OSU helps keep food bacteria-free as government emphasizes safety

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Extension's Yanyun Zhao (right) teaches berry farmer Cyndi Snegirev to make pomegranate jelly. (Photo by Tiffany Woods.)
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OSU food scientists increasingly receive requests for help from epicurean entrepreneurs

Following on the heels of the federal Food Safety Modernization Act, the Oregon State University Extension Service has developed a training course for people who make specialty fruit and vegetable products. A growing industry, sales of specialty foods in 2011 totaled $75 billion and represented 14 percent of all retail food sales. It's a business nearly twice the size of Costa Rica's economy.

Additionally, Extension microbiologist Mark Daeschel fields calls and emails from people wanting to make and sell thermally processed acidified foods. He evaluated more than 300 products in 2012.

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.

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.

Sources: National Association for the Specialty Food Trade; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; The World Bank; Mark Daeschel, food safety specialist with the OSU Extension Service.

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