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The main goal of the Fresh Produce Safety Lab is to generate science-based information within preharvest to postharvest environments that can assist growers, packers, shippers and food handlers in reducing the risk of contamination with human pathogens along the production chain. Our laboratory approaches research from an applied perspective and moves into basic research when necessary looking to answer food safety and production practices needs.
We are interested in elucidating how anthropogenic systems influence persistence and survival of human pathogens in pre to postharvest environments and what applied mitigation strategies can be introduced to reduce the risk of Fresh Produce or Fresh Cut contamination. Our approach is a combination of standard microbiological techniques, horticultural and postharvest practices, and next generation sequencing technologies to study the microbial ecology of human pathogens in organic and conventional fruit and vegetable systems. Applications include: - On farm risk assessments, - Studying the interactions of commensal microorganisms in packing house environments with the potential presence of human pathogens. – How microbial diversity and management practices influence human pathogen persistence in the soil-plant-water interface. – How aerosol movement may impact redistribution and establishment of human pathogens within diversified farming systems or packing houses and – how endophytic or epiphytic microorganisms mixed with the morphological characteristics of Fresh Produce may impact colonization, attachment and persistence of human pathogens. All of these approaches will provide insight into the systems biology of human pathogens and will generate applied information and approaches to reduce Fresh Produce safety risks.