NIFA-funded research that keeps your Thanksgiving food safe

See how research funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture can contribute to your Thanksgiving plate.

Turkey and ham
Through grants from the Multistate Research Fund, researchers have discovered multiple ways to prevent food safety problems during turkey processing, including feeding birds prebiotics and spraying antimicrobials on poultry products with electrostatic sprayers.

Researchers have received a US patent for nicotinamide riboside, a vitamin B3 analogue that increases muscle size in poultry, improves pigs’ resistance to fatigue and stabilizes the color of pork cuts. A company recently licensed the patent for commercialization. Scientists continue to test the product and refine the protocol for its use.

Mashed potatoes
When potatoes are exposed to light, they produce high levels of solanine, which is toxic to humans. Researchers grow potatoes and establish storage protocols that prevent greening. Scientists are also growing potatoes with higher levels of nutrients like folate, which helps prevent birth defects, and potassium, which helps muscles and nerves function and protects against stroke, kidney stones and osteoporosis.

Multistate Research Project NC-205 established to coordinate multistate, multidisciplinary research and corn insect distribution and control options. Enhanced collaboration has facilitated the sharing of data, laboratory space, tools, and financial resources. The group’s research and work sent a unified message to corn growers around the world about the effectiveness of different corn pest control options. Their work has led to greater acceptance of sustainable management systems for insect pests in maize. In turn, profitable and environmentally friendly corn production keeps prices low for consumers.

Green Bean Casserole
Beans have been grown in the US for millennia and are a popular, nutritious food choice; however, the national average bean yield is low compared to other crops. The group’s research has developed more effective methods for detecting and treating bean diseases and developed new bean varieties with less sugar and more zinc, an important mineral. Researchers are also testing new varieties of beans that have shorter cooking times.

Fruit pies
Spotted wing drosophila was reported on multiple crops in California in 2008 and 2009 and in British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington in 2009. Growers of stone fruits (cherries and peaches) and small fruits (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries) suffered significant economic problems losses. Researchers have discovered ways to prevent food safety problems in berries, including a tool that helps growers detect fruit fly infestations, a rapid test for Listeria and Salmonella, and practices that reduce pathogens in berries.

The collaboration has led to inventive strategies that can help prevent food safety threats before they become dangerous and costly. Researchers have also discovered treatments and protocols that prevent spoilage and disease in apples while they are in storage.

Trays for vegetables
Researchers have discovered many ways to prevent food safety problems in fresh-cut products such as packaged veggie trays, including packaging that releases antimicrobial substances and edible films that reduce microbial growth.

Researchers found that in dips and spreads, high-pressure processing kills bacteria and extends shelf life without heat or additives, leaving texture, flavor and nutrients intact.

Researchers have developed an electron beam irradiation method to treat complex-shaped fresh fruits and vegetables such as broccoli that are easily damaged by traditional sanitation methods that use heat.

Evening rolls
Mycotoxins often develop in grains when they are stored or handled improperly. Research has shown grain processors which steps must be carefully monitored to prevent outbreaks of toxic molds and developed new methods to control them. US scientists have come together to conduct research and provide farmers, grain elevator operators, health care providers and veterinarians with the information they need to detect mycotoxin exposure, assess risks and treat associated this diseases.

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