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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Food Safety Research Studies

Refer to list of food safety research priorities for more information. 


The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has developed a list of the top food safety research areas of interest.  This page contains specific research studies associated with our food safety research priorities.  Click on the link to the food safety research priorities page for more information. 

Chemicals of Potential Concern

Screening/ Detection methods

 

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Develop or improve rapid methods for screening chemical compounds in FSIS-regulated products 
About this Topic: Screening methods increase FSIS' efficiency to monitor chemical residues in regulated products.
Multi-Pesticide Method – Possible Validation of PST-7.
Development of a pesticide screening method that uses a digital library of compound standards would be beneficial to FSIS. While confirmatory analyses would still be needed, this type of screening methodology would be more rapid and less expensive than currently employed approaches. 
Develop rapid methods for screening chemicals of potential public health concern in ante-mortem food animals.
Development and application of methods suitable for screening ante-mortem food animals for contaminants could potentially identify animals that would likely be violative post-mortem.  Such methods would be especially valuable for suspect herds, by offering a means to minimize violative carcasses and the associated waste of resources. Ante-mortem identification of animals/herds that would likely be violative could be followed by risk management strategies aimed at producing acceptable animals for eventual slaughter.     
Develop methodology to identify illegal use of Nitrofurazone.
Nitrofurazone is prohibited for use in food animals in the U.S., E.U., and many other countries.  Detection of the Nitrofurazone metabolite Semicarbazide in animal tissues is used as an indicator of preharvest Nitrofurazone use.  However, non-Nitrofurazone related pathways may contribute to Semicarbazide in foods.

Research could include identification of a residue in animal tissues that is unique to Nitrofurazone administration, thus clearly indicating its illegal use.
Identify or develop analytical methods for FSIS laboratories to improve the Agency’s ability to monitor allergens in FSIS-regulated products.
Undeclared allergens are currently the most common cause of recalls of FSIS-regulated products. Undeclared allergens, i.e., food products that contain allergens (such as peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and wheat) that are not included on the ingredient label, may lead to adverse public health impacts for some consumers. Identification and FSIS validation of high-throughput, analytical methods for screening allergens could have a positive impact on public health. 
Develop practical in-establishment/in-field real-time screening techniques to identify samples requiring no additional laboratory analyses. These screening techniques could encompass pesticides, veterinary drugs, environmental contaminants and/or organoleptic laboratory evaluations.
For many sampling programs, the majority of samples analyzed by FSIS laboratories contain no detectable hazards. A field-suitable (in the establishment) technique to permit FSIS to differentiate between samples that do/do not require additional analyses would permit the Agency to triage samples in the field; only samples requiring confirmatory analyses would be shipped to the labs. This could significantly increase the efficiency of FSIS hazard monitoring programs. Ideally, the sensitivity of the field techniques would be at least equivalent to those of FSIS laboratory methods and the probability of false negatives would be zero. 

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Develop models to estimate chemical residue concentrations in beef, pork, and chicken tissues 
About this Topic: Physiologically Based Pharmacokinetic (PBPK) models permit the timely estimation of chemical tissue concentrations resulting from livestock exposure to chemicals (e.g., environmental contaminants and drugs). These estimates are essential for risk evaluations and risk management decision making.

 

Chemical Characterization

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Determine the magnitude and significance of migration of chemicals (e.g., endocrine disruptors) from packaging into FSIS-regulated products
About this Topic: Current chemical residue sampling procedures do not detect products that are contaminated due to migration of chemicals from packaging into food.

 

Intervention Strategies

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Identify and/ or develop and evaluate the effectiveness of pre- and post-harvest interventions to reduce levels of chemical hazards in FSIS-regulated products
About this topic: Allergens are a serious public health hazard of concern to FSIS.  In addition, FSIS monitoring data reveal that veterinary drug residues occur occasionally in food animal products. Research that facilitates the identification and/or development of interventions and/or process modifications to reduce chemical hazards will likely have a positive public health impact. 
Determine whether interventions such as chemical treatments or thermal processing alter the allergenicity of or inactivate food allergens in finished products or on food processing equipment.  More than 170 foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions in the United States. There are eight major allergens that cause 90 percent of food-based allergic reactions. These eight allergens, the “Big 8 Allergens,” are: peanuts; tree nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.); egg; milk; soy; wheat; fish; and shellfish. Food allergies affect 3-4% of the population, and there is no effective treatment. Analytical detection methods are limited for most allergens, which challenges FSIS to monitor producers’ requirements to declare all ingredients on the label.

Allergen recalls commonly occur due to omission of allergens on food labels. Cross-contact or the inadvertent transfer of allergens to a food product from other food products, food contact surfaces, equipment, utensils, etc. can also occur if ingredients or allergen-containing products are not handled properly. Limited studies have been done on whether chemical treatments or thermal processing can reduce the allergenicity of or inactivate food allergens in foods or on food processing equipment.
Determine whether there are unique husbandry, physiological, transportation, or processing factors that lead to higher prevalence and/or concentrations of chemical hazards (e.g., veterinary drugs, pesticides, environmental contaminants) in the different classes of veal. Research is needed to determine:
  1. how each class of veal should be studied to identify the relationship between contamination and interaction among the animals, farm/pen environment, chemical hazards, and animal husbandry practices,
  2. the incoming chemical hazard load in veal coming into slaughter establishments, and
  3. if current veterinary drug application procedures (including withdrawal times) are appropriate for veal. 
Determine the risk to humans from exposure to chemical hazards (e.g., veterinary drugs, pesticides, environmental contaminants) from veal.  Research is needed to estimate the public health risks of veal chemical residues to consumers. 

 

Biological Hazards

Screening/ Detection/ Enumeration Methods

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Identify and evaluate improved sampling methods to ensure statistically representative samples are collected in the most appropriate manner
About this Topic: N60 trim sampling for E. coli is labor intensive and may result in loss of significant quantities of product (due to time required for sampling/analysis/reporting). Development of an improved (time and resource efficient) approach would benefit industry and FSIS.

 

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Develop or refine technologies to reduce pathogen detection time, including improved sample preparation methods 
About this Topic: Identification of highly contaminated animals prior to slaughter may lead to intervention strategies (e.g., segregation) to minimize cross- contamination and/or pathogen reduction interventions designed for highly contaminated animals. Potential targets include: 
  1. E. coli O157:H7 and non-O157 Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli on carcass hides or droppings
  2. Salmonella and/or Campylobacter on pre-harvest chicken and turkey 

 

In addition, rapid microbiological screening and detection methods may facilitate FSIS responses for controlling and/or recalling contaminated products in a timely manner. Improvements may result in significant public health benefits and may reduce costs to both the Agency and industry by decreasing the amount of sample needed to detect pathogens and shortening the time that product is required to be held pending test results. 
Modernize bacterial confirmation procedures by evaluating MS (mass spectrometry) matrix-assisted-laser-desorption/ionization) MALDI (time of flight) TOF technique.

 

A reduced analysis time is needed for bacterial pathogen confirmation. Significant time savings can be realized by instituting a matrix-assisted-laser-desorption/ionization (MALDI)-based mass spectrometry (MS) analysis in place of further culture-based biochemical tests and in many cases, VITEK 2 biochemical biotype analysis.

Identify biomarkers that are correlated to metabolic changes, disease severity and/or microbial phenotypic traits of interest to food safety and public health. Such traits include environmental adaptation and harborage, resistance to antimicrobials and other interventions, and/or pathogenicity.  Rapid screening for biological markers may provide an efficient and proactive approach to identify foodborne pathogens. Furthermore, detection methods that incorporate important biological markers may help refine the definition of adulterants by FSIS. Development of these markers may be facilitated by whole genome sequencing.  
Develop practical in-establishment/in-field real-time screening techniques to identify samples requiring no additional laboratory analyses. These screening techniques could encompass microbiological pathogens, indicator organisms, and/or organoleptic laboratory evaluations. 

 

For many sampling programs, most samples analyzed by FSIS laboratories contain no detectable hazards. A field-suitable (in the establishment) technique to permit FSIS to differentiate between samples that do/do not require additional analyses would permit the Agency to triage samples in the field; only samples requiring confirmatory analyses would be shipped to the labs. This could significantly increase the efficiency of FSIS hazard monitoring programs. Ideally, the sensitivity of the field techniques would be at least equivalent to those of FSIS laboratory methods and the probability of false negatives would be zero.  
Validation of Clostridium botulinum toxin detection assay in FSIS-regulated meat products  Rapid response to Clostridium botulinum toxin contamination incidents requires the availability of reagents, methods, equipment, and expertise. The mouse bioassay is still the gold standard.  An improved method is desirable. 
Develop and evaluate a systematic mechanism to sample cattle pre-harvest to determine prevalence of STEC.  If pathogenic E. coli status of animals could be determined prior to slaughter, ante mortem slaughter procedures could be developed to minimize cross contamination. These data could be used to develop management strategies to minimize cross contamination of carcasses (e.g., positives could be slaughtered last or have specific interventions). 
Develop a non-culture-based technology to reliably differentiate viable (infectious) and non-viable agents.  There are now multiple techniques that can be used to determine viability with non-culture-based approaches, but none have been validated or adapted for use in a regulatory setting. Present systems could likely be adopted for use.

 

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Develop or refine technologies to detect multiple pathogens from a single sample of an FSIS-regulated product 
About this Topic: Microbiological methods that detect multiple analytes may increase efficiency of FSIS response for controlling and/or recalling contaminated product in a timely manner. Improvements may result in significant public health benefits and will reduce cost to both the Agency and industry by decreasing the amount of resources and time needed to detect pathogens and shortening the time that product is required to be held pending test results.
Development of approaches to reduce Salmonella serotype bias reduction and/ or develop tools for detection of multiple serotypes in a product.  Selective pressure during the sample enrichment phase could lead to potential strain and/or serotype selection bias, which has a potential effect on source attribution.  FSIS would benefit from research that improves detection of Salmonella when multiple serotypes are present. Researchers may be able to develop a genomics-based assay or evaluate existing tests that might be more sensitive, and test for more serotypes. 

 

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Develop or refine testing methods for quantifying pathogens in meat, poultry, and egg products. 
About this Topic: Development and validation of rapid, sensitive, resource-efficient methods to quantify pathogens such as Salmonella, pathogenic E. coli (O157:H7 and "top 6" non-O157 STECs), and Listeria monocytogenes would allow for better risk assessment studies by improving estimations of the levels of pathogens associated with specific food products, and allow for the identification of high bacterial loads on incoming products. Expanding validated methods for pathogen detection to include challenging matrices such as fermented meat products may result in significant public health benefits. 
Quantification of high copy number proteins by Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS) to enumerate bacterial populations in meat and poultry samples.  Mass spectrometry is primarily used to identify microorganisms in complex matrices, identify biomarkers, quantify, and characterize global changes in the bacterial proteome, and to screen for disease markers. Current FSIS testing utilizes a most probably number (MPN) approach to determine the total load of a targeted pathogen, such as Salmonella spp., in meat and poultry samples. The specificity and resolution of the current approach can be improved by developing a method that leverages the chemical identification and quantitative power of LC-MS. A confident correlation can likely be established between the abundance of high copy number proteins (as measured by LC-MS) such as elongation factor TU (Ef-Tu), other ribosomal proteins and bacterial populations in liquid matrices.  Accomplishing this would establish an entirely new paradigm for quantifying bacterial populations in liquid matrices and could be leveraged in both research and regulatory environments. 
Develop, identify, and/or validate image-based automated cell counting techniques for the enumeration of food borne pathogens in meat and poultry.  FSIS would like to replace the current MPN protocol for the enumeration of bacterial pathogens with a molecular-based assay. A simple image-based automated cell counter system works with easy-to-use fluorescent stains and an automated optical system that quickly counts individual bacterial cells.  This approach is more direct than the current MPN analysis and could reduce empirical/statistical errors, which are currently biases inherent to the MPN process. 
Determine prevalence and bacterial load for E. coli O157: H7 and "top 6" non-O157 STECs in ground beef.  Pathogenic E. coli can cause severe illnesses at very low doses. A better understanding of the prevalence and levels of E. coli O157:H7 and "top 6" non-O157 STECs in ground beef will allow the Agency to assess the actual risk of consumer exposure to pathogenic E. coli from this product class. These data could also be used to inform the industry of the levels of reductions needed by interventions to produce a safe product. 

 

Pathogen Characterization

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Develop or refine technologies for virulence/ pathogenicity characterization of pathogens 

About this Topic: Microbiological methods that provide more robust information will expedite FSIS responses for controlling and/or recalling contaminated product in a timely manner and may identify unique attributes of pathogen outbreak strains that may increase the probability of foodborne illness, for example, increased resistance to biocides, acids, heat, pressure pasteurization, etc. and the underlying molecular mechanisms that may be elucidated via genome sequencing, RNA analyses, proteomics, metabolomics, as well as scientific techniques developed in the future. Characterization of outbreak strains may provide insights into:

  1. mechanisms that contribute to the survival of the pathogen to commonly used processes in FSIS-regulated establishments,
  2. mechanisms that affect the severity of illness in humans, and
  3. antibiotic resistance in outbreak strains. 
Identify determinants critical for persistence of STEC in multiple biotic niches such as animals and vegetation 

Identification of key novel genetic characteristics, and unique biotic niches that support survival of STEC will increase understanding of this important human pathogen and/or facilitate the development of improved control strategies. Such research could include identification of the following:

  1. Agricultural and/or non-agricultural environments that provide a source of STEC ultimately linked to infection of livestock.
  2. Pathways that facilitate transmission of STEC from the environment to livestock including the following: 
    • Elucidation of the biphasic lifestyle (inside and outside the host) of STEC identifying key check points set by STEC that lead to successful survival inside and outside the animal host;
    • Identification of any cross-feeding scenarios within the context of the microbiota crucial for STEC survival within the bovine gastrointestinal niche of cattle versus veal food animals.
  3. Genetic characteristics of STEC and its environment that enhance its environmental fitness, including:
    • Delineation of the structure of the microbiome of animal hosts or reservoirs that provide a competitive edge to STEC allowing it to persist.

Identification of key novel genetic markers that support the biphasic lifestyle of STEC; this should include genetic markers required for plant, animal, and environmental survival. 

 

 

Assess the occurrence of Escherichia albertii in poultry to assist in determining the public health significance of E. albertii in FSIS regulated products.  E. albertii has been observed in approximately two percent of broiler chicken carcass rinsates.  Research could include comparisons of different poultry classes to distinguish species or product types that are likely to harbor this microorganism, and to learn more about its virulence, pathogenicity and public health significance. 
Assess the occurrence of hepatitis E virus (HEV) in FSIS-regulated products, primarily swine products, to assist in determining the public health significance of HEV in FSIS-regulated products.  Zoonotic HEV genotype 3 has been detected in swine in the U.S. and in retail pork products. Additionally, HEV has been a cause of transplantation failures. Occupational exposure to HEV via contact with pigs has been documented in several countries.  In Europe, reported cases of hepatitis E increased from 514 in 2005 to 5,617 in 2015.  A recent publication in the U.K. linked human hepatitis E illnesses in England and Wales with consumption of sausages and ham at a major supermarket chain. More research is needed to understand the virulence and pathogenicity of HEV. 
Develop analytical methodology and assess occurrence of Campylobacter ureolyticus and other Campylobacter species in FSIS-regulated products, to assist in determining the public health significance of these Campylobacter species in FSIS-regulated products.  Campylobacter ureolyticus, a more fastidious species than the traditional foodborne pathogens of the Campylobacter genus, is responsible for febrile gastroenteritis and may be linked to other cases and/or outbreaks. The extreme difficulty in culturing and isolation of this organism implies that improved methodology may be required prior to assessing prevalence in FSIS-regulated products.  One study in Ireland indicated that nearly one quarter of all cases of human campylobacteriosis over a twelve-month period demonstrated the presence of C. ureolyticus, when tested with species-specific PCR primers. These cases also demonstrated a seasonal pattern where the peak occurred earlier in spring than the historical C. coli/C. jejuni seasonal peak.

Researchers interested in pursuing this study topic should develop and/or identify acceptable laboratory methods and carry out a program of targeted surveillance for the emerging non-jejuni/non-coli Campylobacter. Research to understand its virulence and pathogenicity would also be of value. 
Evaluate biocide resistance of outbreak vs. non-outbreak pathogen strains.  Increased resistance to biocide interventions could significantly increase the ability of pathogens to survive biocide processing techniques and cause foodborne illnesses. Identification of biocide resistant outbreak strains may lead to the identification of strains for subsequent studies aimed at elucidating the molecular mechanisms that result in increased biocide resistance, virulence, and risk to consumers.  
Determine the presence of Shiga toxin and intimin on beef carcasses, trim, and ground beef.  E. coli strains that contain both Shiga toxin and intimin are likely pathogens of public health concern. Monitoring the presence of strains containing these virulence factors will allow the Agency to be proactive in identifying emerging strains of pathogenic E. coli before they cause significant public health issues. Additionally, monitoring the presence of these markers at different processing points may permit the Agency to identify steps in the process that may introduce or eliminate pathogens into the final product. 
Determine microbiological and production volume data on all components of raw ground beef of E. coli O157 and non-O157 Shiga toxigenic E. coli (non-O157 STEC).  STEC are significant pathogens in FSIS-regulated products. These data will assist FSIS in accurately estimating the total risk associated with these pathogens. 
Characterize non-O157 screen positives that are not "top six" serotypes.  It is likely that there are "non-top 6" STEC serotypes that are significant pathogens. Identification of these serotypes may lead to improved risk assessments and risk management strategies. Priority products of concern: trim and ground beef. 
Develop alternative subtyping approaches and characterize STEC strains associated with FSIS products.  Development of alternative subtyping approaches and subsequent characterization of STEC strains associated with FSIS products will provide potential useful information for traceback investigations (cluster detection, source tracking), risk profiling (identifying particularly virulent strains) and managing risk. Proposed studies could also apply existing methodology (PFGE, MLVA, SNPs) to FSIS isolates. 
Relate virulence (Dose-Response) to genetic lineage for Listeria monocytogenes Understanding variability of Lm strain prevalence and associated virulence will facilitate accurate risk assessments and the development of effective management strategies.  
Further develop and apply subtyping methods for "clonal" Salmonella serovars (including S. Enteritidis).  Development of alternative subtyping approaches provides potential advances for tracebacks (cluster detection, source tracking), risk profiling, and managing risk. 

 

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Improve our understanding of antimicrobial resistance in pathogens in poultry and cattle
About this Topic: Increased understanding of the ecology (farm through plant) of antimicrobial resistant pathogens on livestock and poultry may lead to improved pathogen management strategies.
Investigate acquired antibiotic resistance in microorganisms in poultry and cattle.  Research is needed to learn more about acquired antibiotic resistance from ceca derived microbial flora. One approach is to investigate potential selective pressures at the pre-harvest stages which may lead to horizontal gene transfer in microorganisms from poultry and cattle. 
Study the survival characteristics for Salmonella and STEC (including O157:H7) serotypes to identify serotypes which are resistant to pre- and/or post-harvest antimicrobial interventions.  Identification of intervention-resistant serotypes provides important data for developing effective intervention procedures. 
Obtain additional predictive microbiology data of multi-drug resistant (MDR) Salmonella spp. such as Salmonella Typhimurium DT104.  An increased understanding of the growth and temperature susceptibility characteristics of MDR Salmonella will increase the Agency's ability to estimate human exposure and risk to MDR Salmonella
Improve detection methodology to determine the prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and C. difficile prevalence in FSIS-regulated products.  Increased understanding of S. aureus and C. difficile in FSIS-regulated products (especially pork and beef RTE products) may facilitate the development of improved pathogen management strategies. 

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Develop or refine cooking and cooling models for pathogens in foods. 

About this Topic: Temperature-time growth and death curves are valuable tools for developing safe processing procedures and HACCP plans. Models should be validated for a variety of FSIS-regulated products. Suggested pathogen-product combinations include: 

  • Clostridium perfringens and Bacillus cereus in processed egg products
  • C. perfringens and B. cereus during cooling of cooked ground pork and chicken with antimicrobial additives and variable pH
Determine Clostridium perfringens levels in large mass Ready-to-eat (RTE) products. Clostridium perfringens spores may survive the cooking process and grow to unsafe levels during cooling, particularly in large mass ready-to-eat products that are cooled slowly. FSIS would like more information about the incidence and levels of C. perfringens vegetative cells and spores in cooked large mass products, particularly those that are >4.5 inches thick or >8 pounds, non-intact (e.g., injected), and do not contain nitrite.  The Agency would also like additional information about the survival of C. perfringens in these products during cooling and refrigerated storage.  The resulting data could be used to determine if there is a public-health risk from these products. 
Determine the amount of Clostridium botulinum growth required to produce detectable levels of the botulinum neurotoxin in cooked/heat-treated, uncured meat and poultry products.  Clostridium botulinum (organism and its spores) are widely distributed in nature. Sausages, meat products, canned vegetables, and seafood products have been the most frequent vehicles for human botulism. 
Develop validated predictive microbial models that predict the growth of Clostridium botulinum during cooling.  Cooling models may be used by FSIS to estimate the impact of deviations in product handling procedures on pathogen populations and/or to develop processing criteria for a variety of FSIS-regulated products. The models should be based on dynamic (changing) temperature experiments addressing variable product temperature profiles (e.g., single, dual, and multiple cooling rates) for cooked, uncured ground meat and poultry products (e.g., ground beef, ground pork, ground chicken and ground turkey) containing no food additives (e.g., salt, phosphates, nitrite, sodium and potassium lactate, sodium and potassium diacetate) that would impact on the growth of the pathogen during cooling. 
Determine the impact of holding temperatures on pathogens in eggs.  Significant pathogen growth during unrefrigerated egg holding may result in unacceptable post-pasteurization pathogen (e.g., Salmonella) survival. 
Develop validated dynamic growth models for S. aureus, C. perfringens, and B. cereus to evaluate heating deviations (e.g., product with slow heating come-up times, products held at elevated sub-lethal temperatures for an extended period of time, and products that achieve incomplete lethality during the heating or cooking step) in cooked/heat-treated, cured, and uncured meat and poultry products.  The proposed growth models would assist FSIS in estimating the public health impact of process deviations of FSIS-regulated products. These dynamic growth models should take into consideration the potential growth-affecting interactions between the bacterial pathogens and low levels of non-pathogenic bacteria indigenous to commercial products. (
Develop predictive models for Bacillus cereus and Clostridium perfringens in enzyme modified egg processes with prolonged incubation times.  Models to estimate pathogen growth and lethality in FSIS products aid in development of HACCP plans and evaluating the potential impact of processing deviations. 

 

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Determine the contribution of endogenous extra-intestinal sources of pathogens (e.g., lymph nodes) to contamination of FSIS-regulated products 
About this Topic: Historically, the primary source of bacterial contamination of FSIS-regulated products has been viewed as cross-contamination of edible tissues with intestinal contents and fecal contaminants from the hide/skin of the food animal. As sanitary dressing procedures and interventions that control surface contamination continue to improve, the potential contribution of pathogens from other tissues including, but not limited to, lymph nodes and liver parenchymal tissue become more evident. Research is needed to elucidate the pathways of tissue contamination and the magnitude of endogenous extra-intestinal pathogen contributions to consumer exposure to foodborne pathogens.
Determine the contribution of Salmonella from lymph nodes of slaughtered swine to the Salmonella contamination of ground pork  The major peripheral lymph nodes of cattle carcasses have been identified as a probable source of Salmonella contamination in ground beef. Salmonella prevalence in cattle lymph nodes has been observed at 1 – 19 percent.  The peripheral lymph nodes in pork carcasses could play a similar role in the contamination of ground product.  Preliminary results from FSIS testing of ground pork suggest that ground pork is more likely to be Salmonella-positive when compared to ground beef. To ascertain the potential importance of lymph nodes to the contribution of Salmonella in ground pork, the initial step is to determine the occurrence of Salmonella in the lymph nodes of pigs slaughtered for consumption. 
Determine prevalence, load, and strains of Campylobacter and Salmonella in raw chicken livers.  In recent years, the Agency has investigated several outbreaks attributable to liver. The continued occurrence of these outbreaks suggests chicken liver consumption is associated with elevated risk. One factor that appears to largely account for this risk is pathogen contamination within the parenchymal tissue of raw chicken liver. Research is needed to determine a baseline prevalence and concentration of Campylobacter and Salmonella in raw chicken livers. Such research may facilitate the identification and/or development of process intervention technologies to reduce levels of human pathogens in raw chicken livers and will likely have a positive public health impact. 

 

Intervention Strategies

1. Preharvest

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Identify and/or develop and evaluate the effectiveness of pre-harvest interventions to reduce levels of pathogens in FSIS-regulated products 
About this Topic: Determining if pre-harvest interventions can significantly reduce pathogen contamination of FSIS-regulated products will provide valuable information for controlling pathogens and improving public health.
Determine whether differences in poultry rearing practices influence the microbiological profile and pathological disease conditions of poultry carcasses. 

Large-scale commercial poultry husbandry practices typically rear birds in confinement in large houses that control environmental conditions, minimize disease exposure, and maximize stocking density. Cramped spaces limit the birds’ mobility and can induce stress, leading to leg problems, injuries, and increased mortality. Alternative rearing practices (including but not limited to pasture or free-range husbandry) may provide conditions that could impact the pathogen profile, reduce the incidence of certain poultry diseases.

FSIS would like to better understand the impact of traditional versus alternative (e.g. free-range or pasture) rearing of poultry on the prevalence of poultry diseases and human pathogens at post-harvest. This research may also support changes to FSIS policies, and allow for post-harvest innovation in food safety technologies by industry. 

 

Develop or identify effective pre-harvest interventions to reduce levels of human pathogens in poultry.  Research is needed on the efficacies of practical and applicable technologies that could be employed by poultry producers and industry to better protect public health. Pre-harvest intervention technologies (including but not limited to vaccines, competitive exclusion products and probiotics, organic acids, and prebiotics) can be used to reduce the incidence of human pathogen colonization in birds and to reduce pathogen levels in colonized birds. Using such pre-harvest interventions to reduce pathogens (e.g., Salmonella and Campylobacter) in poultry may minimize pathogens on poultry presented for slaughter and ultimately consumer exposure to pathogens. 
Determine the impact of pre-harvest interventions commonly used by the poultry industry on Campylobacter jejuni colonization and contamination of poultry and poultry products.  Determination of the effectiveness of Campylobacter intervention may facilitate the evaluation of HACCP plans and assessment of risk to poultry consumers.
Determine the impact of climatic and weather conditions affecting shedding of STEC.  As environmental conditions (e.g., temperature, humidity) may influence pathogen concentrations, tailoring sampling and intervention strategies to environmental conditions may provide increased efficiency and public health benefit. 
Develop a model to estimate the effect of pre-harvest practices and interventions on pathogen contamination of ground beef.  Pre-harvest interventions have the potential to minimize pathogen concentrations in meat. Potential interventions include manipulation of feeding strategies, transportation, vaccine, source (feedlot), time of year of slaughter. 
Determine pre-harvest prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 and non-O157 STEC.  STEC are potentially significant pathogens in FSIS-regulated products. Pre-harvest populations may impact pathogen concentrations in finished products. Suggested studies include: (1) Determine prevalence on hides or droppings of cattle coming into slaughter. (2) Determine prevalence for feed-lot and range cattle. (3) Determine prevalence for different size slaughter establishments. 
If Salmonella and Campylobacter status of poultry flocks could be determined prior to slaughter, slaughter procedures could be implemented to minimize cross-contamination (e.g., slaughter positive flocks last, freeze Campylobacter contaminated tissues). If Salmonella and Campylobacter status of poultry flocks could be determined prior to slaughter, slaughter procedures could be implemented to minimize cross-contamination (e.g., slaughter positive flocks last, freeze Campylobacter contaminated tissues).

 

2. STEC in Beef and Veal

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Identify and/ or develop and evaluate the effectiveness of post-harvest interventions to reduce levels of pathogens in FSIS-regulated products (STEC in Beef and Veal)
About this Topic: Determining if pre- and post-harvest interventions can significantly reduce pathogen contamination of FSIS-regulated products will provide valuable information for controlling pathogens and improving public health.
Determine whether there are unique husbandry, physiological, transportation, or processing factors that may lead to higher farm-to-table incidence and/or concentrations of STECs and Salmonella in the different classes of veal (bob veal, non- formula-fed, formula-fed, and heavy calves), and under what conditions are these pathogens more likely to occur, persist, and facilitate transmission.  Research is needed to determine for each class of veal, what is the relationship between contamination and interaction among the infected animals, farm/pen environment, STEC and Salmonella pathogens, and animal husbandry practices. 
Determine whether there are unique steps in veal slaughter that are different from other beef slaughter classes and would require additional guidance to industry to minimize contamination through sanitary dressing and antimicrobial interventions.  Research is needed to determine if interventions for beef are appropriate for the various slaughter classes of veal and what modifications, if any, are needed to make interventions more effective. 
Develop farm-to-retail risk profiles for STECs and Salmonella from bob veal, non-formula-fed veal, formula-fed veal, and heavy calves.  Research is needed to identify the classes of veal associated with the most significant negative public health impact risk and will assist with the prioritization of veal research aimed at reducing foodborne illnesses associated with veal consumption. Additional outcomes may include the identification of farm-through-retail risk factors for STEC and Salmonella contamination for classes of veal associated with significant risk of human illnesses  
Identify and quantify the transfer of pathogenic hide and/or surface contaminants and gastrointestinal contents to carcasses during sanitary dressing.  Identification and quantification of sources of contamination during processing of carcasses provide the basis for the development of (1) processing procedures that minimize contamination of meat and (2) effective and efficient HACCP plans. 
Determine the efficacy of organic acids applied using handheld sprayers to beef trim.  This study could provide guidance to processing plants (especially small plants) for designing food safety systems that address STEC on beef trimmings that are intended for grinding. 

 

3. Salmonella and Campylobacter in Poultry Meat and Eggs

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Identify and/ or develop and evaluate the effectiveness of pre- and post-harvest interventions to reduce levels of pathogens in FSIS-regulated products (Salmonella and Campylobacter in Poultry)
About this Topic: Determining if pre- and post-harvest interventions can significantly reduce pathogen contamination of FSIS-regulated products will provide valuable information for controlling pathogens and improving public health.
Assess the potential effects of serial and/or simultaneous post-harvest antimicrobial interventions in FSIS-regulated products.  Very little information is available regarding the potential effects of serial and/or simultaneous post-harvest antimicrobial interventions in FSIS-regulated products.  The results of this research would provide data to: 1) assess the synergistic/antagonistic effects of serial and/or simultaneous use of post-harvest antimicrobial interventions on pathogen concentrations in FSIS-regulated products; 2) determine if chemical interactions (reaction products and/or parent compounds)  occur when serial and/or simultaneous post-harvest antimicrobial interventions are used; and 3) determine the potential hazards associated with serial and/or simultaneous effects of post-harvest antimicrobial interventions in FSIS-regulated products. 
Assess synergistic antimicrobial intervention strategies to determine combinatorial effectiveness observed through log-reduction of Salmonella and Campylobacter on raw poultry during slaughter and processing.  Research is needed to determine the effectiveness of multiple antimicrobial chemical interventions when applied to raw poultry products, and if specific combinations of interventions have synergistic effects, to enhance Salmonella and Campylobacter control.  The resulting data will assist the industry to control Salmonella and Campylobacter on raw poultry products. Additionally, these data will assist FSIS in estimating the potential risks associated with the consumption of FSIS-regulated products and tightening performance standard criteria 
Determine the effect of dry slaughter and/or delayed evisceration on the microbiological contamination of poultry carcasses.  The typical commercial poultry slaughter operation uses large volumes of water throughout the process. Consequently, cross-contamination at various steps, such as scalding, de-feathering, evisceration, and chilling, can result in microbial contamination of carcasses. Establishments typically use antimicrobial interventions at various points in the process to reduce microbial contamination of carcasses with enteric pathogens. Using a dry slaughter process greatly reduces water usage and conditions that may enhance microbial outgrowth. Using a dry slaughter process can reduce cross-contamination, reduce the need for water reuse processes, and reduce the negative environmental impact from poultry wastewater. Dry poultry slaughter processing can also address restrictions that some foreign countries place on the application of certain chemical interventions to poultry products accepted for import from the United States.   The dry slaughter process, alone or in combination with a delayed evisceration step, may be a feasible alternative to the traditional poultry slaughter process, especially for smaller-scale poultry slaughter establishments. 
Determine the susceptibility of Salmonella enterica (Hadar and Heidelberg) ground turkey associated outbreak strains to heat, hydrostatic pressure, and acid.  FSIS investigations suggest that Salmonella strains were able to survive poultry slaughter processing interventions and consumer preparation to ultimately cause illness. FSIS would like to determine if these outbreaks associated strains show unique characteristics (e.g. resistance to heat, pressure pasteurization, and/or acid) which may contribute to virulence and the breadth of the outbreaks. 
Determine the translocation and thermal inactivation of Salmonella and Campylobacter in tenderized and/or injected poultry products.  Campylobacter-poultry and Salmonella-poultry have been cited as the first and fourth highest pathogen-product combination with respect to annual foodborne disease burden. 
Determine the national prevalence of Salmonella serotypes associated with shell eggs.   Pathogen concentrations in shell eggs impact the risks and associated need for intervention strategies associated with FSIS-regulated egg products. 

 

4. Pork Safety

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Identify and / or develop and evaluate the effectiveness of pre- and post-harvest interventions to reduce levels of pathogens in FSIS-regulated products (2020)
About this Topic: Determining if pre- and post-harvest interventions can significantly reduce pathogen contamination of FSIS-regulated products will provide valuable information for controlling pathogens and improving public health.
Determine prevalence, load, and strains of Salmonella in roaster swine carcasses.  There have been several Salmonella outbreaks over the last few years attributed to cooking roaster swine. The outbreaks involved Salmonella I,4,5,12:i:-. FSIS would like to better understand interventions to effectively reduce/eliminate Salmonella on roaster swine carcasses that address the novel slaughter of this class of swine. Specifically, are there interventions that would be more effective for roaster swine since they are sold as a whole carcass, with the head still attached?

FSIS would also like to better understand the factors that contribute to survival of Salmonella on roaster swine carcasses cooked on rotisseries. For example, do consumer storage practices prior to cooking result in excessive growth of Salmonella, rendering the cooking process less effective? What is the thermal profile of the entire carcass of roaster swine during cooking on rotisseries and how does that impact survival of Salmonella during roasting? Are there areas of the roaster swine such as the lymph nodes where Salmonella is more likely to survive during roasting over a heat source? In addition, FSIS would value information on livestock carcass sampling schemes to compare pathogen prevalence on the inside of the carcass and head to the outside of the carcass. This might be accomplished by conducting comparison testing of carcasses utilizing sampling techniques on the outside of the carcass compared to the inside of the carcass, and specifically the area inside the head around the tonsils and lymph nodes. 

 

5. Ready-to-Eat Foods

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Identify and/ or develop and evaluate the effectiveness of pre- and post-harvest interventions to reduce levels of pathogens in FSIS-regulated products 
About this Topic: Determining if pre- and post-harvest interventions can significantly reduce pathogen contamination of FSIS-regulated products will provide valuable information for controlling pathogens and improving public health.
Determine the growth inhibitor effectiveness on Listeria monocytogenes in RTE products from time of production through consumption. Determining the effectiveness of growth inhibitors (in conjunction with other interventions) may permit increased accuracy in the estimation of risk to consumers and lead to the production of safer products. 

 

6. Low Moisture Foods (Studies related to Appendix A and B)

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Identify and /or develop and evaluate the effectiveness of pre- and post-harvest interventions to reduce levels of pathogens in FSIS-regulated products 
About this Topic: Determining if pre- and post-harvest interventions can significantly reduce pathogen contamination of FSIS-regulated products will provide valuable information for controlling pathogens and improving public health.
Estimation of drying times needed for different diameter dry and semi-dry fermented sausages.  There is limited research demonstrating at least a 5-log reduction for Salmonella and a sufficient reduction for Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) and E. coli O157:H7 for the processes used to manufacture dry and semi-dry fermented sausages.  For the limited research that is available, it can be difficult to apply study conditions to actual processes because each process uses a unique combination of critical operational parameters.  One challenge FSIS has identified is the difficulty in applying a validated drying time from one diameter product to another.   Most research is conducted with a product of one diameter but most establishments produce sausages in several different diameters.  This presents a challenge because diameter impacts drying time in that larger diameter sausages take longer to reach the same final water activity as smaller diameter sausages.   If research is performed with a large diameter sausage product, there is currently no way for an establishment to determine the corresponding drying time for a smaller diameter product and vice versa.  To address this challenge, FSIS has found establishments often try to dry to the same water activity reported in a study, but research has shown that achieving a certain target water activity alone across different diameter sausages is not enough to ensure adequate reduction.  Therefore, more research is needed to help establishments determine the appropriate number of drying days based on the diameter of the product. The resulting data could be used to develop a predictive microbial model that includes diameter as one of the many critical operational parameters that impacts lethality during fermentation and drying (i.e., fermentation temperature, % and type of sugar, starter culture, % salt, ingoing nitrite ppm, pH at the start before fermentation, final pH, time to reach final pH, diameter, and drying time).
Determine whether sufficient lethality of Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella is achieved for low water activity cured meat products such as country cured hams cooked using Appendix A time/temperature recommendations under high humidity conditions  Salt-cured and dried product (country cured ham) cooked multiple times using Appendix A as support for achieving lethality of Listeria monocytogenes during each cooking step has been associated with human illness. FSIS would like to better understand whether the product surface of country cured hams is rehydrated during cooking when cooked-in-bag or with continuous steam injection and if Appendix A time/temperature parameters is sufficient to achieve lethality for pathogens of concern (including Listeria if cooking in bag is used to address potential post-processing contamination). The Agency would also like to understand how cooking a product multiple times could impact the effectiveness of each cooking step and application of the parameters defined in Appendix A.
Validate heat treatment and cooling processes used for partially heat-treated large and small mass smoked meat products and identify the constituents in smoke that provide antimicrobial activity during smoking of meat products.  In 2017, FSIS issued a Compliance Guideline for Stabilization (Cooling and Hot-Holding) of Fully and Partially Heat-Treated Ready-to-Eat (RTE) and Not-ready-to-eat (NRTE) Meat and Poultry Products Produced by Small and Very Small Establishments and Revised Appendix B.  In this guideline, FSIS recommends for partially heat-treated NRTE products to limit the heating come up time to the final heating temperature to 1 hour or less and then to cool between 130°F to 80°F for no more than 1.5 hours and between 80°F and 40°F for more than 5 hours (6.5 hours total cooling time).

FSIS received comments that it is not practical for small and large mass partially heat-treated NRTE products including smoked hams, smoked sausages, and smoked bacon to achieve the 1-hour heating come up time recommendation.  More research is needed to validate acceptable heating come up times for other types of small and large mass smoked products (i.e., ham and smoked sausages) smoked using liquid or natural smoke in combination with the cooling step given that, depending on the final heating temperature, the heating step may not provide any lethality of the bacterial pathogens of concern.  This research may be used to develop predictive microbial models for assessing the growth of Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium perfringens in partially heat-treated products that are smoked.

Information in the literature by Taormina and Bartholomew (2005) suggests that smoke plays a role in limiting the growth of hazards of concern (Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens, and Clostridium botulinum) during heat treatment and subsequent cooling of bacon cooked with liquid smoke. Research is needed to: 1) identify the constituents in smoke that provide antimicrobial activity including the effect that these active constituents have on inhibiting the growth of S. aureus and C. perfringens during the heating and cooling steps for partially heat-treated NRTE meat and poultry products, 2) identify differences in levels of active ingredient concentration in liquid vs. natural smoke and 3) identify differences in active ingredient concentration on the exterior and interior of small diameter products (e.g., smoked sausages) in comparison to large diameter products (e.g., smoked hams) that have been smoked for varying periods of time.  
Determine if natural casings maintain sufficient moisture to ensure product lethality using Appendix A time and temperature tables.  Moisture is a critical factor in ensuring adequate lethality for pathogens during cooking of meat and poultry products.  Traditionally, natural casings have been considered permeable, as they, along with some others, can be used to produce dry sausages by allowing moisture loss from the product.

FSIS has received comments suggesting that natural casings should be considered semi-permeable as the collagen becomes denatured and creates a semi-permeable environment during cooking.  However, the Agency is aware of no research that has been performed to support this rationale.  Therefore, more research is needed to determine 1) If natural casings maintain sufficient moisture to ensure product lethality using FSIS guidance such as Appendix A time and temperature tables; and 2) If natural casings present a food safety concern on the exterior of and underneath (inside) the casing if no humidity option is used.
Identify acceptable methods for measuring moisture in high temperature/short time cooking processes in impingement, spiral, steam-injected ovens.  Moisture during cooking is a critical factor to ensure adequate lethality for pathogens in meat and poultry products.  The most common method to measure moisture during cooking, and one supported by Appendix A, is relative humidity (RH).  However, some experts believe that RH is not the best measurement with high temperature (> 212°F), short time (< 1hr) cooking methods such as those used with impingement, spiral, and steam-injected inline ovens.  Recent research has also indicated that other methods of measuring moisture may be effective for high temperature, short time cooking methods. In addition, reaching 90% RH during high temperature, short time cooking methods (above 212°F, < 1 hr., and at atmospheric pressure), is very difficult and not feasible for many cooking operations.

Research is needed regarding high temperature (> 212°F), short time (<1 hr) cooking methods such as impingement, spiral, or steam injected ovens to determine 1) what method are acceptable for measuring moisture in high temperatures (above 212°F) short time (<1 hr.) cooking methods; 2) the effects of dehydration during high temperature, short term cooking on Salmonella surface colonies; 3) scientific time/ temperature and humidity considerations including when to apply humidity in the cook cycle for adequate Salmonella lethality. 
Develop or identify approaches to control human pathogens in dried and fermented products. There has been an increased demand for ethnic/specialty sausages (e.g., basturma, soudjouk, biltong, and droëwors) in the U.S. in recent years. There is limited research demonstrating at least a 5-log reduction for Salmonella and a sufficient reduction for Lm and E. coli O157:H7 for the processes used to manufacture dried and fermented products. This research may facilitate the identification of safe processes for the manufacture of dried and fermented products. This research may assist small and very small establishments to develop safe processes without having to commission expensive studies. 
Develop or identify approaches to control human pathogens in dry cured ham.  Currently, there is insufficient data available for the reduction of Salmonella, L. monocytogenes, E. coli O157:H7, or S. aureus during the dry curing process for hams. Validation of the procedures currently used and required in 9 CFR 318.10(c)(3)(iv)(G) in the dry curing process of hams have been validated for the treatment of Trichinae, but have not been validated for the effectiveness in controlling other pathogens. This research may facilitate the effectiveness of dry cured ham procedures in controlling for human pathogens and will likely have a positive public health impact.  
Determine the effect of low levels of relative humidity on survival of E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella in beef jerky.  Elucidating the impact of humidity on pathogen survival in FSIS-regulated products may lead to improved processing guidelines and reduced risk for these products. 
Develop scientific documents for a variety of meat and poultry products that take into consideration differences in product composition (e.g., fat, protein, and sodium levels) which may affect time-temperature lethality relationships.  Scientific documents, called "safe harbors," for the meat and poultry industry may provide small meat and poultry processors (who do not have the resources, facilities and/or the expertise to perform food safety experiments to identify appropriate interventions for their specific processes) guidance for the identification of suitable interventions. 

 

7. Miscellaneous

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Identify and /or develop and evaluate the effectiveness of pre- and post-harvest interventions to reduce levels of pathogens in FSIS-regulated products 
About this Topic: Determining if pre- and post-harvest interventions can significantly reduce pathogen contamination of FSIS-regulated products will provide valuable information for controlling pathogens and improving public health.
Identification of acceptable lethality treatments for baked goods cooked with raw meat and poultry components.  FSIS provides guidance for lethality treatments for cooked meat and poultry products. For meat products, this guidance includes recommended time-temperature combinations that achieve a 5 to 7-log reduction in Salmonella. For poultry products, this guidance includes recommended time-temperature combinations that achieve a 7-log reduction in Salmonella. In addition to time and temperature, FSIS guidance incudes relative humidity targets to ensure acceptable lethality during cooking of meat and poultry products.

Baked goods (pastry) type products are typically heated to higher temperatures than FSIS “safe harbor” guidance.  However, for quality and practical reasons, it is not desirable to maintain relative humidity during the lethality treatment of baked goods.

A key question is do these bakery types of meat and poultry products achieve sufficient lethality of the bacterial pathogens of concern (e.g., Salmonella) throughout the product, especially on the surface of the product based on the use of dry heat. Other research questions include whether fats within the dough can migrate to the meat or poultry filling creating a protective effect or whether coatings between the dough and filling designed to prevent migration could also protect pathogens within the filling by reducing heat transfer.  The proposed research would validate lethality treatments for these types of baked goods cooked with raw meat and poultry components as well as raw dough and addressing the questions above. 
Conduct a prospective cross-sectional study to further examine the correlation between the magnitude of indicator/surrogate reduction (e.g., between carcass re-hang and post-chill) and the magnitude of pathogen reduction on carcasses.  Reductions of indicator and/or surrogate organisms may be useful to assess the effectiveness of interventions and the safety of finished products. Analysis to the level of species requires less resources than sub-typing. 

 

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Evaluate impact of regulatory initiatives on food contamination 
About this Topic: Determining the impact of regulations may provide valuable guidance for potential adjustments and/or the development of future policy.

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Identify consumer practices which compromise the safety of FSIS-regulated products 
About this Topic: Identification of plant and retail practices that lead to contamination of products may provide valuable information for development of effective HACCP plans. Current chemical and pathogen sampling procedures may not detect products which are contaminated due to retail practices.
Identify critical operational parameters and determine pathogen control strategies for rotisserie chicken cooked at retail.  There have been Salmonella illness clusters involving rotisserie chicken in past years (2013-present). Recent outbreaks involved Salmonella I,4,5,12:i:-. FSIS would like to better understand the critical operational parameters during preparation, cooking, and holding of retail rotisserie cooked chicken to inform guidance regarding best practices. Such parameters could include rotisserie oven design, oven cold spots and temperature measurement. FSIS would also like to better understand the potential for Salmonella biofilm formation to contribute to these outbreaks.
Develop retail-to-table risk profiles for STECs and Salmonella from bob veal, non-formula-fed veal, formula-fed veal, and heavy calves.  Research is needed to determine the risk factors for humans that are associated with the consumption of specific classes of veal, such as consumer preparation, composition, and/or type of veal-containing products (e.g., ground veal) and whether certain components are riskier than others. 
Determine the potential for spices and/or non-FSIS-regulated ingredients to contribute pathogens to FSIS-regulated products.  When FSIS-regulated products are combined with chemical and/or microbial contaminated spices or other ingredients, the products may become contaminated, thereby increasing the risk of foodborne illness for consumers. There is need to determine (1) the magnitude of risk for FSIS-regulated products which contain potentially contaminated ingredients and (2) develop risk management approaches where warranted. 
Documentation of Salmonella and Campylobacter transfer to and colonization of carcasses and cuts.  Identification of critical steps in cross-contamination of carcasses and carcass cuts may lead to the development of process modifications to reduce cross-contamination. 
Determine prevalence of Salmonella serotype and genotype isolates from chicken products at retail.  Post-plant changes in pathogen concentration may impact risk to consumers. Analytical considerations include: PFGE pattern analysis and/or consideration for serotype bias introduced by enrichment-based methods. 
Ascertain consumer and retail (restaurants, institutions, etc.) behaviors (and frequency) that may impact cross contamination.  Post-plant handling of products can impact contamination and consumer risk. Suggested areas of concern include retail and consumer storage, handling, and cooking impacts on pathogens (e.g., Listeria monocytogenes) that may be present in raw and ready-to-eat (RTE) meat and poultry. Processes of potential concern include slicing process and handling. 
Assess the impact of the use of "gloves" on cross-contamination in the retail environments.  A variety of practices in the retail environment may contribute to cross contamination of FSIS-regulated products. Identifying and modifying such practices may lead to interventions that reduce contamination. 
Estimate the contribution of non-food contact surface interactions (drains, sinks, etc.) on L. monocytogenes contamination of FSIS-regulated products.  Identification of pathogen reservoirs in the food processing environments may lead to improved best practices and/or intervention strategies. 

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Generate data to develop public education and outreach to improve food-handling practices. 
About this Topic: Mishandling of FSIS-regulated products by consumers can increase the probability of foodborne illnesses associated with the consumption of FSIS-regulated products.
Investigate common preparation practices used by consumers and restaurants that can result in undercooking of chicken livers and investigate alternative preparation options that reduce the public health risk while maintaining the desired organoleptic and sensory properties of the prepared chicken livers.  In recent years, the Agency has investigated several outbreaks attributable to chicken livers. The continued occurrence of these outbreaks indicates that chicken liver consumption is associated with elevated risk. One factor that appears to largely account for this risk is consumer bias towards consuming chicken liver that may have been undercooked by other preparers, such as restaurant cooks. Research is needed to investigate common preparation practices used by consumers and restaurants that result in undercooking of raw chicken livers and investigate alternative preparation options that reduce the public health risk while maintaining the desired organoleptic and sensory properties of the prepared chicken livers.  
Develop effective risk communications for subpopulations who choose to consume raw or undercooked FSIS-regulated products.  FSIS investigations have revealed several foodborne outbreaks attributable to consumption of raw or undercooked FSIS-regulated products (for example, raw beef, chicken livers). Consumption of these products is often associated with ethnic traditions and certain niche communities. Improving identification and awareness of cultural or traditional situations, and subsequent development of effective risk communication methods will help FSIS tailor specific messaging on safe food handling and preparation practices for various at risk, vulnerable, and under-served populations, particularly those that knowingly consume raw or undercooked FSIS-regulated products. Research into different communication techniques, presentation of information, and expression of risk will help FSIS shape and deliver appropriately sensitive, effective, food safety messages. 
Review and evaluation of FSIS’ cooking recommendations as applied to thin cuts of meat.  Food safety recommendations for cooking meat often assume that the temperature of the meat is constant or increases for several minutes after the meat is removed from the heat source. This may not be true for thin cuts of meat. 
Determine how retail-to-table practices affect the quality and supply of fresh whole turkeys.  Differences in retail vs. consumer refrigerated storage conditions may result in spoiled product that is prepared prior to the “sell by” date. Research is needed to determine the food safety implications of this discrepancy and possibly improve communication to consumers regarding home storage of fresh whole turkeys.  
Determine the correlation between ground turkey consumer preferences and undercooked/increased risk products.  Consumers' preferences for moist ground turkey may result in products that are not fully cooked. FSIS is interested in determining whether consumer preference for finished ground poultry products corresponds with a product not receiving adequate lethality for microbial contaminants. Such a correlation could indicate increased risk of human illness.  
Review and evaluation of FSIS' Safe Lunch Packing Recommendations.  Preliminary findings indicate that a significant portion of home packed lunches deviate from the Agency's safe temperature handling recommendations, suggesting increased risk of foodborne illness to school children and other sub-populations which bring their lunches from home. Further research is needed to substantiate these preliminary findings and, if warranted, to develop means to assure the safety of home packed meals. 

 

Animal Welfare

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Identify or develop approaches to facilitate humane handling of FSIS-regulated livestock  
About this Topic: Identifying livestock animal handling practices to promote humane handling and slaughter of food animals may have positive impacts on food animals, producers, and consumers. Promoting humane handling of food animals figures significantly in Goal 2 of the 2017-2021 FSIS Strategic Plan. Economic incentives may increase industry’s desire/willingness to adopt humane handling best practices. Such economic incentives might include identifying correlations between humane animal handling and product quality, food safety, worker safety and feed conversion efficiency. Identification of incentives may also facilitate industry alignment with FSIS Directive 6900.2, Humane Handling and Slaughter of Livestock.
Determine the effectiveness of humane practices and timely corrective measures for stunning FSIS-regulated livestock) While a variety of animal handling practices are available to producers, the appropriateness and success rate of these practices may be influenced by factors such as species, product class, age, weight, plant design, transport and lairage conditions, temperature, precipitation, etc. Research is needed to identify the success rate and humanness of livestock stunning, including but not limited to corrective measures (e.g. follow-up/adaptive procedures for livestock animals that are ineffectively stunned) for the breadth of FSIS regulated product classes and establishments.  

 

Label Verification

 

Study Title / Description Additional Information
Priority: Develop improved techniques for species identity in raw and processed products 
About this Topic: Speciation of FSIS-regulated products is required to prevent adulteration and enforce proper labelling. Ideally methods should be suitable for both raw and cooked products. Also, methods should be suitable for mixed species products (e.g. beef-pork sausage).
Development of a single technology for species testing of FSIS-regulated products.  FSIS is responsible for ensuring accuracy and compliance to species labeling requirements.  Greater efficiencies could be achieved if a cost-effective alternative could be identified to consolidate current testing methods for animal species identification into one method. 

 

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Last Modified Oct 07, 2020