Wednesday, May 26

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Grants $1 Million to study E-Coli

Project targets Louisiana, Texas small-scale beef operations

Escherichia coli O157:H7, a deadly bacteria, has gathered attention as a major public health concern due to the large outbreaks and associated recalls in recent years. Cattle are often implicated as a source of this foodborne pathogen.

Scientists at the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center say on-farm production practices may affect the pathogen load of cattle entering slaughter facilities, however, information is limited on the impact of production practices of small-scale cow/calf operations, where calves are raised primarily on pasture until shipped to feeder cattle finishing sites or to the abattoir.

“Understanding the factors that affect prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 in these cow/calf operations can be a critical path in the farm-to-fork continuum, and targeted educational and research efforts are useful risk management strategies,” said Divya Jaroni, Ph.D., food microbiologist, Southern University Ag Center.

Jaroni recently received a $1,077,639 grant from the USDA through its National Institute of Food and Agriculture - Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program to study the ”Reduction of Escherichia coli O157:H7 on Small-Scale Cow/Calf Operations using Best Management Practices”

She has been involved in food safety research for the past several years with emphasis on strategies to control foodborne pathogens. She has assembled a team of experts who will help look at the problem from different perspectives. The project will be carried out in collaboration with Louisiana State University and Texas Tech University.

The study will determine the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 on small cow/calf farms located in Louisiana and Texas. The project will also address pre-harvest food safety issues associated with the small-scale cow/calf operations.

“Through this study, we can enable cattle farms to compete against larger operations by helping them implement effective on-farm management strategies and possibly reduce E. coli within the farm environment and on the cattle before shipping to  stock barns,” said co-project investigator Renita Marshall DVM, assistant professor and livestock programs director, Southern University Ag Center.

The researchers will study the prevalence  of  E. coli under different herd, farm and environment conditions across several  farms. Guidelines for on-farm Best Management Practices  will be developed and the effectiveness of these practices in reducing E. coli O157:H7 on small-scale cow/calf operations will be validated. All producers will be trained on pre-harvest food safety and best practices, and researchers will follow the changes in  E. coli populations on their farms after implementing the practices.

This project will contribute to the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center’s goal of strengthening the productivity, profitability and competitiveness of Louisiana’s agriculture.

Other  project investigators are Marlene Janes, associate professor, food microbiology, LSU; Mindy Brashears, associate professor and director for the International Center for Food Industry Excellence, Texas Tech; Todd Brashears, assistant professor, agricultural education and communications, Texas Tech; Mark Miller, professor, meat science and muscle biology, Texas Tech; and Guy Loneragan, associate professor, animal science, West Texas A&M University.

For further information, contact Jaroni at the Southern University Ag Center, (225) 771-2262 ext. 255. or

Monday, May 3

Ecosystem faces critical stress following oil spill

The sight of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico has put officials on high alert and many people on edge. The possible economic impact of the spill is just part of the fear.
Kamran Abdollahi, a longtime professor at Southern University said the state's ecosystem could be dealt quite a blow. (Click here to see interview)
"The ecosystem has been experiencing multiple stressors," said Abdollahi. "It's been under stress from climatic conditions and also by the fact that we are losing our coastal wetlands."
Abdollahi said this spill could be even more devastating to the ecosystem than a hurricane, depending on how much oil gets into coastal waters.
"If we look at the food chain, the phytoplanktons would be impacted directly from the toxicity from the oil," said Abdollahi.
As rescuers save animals like a seabird recently found covered in oil, Abdollahi is looking at the bigger picture. He is concerned about the organisms on the lower end of the food chain, like algae. He said the oil spill could wipe out the food birds depend on.
"We are sensing an urgent need for us not only to deal with this immediate scenario, but also go back and look at our plans. What we do or do not have in place that we need to incorporate," said Abdollahi.
He, along with a group of scientists from Southern University's Agricultural Research and Extension Center, plan to go to New Orleans next week, where they will monitor the residual impacts of the oil spill.
By Keitha Nelson, WAFB Reporter

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