Extension keeps food bacteria-free as FDA emphasizes safety

Extension's Yanyun Zhao teaches berry farmer Cyndi Snegirev to make jelly.
Extension's Yanyun Zhao (right) teaches berry farmer Cyndi Snegirev to make pomegranate jelly. (Photo by Tiffany Woods.)

OSU food scientists increasingly receive requests for help from epicurean entrepreneurs

Each year in the U.S., foodborne diseases sicken about one in six people (or 48 million) and kill 3,000. Salmonella alone racks up $365 million in direct medical costs each year. To curb these numbers, the federal government passed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.

To help the Food and Drug Administration improve food safety, the OSU Extension Service offers a variety of trainings and resources. Each year, it conducts several workshops for food processors to help them comply with FDA requirements for hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP). About two dozen people attend each training.

OSU Extension also published a 24-page guide for processors and regulators called Ensuring Food Safety in Specialty Foods Production, and it helped create the Northwest Specialty Food Network website.

Additionally, Extension microbiologist Mark Daeschel fields calls and emails from Oregonians wanting to make and sell thermally processed acidified foods. He evaluated nearly 300 products in 2013 to make sure they were processed properly, about the same number as the prior year.

Extension also teaches classes for businesses that produce acidified and low-acid foods. The government requires these companies to have a supervisor on site who completed such a course. Nearly 200 people attended the trainings in 2011 and 2012, including employees from Ocean Spray and Starbucks.

Sources: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates of foodborne illnesses and a CDC Vital Signs monthly report on food safety; Mark Daeschel, food safety specialist with OSU Extension; Yanyun Zhao, value-added foods specialist with OSU Extension.

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