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Honors and Awards

Tennessee State University Receives $2.44 Million USDA Grant to Study Foodborne Illness

By TSU News On August 7, 2012

NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded $2.44 million to the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences’ Food Safety team at Tennessee State University to help reduce incidences of foodborne illness.

The grant, awarded through USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, will be used to help reduce illnesses from Salmonella and Campylobacter by improving consumer storage, handling, and preparation of raw and ready-to-eat poultry, eggs, and poultry products.

Dr. Sandria Godwin, a professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, along with a multi-institutional team of researchers, educators and extension specialists, will use the $2.4 million grant to accomplish three objectives, including:

  • Characterizing consumers’ storage, handling and preparation of poultry, eggs, and poultry products, and their awareness and understanding of existing food safety messages,
  • Assessing and prioritizing the risk of contamination from improper in-home storage, handling, and preparation of poultry, eggs, and poultry products, and
  • Developing science-based and consumer-focused messages on safe storage, handling, and preparation of poultry, eggs, and poultry products, and evaluating their impact.

The expected long-term outcomes of the project include an increased consumer knowledge and use of recommended storage, handling and preparation practices for poultry products and eggs, which will ultimately result in a reduction in foodborne illness due to consumers’ improved handling, storage and preparation of poultry products and eggs.

“This award solidifies Tennessee State University’s leadership in food safety research and education,” said Dr. Chandra Reddy, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences. “The College appreciates the leadership of Dr. Sandy Godwin in advancing this area of research.”

Godwin’s team includes Dr. Fur-Chi Chen and Dr. Agnes Kilonzo-Nthenge, also in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, along with Dr. John Ricketts and Dr. Samuel Nahashon from the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. They will be collaborating with Dr. Edgar Chambers IV and Dr. Delores Chambers, faculty members at Kansas State University, and researchers and staff at RTI International who will be directed by Ms. Sheryl Cates.

According to new estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year as a result of foodborne diseases.  Surveillance (FoodNet) data reported by CDC lists Salmonella infection as the most commonly reported foodborne infection, followed by Campylobacter.

Infections from Salmonella and Campylobacter can cause long-term complications, and even death. Although consumers can acquire these bacteria from a variety of sources, most of the illnesses are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry or eggs, or from cross-contamination of other foods by these items.

The $2.44 million project grant is through USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and administered through NIFA. AFRI food safety grants promote and enhance the scientific discipline of food safety, with an overall aim of protecting consumers from microbial, chemical, and physical hazards that may occur during all stages of the food chain, from production to consumption.

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