Safer Food Cats UA summer program had high school students studying food safety

Sampling meat for bacteria is probably not how a typical teenager would like to spend part of their summer.

But for 13 Arizona high school students in the SaferFoodCats summer program, this was exactly what they had in mind.

The University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences hosted high school students from across Arizona this month for a 12-day summer camp where they were introduced to career pathways in food safety and worked in a food safety lab. This was the inaugural year for the SaferFoodCats program.


FSC Speaker Seminar - Dr. Gerardo Lopez


Cyclospora cayetanensis has been implicated in cyclosporiasis illness outbreaks in the United States associated with produce imported from Mexico since the mid ’90s. Recently domestically and imported fresh produce samples have tested positive for C. cayetanensis. Collaborative efforts with stakeholders are critical to help reduce Cyclospora fresh produce outbreaks.

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FSC Speaker Seminar - Dr. John Engeljohn

Dr. Engeljohn will share information about his distinguished career with the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), US Department of Agriculture (USDA) from which he retired in 2017. He served in both supervisory and non-supervisory positions. During this time period, he became the USDA spokesperson on food irradiation, an FAO/WHO advisor on shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, and primary author of several precedent-setting policies addressing the major pathogens of public health concern in meat, poultry, and egg products.

UA Offers New Food Safety Undergraduate Degree

An interdisciplinary program offered through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will prepare students to handle the evolving safety challenges facing the food industry.

A breach in food safety can be catastrophic to individuals and businesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in six Americans gets sick from contaminated foods or beverages and 3,000 die each year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that foodborne illnesses cost $15.6 billion annually.

Education in the food industry is becoming increasingly important as companies realize they can't just assign food safety duties to someone already on staff who may not have a background sufficient for the job. The stakes are too high.

How safe is your salad? Follow produce from Yuma, Arizona, to your grocery store

Wherever you live in North America, if you are eating a salad at home or in a restaurant from January through March, chances are the lettuce came from the Yuma area.

Yuma is the nation's largest supplier of winter greens — lettuce, cabbage, spinach, kale, spring mix and more.

The speed of the process often astonishes those outside the industry. In some cases, leafy greens picked one day could end up on your plate the next. They are harvested, packaged and shipped from the field directly to the store.

Before the fork gets to your mouth, lots of effort is put forth to assure the produce is safe. After E. coli outbreaks jolted the nation and industry a decade ago, the nation's food-safety net tightened up.

The process starts in the field before the seed is planted, with soil samples, water tests and field inspections.  And it continues through the harvest with rigid inspections, equipment audits and checklists. After the greens are loaded onto trucks, the inspections don't end.

Looking for Food-Borne Pathogens in Unusual Places

YUMA - Have you ever thought about flies and pathogens? Paula Rivadeneira has. “A little fly lands on your Coke and you’re like, ‘Oh, shoo away, fly!’ You have no idea what it left behind. No idea.”

Rivadeneira has an unusual job. Her official title is “extension specialist in food safety and wildlife” at the Yuma Agricultural Center at the University of Arizona. She calls herself “Paula the Poop Doctor.” In food safety, feces are a common field contaminant.

“Pathogens are often associated with poop -- and animal poop in particular!”

Rivadeneira and her research technician, Martha Ruedas, will set out fly traps and buckets of water to collect dust samples near Yuma fields. They want to know if individual instances of pathogens in the fields are the result of flies, dust blowing contaminants, or just wild or domestic animals.