to roughly 9.5 million base pairs, but if researchers want to “read” the individual bases of a genome (the genome sequencing process), they can only do that in pieces of 150 to 10,000 base pairs using modern technology. These pieces are called “reads.”

UGA Griffin students take part in annual Stream Cleanup

Posted on
Friday, November 5, 2021

Getting up early on a Saturday morning to do physical labor is not necessarily every person’s idea of fun, especially when your bed is beckoning you to roll over for just five more minutes. However, that is exactly what a group of UGA Griffin students, along with faculty and staff, did on October 16 as they took part in the annual City of Griffin’s Stream Cleanup.

The Annual Stream Cleanup is a long-standing event that brings together citizens of Griffin-Spalding County to cleanup area streams and waterways. Volunteers remove trash and debris from their assigned stream in efforts to make their county a better and cleaner place.

“I think we were one of the largest groups who signed up to volunteer,” said Melissa Slaughter, a Center for Food Safety employee on the UGA Griffin campus. “I got involved because I used to help out when I was with 4-H and wanted to get the Griffin campus involved. It is a great way to give back to the community.”

Evidence of study suggests source of pandemic foodborne illness

Posted on
Monday, August 30, 2021

Researchers at the University of Georgia have provided multifaceted evidence to suggest the likely origins behind the global spread of Salmonella Enteritidis, which has caused recurring outbreaks of the foodborne pandemic linked to poultry products.

Using hypothesis-driven data mining, the research team, led by Xiangyu Deng of UGA’s Center for Food Safety, analyzed over 30,000 genomes of Salmonella Enteritidis obtained from global sources and the international trade of live poultry over five decades. The team concluded that the spread likely originated in poultry breeding stocks, or the progenitors chosen to produce future generations of chickens.  

The study, titled “Global spread of Salmonella Enteritidis via centralized sourcing and international trade of poultry breeding stocks,” is out now in the journal Nature Communications.

UGA plays pivotal role in food safety

Posted on
Friday, June 11, 2021

World Food Safety Day is celebrated annually on June 7. Established in 2018 through a U.N. General Assembly resolution, the day seeks to bring awareness to foodborne risks and “to celebrate the myriad benefits of safe food,” according to the U.N.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually in the U.S. That means that roughly 1 in 6 Americans will contract a foodborne illness this year, and these illnesses are spread through common foods such as produce, meat, fish, dairy and poultry. 

Globally, the impact is more significant, with children under the age of 5 and people living in low-income countries hit hardest. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 600 million people contract foodborne illnesses annually, and of those, 420,000 will die. Yet the organization fears that the actual numbers are much higher, as there are places in the world where surveillance data for foodborne illnesses are not available. 

The CDC says that most of these illnesses are caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites that are transmitted to humans through the food they consume. This is why food safety is a vital component of the entire agricultural production system and is critical to ensuring food security.

Hur named scholarship recipient

Posted on
Monday, April 5, 2021

Minji Hur has been named the recipient of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Science (CAES) Student Scholarship. 

“This award recognizes students who distinguish themselves through outstanding academic achievement. We are very pleased that a graduate student from the Griffin campus is the recipient of this year’s scholarship, and that this scholarship will help Ms. Hur achieve her academic goals at the University of Georgia,” said David Buntin, Interim Assistant Provost and Griffin Campus Director. 

Hur is a doctoral student in the Center for Food Safety located at UGA Griffin under its Director, Dr. Francisco Diez-Gonzalez. 

“Minji has recently joined our research group as a Ph.D. student and we are very proud that she has received this award. This honor is a deserving recognition of her academic accomplishments,” said Diez-Gonzalez. 

Hur, who is a native of Seoul, South Korea, completed her bachelor’s degree in food science and biotechnology at Gachon University. 

During her senior year, she obtained an internship at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She said this research experience with Dr. Dumitru Macarisin and Dr. Yi Chen inspired her to continue her education. 

When her internship was complete, she enrolled at UGA where she completed her master’s in food science and technology before subsequently moving into the doctoral program in January of this year. 

CFS Annual Meeting continues for 28th year

Posted on
Monday, April 5, 2021

The University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety (CFS) held its Annual Meeting in early March. This invitation-only event provides CFS members and scientists from other organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, FDA, USDA and others to summarize the latest information on food safety research.

 “I am very proud that this is the 28th year in a row that we have been organizing this event as the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia,” CFS Director Dr. Francisco Diez-Gonzalez said in his opening remarks.

Typically held in Atlanta, Georgia, this was the first time in the meeting’s 28 year history that it was held virtually. Though some of the traditional conference format was lost -- such as student poster presentations and networking opportunities -- the overwhelming response from participants was positive and attendance was on track with previous, in-person meetings.

Diez-Gonzalez noted in his introduction that the 2020 Annual Meeting was one of the last times many of the attendees gathered in public. It was held March 3-4 and COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic on March 11.

“Many of you were there and remember the unique mood that transpired because of the imminent pandemic,” he said. “For many of us, it was probably the last time that we sat in a room with over 150 people without wearing a mask.”

UGA researchers comb through reviewed papers to find best methods to mitigate COVID-19

Posted on
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

A literature review by University of Georgia researchers has helped identify the most effective antimicrobial agents for preventing the spread of COVID-19 within the food supply chain.

As COVID-19 began to spread throughout the U.S. earlier this year, Govind Kumar, an assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology and a faculty member in the UGA Center for Food Safety, Laurel Dunn and Abhinav Mishra, assistant professors in the Department of Food Science and Technology, and Center for Food Safety Director Francisco Diez collaborated to determine ways they could contribute to the knowledge base for members of the food industry regarding the novel coronavirus.

“Meat manufacturing plants began to shut down because so many people in these industries were getting sick. We are not virologists, but this is a medical problem that definitely affected the food chain,” Kumar said.

With information and scientific studies about the virus being released at a rapid rate, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences researchers decided to examine relevant studies to identify and share practicable information for use in the food industry. The research team looked at studies on a range of biocides effective in eliminating or reducing the presence of coronaviruses from surfaces that are likely to carry infection, such as clothes, utensils and furniture, as well as skin, mucous membranes, air and food contact materials.

UGA agriculture faculty produce COVID-19 video, materials for farm workers

Posted on
Friday, May 29, 2020

As the spring harvest approached, members of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association knew they would need assistance to provide important information about COVID-19 safety measures and food handling protocols to workers who make up the majority of the seasonal agricultural workforce, many of whom are native Spanish speakers.

University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Cooperative Extension faculty responded quickly by producing a COVID-19 safety video in Spanish that could be incorporated into farm employee trainings. 

UGA Extension Southwest District Director Andrea Scarrow, Tift County Extension Agent Justin Hand, and Assistant Professor Laurel Dunn in the UGA Department of Food Science and Technology were a part of the group that spearheaded the effort to quickly produce and distribute the video resources to producers throughout the state.

Bill Brim, CEO of Lewis Taylor Farms in Tift County, previously worked with UGA Extension to develop financial education materials in Spanish for temporary workers at the farm, so he knew who to ask when the need for COVID-19 educational materials arose, Scarrow said.

Slaughter named ABWA scholarship recipient

Posted on
Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Each year the Iris Chapter of ABWA (American Business Women’s Association) presents a scholarship to a student who is pursuing a degree in business or a business-related field on the University of Georgia Griffin Campus. This year the scholarship was open to students in the Terry College of Business, those pursing a degree in Agribusiness or in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. The 2020 recipient of the $750 scholarship is Melissa Slaughter, who is currently pursuing a degree in Consumer Economics from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Slaughter stated she was shocked to find out she was this years’ recipient, but she is very grateful for having been selected.

“I am beyond honored. Working, living, and being a part of Spalding County has enhanced my life. I am very thankful all the opportunities God has blessed me with. If you believe then you will achieve!”

UGA scientist leads coronavirus research on Griffin campus

Posted on
Friday, May 15, 2020

Back in January when she heard COVID-19 had been identified, Malak Esseili stopped taking her children along on trips to the grocery store. She also called her sisters and told them to begin wearing infinity scarfs they could easily use as makeshift masks while in public.

As an assistant professor of food virology at the University of Georgia Center for Food Safety in Griffin, Esseili has been focused on studying the microbial ecology of human viral pathogens (such as human noroviruses), and now her work includes the emerging viral pathogen SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).

Esseili came to UGA in March 2019 after eight years with the Food Animal Health Research Program at The Ohio State University (OSU) where she studied with Qiuhong Wang and OSU Distinguished Research Professor Linda Saif, who has conducted research on coronaviruses and other zoonotic viruses for decades.

While COVID-19 is a new — or novel — virus, coronaviruses are not new. Named for the crown-like spikes on their surface, human coronaviruses were first identified in the late 1960s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are seven coronaviruses that can infect humans. They include Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), severe acute respiratory syndrome-CoV and the new SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.

There are also coronaviruses that affect animals, including bovines, poultry, cats, dogs and other animals.