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Food Safety Research Priorities Updated

07 December 2012


US – USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has updated its research priorities to keep pace with ever-changing issues and opportunities in food safety and public health related to the meat, poultry and egg products FSIS regulates.

Scientific research and resources from outside the agency complement internal efforts to ensure that food safety inspection aligns with existing and emerging risks across the farm-to-table continuum.

"Our goal is to effectively use science to understand foodborne illness and emerging trends," said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen.

"External research is critical to our public health mission and ultimately serves as another tool at our disposal to protect the food supply for over 300 million Americans."

The agency's priorities are presented as suggestions for researchers interested in pursuing food safety objectives that are relevant to FSIS regulated products.

This list provides useful guidance to researchers that are preparing grants for submission to agencies that fund food safety research, such as USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, scientific academies and private foundations.

The list also provides suggestions for academic faculty and students that are looking for relevant food safety research topics. Although FSIS is not a research-funding organization, the list of agency priorities helps promote exploration into those areas.

Examples of current research that supports the agency's priorities include a five-year, $25 million grant from NIFA, awarded earlier this year, involving 10 universities and 14 lead researchers studying Shiga-toxin producing E. coli. USDA's Agricultural Research Service launched an examination into the identification of factors that enable strains of Salmonella in ground turkey to induce foodborne illness.

FSIS convenes an internal Research Priorities Panel to review the priorities and to identify potential additions to the priorities list. The panel includes representatives from all FSIS disciplines.

The panel meets every six months, solicits updates from programme areas and stakeholders, and then votes on updates to the priorities list. The recommended updates are vetted through the FSIS Data Coordinating Committee and the Agency's Management Council.

FSIS identified official Agency research priorities for the first time in its history in December 2011. The effort was an outgrowth of the agency's internal discussions and feedback from stakeholders and research organisations.

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