vegetables marketBOWLING GREEN, Ky. (4/26/14) – A Western Kentucky University researcher will use a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop a way to enhance the safety of locally grown fresh produce.

Dr. John Khouryieh, assistant professor of food processing and technology in the Architectural and Manufacturing Sciences Department, will use the $209,928 grant to fund the two-year study to develop strategies to reduce foodborne outbreaks due to fresh produce microbial contamination. He will be working with Drs. Amanda McKeith, Martin Stone and Todd Willian in Agriculture; Dr. Cangliang Shen in Biology and Dr. Jerry Daday in Sociology.

“Small farmers are having difficulty implementing and documenting Good Agricultural Practices on their farms due to the lack of resources,” Khouryieh said. “While utilizing the USDA grant fund, we will been working to increase Kentucky growers’ knowledge and participation in safe production and handling of fresh fruits and vegetables to reduce fresh produce microbial contamination.”

Researchers will determine current food safety practices through social surveys administered at fresh produce farms and to farmers’ market vendors, develop effective postharvest sanitizing procedures for fresh produce processing at farmers’ markets, develop food safety educational materials for small farmers for training and distribution at farmers’ markets and train small farmers and farmers’ market vendors through workshops.

“My collaborators and I are working to provide education, outreach and training for growers in regards to the safety of fresh produce to enhance marketability of locally grown produce in Kentucky,” Khouryieh said.

The WKU grant is one of 35 grants totaling nearly $24 million announced today by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Food Safety program to improve food safety by helping control microbial and chemical contamination in various foods.

AFRI is NIFA’s flagship competitive grants program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. The five AFRI challenge areas – food safety, global food security, childhood obesity prevention, sustainable bioenergy and climate adaptation – advance fundamental sciences and deliver science-based knowledge to people, allowing them to make informed practical decisions.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and Extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.

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