Dr. Hosni Hassan, North Carolina State University professor of microbiology, and Dr. Matt Koci, associate professor of poultry science, are leading the charge on a new five-year, $2.5 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) to stamp out salmonella.
USDA-NIFA made the awards through the 2011 Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Food Safety Program.
“Our research is aimed at trying to develop new ways of preventing poultry from getting colonized by salmonella, so then the poultry products the consumer comes in contact with are less likely to be capable of causing foodborne illness,” Koci said. “But educating the public on safe food handling practices is an equally important piece of the puzzle. This grant will allow us to attack salmonella from both angles.”
Hassan and Koci will work with partners from UNC-Chapel Hill, the Kenan Fellows program and North Carolina 4-H to develop an educational program based on their salmonella research that eventually will be made available to youth statewide.
Through the Kenan Fellows program, select North Carolina K-12 teachers will spend time in Hassan’s and Koci’s labs this summer learning the researchers’ respective areas of science. From that experience, the teachers will develop lessons on everything from safe food handling practices to the science behind salmonella.
“The new curricula eventually will be made available online to all North Carolina schools, in essence delivering research from the lab all the way to the consumer and future farmers,” Hassan said.
North Carolina 4-H also will adapt the lessons for youth involved in the state’s 4-H clubs.
“We can do everything we can in the lab to minimize the risk of foodborne illness as much as possible, but food production happens on such a scale that even a small fraction of people will continue to get sick,” Koci said. “The only way we’re ever going to stamp out salmonella completely is to focus on both the science and consumer education.”
– S. Stanard