A Washington State University-led research team member works on the prototype microwave assisted pasteurization system (MAPS) unit. MAPS allows packaged foods to be safely processed more quickly and at lower cost than conventional processes. Photo courtesy of Washington State University.
During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, like innovative ways to make food safer.
More than 90 percent of American households have microwave ovens where people heat their food, yet this same technology is seldom used for large-scale production in the food industry.
As home cooks know, microwave ovens do not excel at heating food evenly. The lack of commercial-scale microwave processing technology is, in part, due to the challenge of designing equipment that is capable of pasteurization – heating all of the food evenly to a predetermined temperature for a certain length of time. Pasteurization makes food safe to eat, by inactivating bacterial and viral pathogens that can make people sick. Read more »
Over the last few decades, food safety has been marked by profound social, economic and political evolutions and technological breakthroughs such as 3D printing of food and the adoption of laboratory testing for pathogens. Laboratory testing for pathogens continues to evolve with the advancement of genome sequencing. However, there is always more to do. There is a potential for advancing existing and promoting greater gains in the future.
What if there were more apps that could allow farmers, producers, consumers and stakeholders access to USDA data? The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) posts a variety of reports using data collected while inspecting and testing meat and poultry products, but more and more, people want direct access to the information. For instance, what if a consumer could walk into a grocery store, scan a product, and instantly know where it was produced or where it was farmed? What if a farmer had an app that directly informed them about crop forecasting or crop variations? What if people and organizations who would never have had the opportunity before could individually and collectively mash up data in unique and exciting ways, leading to new opportunities to solve complex problems? The potential is endless as more tools are becoming available. Read more »
On Jan. 14, 2014, nearly 400 people participated in the second annual “Safety Datapalooza” at USDA headquarters. The event, hosted by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy and Office of Public Engagement, U.S. Department of Transportation and USDA, recognized innovators from the private, nonprofit and academic sectors who have freely used available government data to build products, services and apps that advance public safety in creative and powerful ways.
During a breakout session, Christopher Alvares, Director of FSIS’ Data Analysis and Integration Staff, explained the agency’s recently released Salmonella Action Plan and testing programs aimed at reducing the number of illnesses associated with FSIS-regulated products using new standards, strategies and innovation. “FSIS produces regular reports on Salmonella contamination in regulated product, but the data had never been available in machine-readable format or in a single place,” said Alvares. Up until now, this data had been available only from report to report spanning many years. Today, this data is available as one source and in one place. Read more »
Mt. Hood National Forest is home to the nation’s first electric vehicle fast charger installed on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and on a ski resort. (Courtesy Oregon Department of Transportation)
Oregon, home to the nation’s first border-to-border electric highway, continues its emergence as the ultimate travel destination for electric vehicle (EV) drivers. The Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Transportation and their partners recently unveiled America’s first EV fast-charger installed on U.S. Forest Service land and at a ski resort.
By using the growing West Coast Electric Highway fast-charger network, EV drivers can now travel up Mt. Hood’s rugged slopes, looming large at 11,250 feet and located just over an hour from Portland, Ore. The charging station, at Mt. Hood Skibowl West, completes Oregon’s Mt. Hood-Columbia River Gorge Electric Byway.
“It’s a natural fit to support infrastructure that promotes clean energy near forest recreation sites,” said Bill Westbrook of the Forest Service’s Zigzag Ranger District. Read more »
In conjunction with Washington State University Extension, USDA is co-hosting the Northwest Wood-Based Biofuels/Co-Products Conference in late April. The conference will be April 28-30, 2014 in Seattle, Wash.
The goal of the conference is to bring together the community of researchers, business leaders, government agencies, and economic development personnel to share and exchange research findings, ideas, and strategies for the common goal of sustainable development of wood-based bio-refineries for production of biofuels and co-products in the Pacific Northwest. Read more »
Earlier this week I caught up with Tom Joyner on the Tom Joyner Morning Show to announce $35 million in grant support for high quality research, teaching and Extension activities at 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Colleges and Universities. Tom, a graduate of Tuskegee University, and I discussed how these additional resources will help support exciting new opportunities and innovative research at 1890s institutions.
These grants are just a small piece of USDA’s nearly 125 year partnership with 1890s schools to support cutting edge research, innovation and student achievement. Since 2009 alone, USDA has awarded $647 million to 1890s schools.
In addition to highlighting the great work of these universities with Tom Joyner, I also joined Congresswoman Marcia Fudge—a champion of education and an extraordinary advocate for underserved Americans—to announce the designation of Central State University, a historically black university in Wilberforce, Ohio, as a land-grant institution. Read more »