Use of Natural Antimicrobials to Mitigate Biological Threat Agents in High Risk Foods

Date:  September 7, 2011

The Need Addressed By The Project:

 Food processors are in need of economical and effective intervention strategies to address the threat of heat resistant microbial pathogens that could withstand current heating regimes and microbial contamination in products consumed with no additional heat treatment such as RTE meat, cheeses and bagged vegetables. Of particular interest are foods that originate from multiple animals or farms (e.g., bulk milk, pooled eggs, and ground beef) and distributed across wide geographic areas. These foods are high-risk for potential attack due to the ease of distribution of the infectious agent. The primary aim of this project is to identify effective GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) antimicrobials that can be utilized as either a direct additive in the product formulation, as an edible bio-film/coating, or as a component of the packaging process to control the growth and survival of bio-threat agents in foods.
Project Overview:     
The objective of the project is to develop innovative intervention strategies (new GRAS compounds) that will mitigate the efficacy of heat resistant biological threat agent contamination (bacteria) of high risk food products and/or protect foods (through films or packaging) that could be contaminated by pathogens after cooking. The goal is to increase the safety of food supply.
Project Progress or Significant Milestone Achievement: 
·         Project team has screened over 50 GRAS compounds either individually or in combination.
·         Project team has adapted the whole-cell based bio-sensing systems for the detection of AHL quorum sensing molecules in food matrices, such as ground beef and skim milk. The method can be employed as a means of identifying contaminated food by measuring quorum sensing molecules in it.
·         Incorporation of GRAS compounds into packaging material.
·         Creation of Food Systems Innovation Center (FSIC) at the University of Kentucky. The project PI has assembled a solid team of researchers, industry leaders, governmental agencies, and potential commercialization partners. New equipment has been purchased and new facilities have been set up to facilitate all levels of research efforts. The FSIC facility will be recognized by collaborators as first class and it should present opportunities for additional research, collaboration, and commercialization of project deliverables.  
Project Success Story: Collaborations with Industry Partners for specific solutions to Food Safety Problems   
Since its commercial introduction of CPET containers to the world in 1983, Mullinix Packages continues to refine its material formulation to provide ever improving cold-temperature impact resistant trays.
·         Project team is working to incorporate active antimicrobial compounds into this packaging system.
Contact Comfort Care™
Burlington, KY 41005
There are times when eating can become a daily challenge rather than a pleasure. Comfort Care is a food product developed for people who may have difficulty eating as a result of chemotherapy, Alzheimer's, or simply a bad cold or the flu. Formulated by Dietician and Doctors from the St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Edgewood, Kentucky, Comfort Care is made from fresh whole foods to provide nutrient dense food options for people who can only eat food in small portions.
·         Project team is investigating natural antimicrobial compounds that can be incorporated into foods that Contact Comfort Care distributes.
 Project Status:
At the current time, the project is proceeding to identify the best application of the antimicrobial compounds identified. These products will then be developed with the intention of enlisting industry partners, such as those above, to advance these products into the food processing and packaging industries or into specific applications.
Commercialization Plan:
A commercialization plan is starting to materialize, driven by partner involvement in research phases. It appears there is a strong opportunity to create a services and consulting business leveraging project research deliverables, food safety testing capabilities, and the new tasting lab. There has been considerable interest from companies in the food processing, packaging, and manufacturing sectors. The current project team is working with those companies to develop solutions for specific applications related to food safety. 

The Challenge

The task of assuring the security of our homeland involves protecting the citizens of the United States, the nation's critical infrastructure and key assets. This is necessary to sustain the nation's vitality against terrorism and other threats. This protection must originate at the community level. It requires discovering, developing and deploying new technology that will support first responders and key decision makers in local communities.

The Mission

NIHS' mission is to discover, develop and deploy solutions that protect and preserve the critical infrastructure of the nation's communities.

The Institute

NIHS aligns projects and research objectives with the needs and requirements of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The strategy is to manage a distributed research enterprise that effectively transitions research and development into solutions. NIHS works with DHS to determine technology needs at the community level. Then, teams are quickly assembled from multiple universities to develop solutions to the needs.

The Strategy

Through management of the Kentucky Critical Infrastructure Protections Program (KCI), the National Institute for Hometown Security (NIHS) provides an ongoing, integrated program dedicated to developing new technologies and devices. NIHS works through qualified academic institutions to accomplish the technological objectives.