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Sniffing out food borne pathogens

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Could dogs be the new weapon against food borne illness outbreaks?

Researchers with the school’s Western Institute for Food Safety and Security (WIFSS) recently discovered that specially-trained dogs can find small amounts of fecal matter on raw agricultural commodities such as Roma tomatoes, cilantro, romaine lettuce and baby spinach. Their study, published in the Journal of Food Protection, suggests that canines can also assist the produce industry and food safety regulators better identify trace amounts of fecal contamination during critical events such as produce outbreak investigations, or survey a fallow field to detect problematic sections before planting occurs. 

This research is only one example of activities undertaken by WIFSS to protect people from foodborne outbreaks in the U.S. As a critical partner in ensuring the nation’s food safety, WIFSS received a $10.5 M grant renewal from the FDA for the next five years. Funds from this grant support the core research and administrative functions of the Western Center for Food Safety at WIFSS—one of four FDA Centers of Excellence in the U.S. Core functions involve an annual allocation for conducting critical food safety research, outreach, and training for FDA regulated foods, which at this time is heavily focused on assisting the FDA with the national implementation of the proposed Produce Safety Rule and part of the Food Safety Modernization Act.