Chinachoti to chair Higher Education Research Task Force for Thai Professionals
Pavinee Chinachoti, Professor of Food Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has been invited by Thailand’s Ministry of University Affairs to chair the Higher Education Research (HER) Task Force for the Association of Thai Professionals in America and Canada.

The HER Task Force will develop “A Model University” document that will describe various aspects of an autonomous university with a strong graduate research capability to provide greater technology transfer and training in the field of food science in Thailand. The Thai government has selected food science as key to the future development of Thailand.

Thailand’s public universities, under a requirement of the International Monetary Fund, are to become autonomous universities with a mechanism for self-government by the year 2002. Part of the mission of the Task Force is to build stronger graduate research in science and engineering.

Pamela White receives ISU’s outstanding research award
The Iowa State University Foundation has presented its Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research to Pamela White, Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University, Ames.

The award recognizes a faculty member who has a national or international reputation for contributions in research, and who has influenced the research activities of students. White, an Iowa State faculty member since 1975, developed a strong research program which focuses on the use of Iowa value-added grain and oilseed crops. Her program has received regular support from industry, commodity groups, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since 1985, 25 Ph.D. and master’s degree students have conducted research in White’s laboratories. A native of Vancouver, Wash., she received her M.S. in food science from the University of Washington and her Ph.D. in food technology from Iowa State.

Holt holds food safety training sessions for restaurant inspectors at Missouri
Douglas L. Holt, Professor of Food Science at the University of Missouri, Columbia, is conducting a series of train-the-trainer sessions for city and county health inspectors (called sanitarians) from across Missouri to help restaurants train food safety violators. The idea is to help sanitarians conduct smoother inspections and teach them how to train groups of food workers in food safety so that the community will see them as a resource rather than a “bad guy” who finds trouble.

Regulatory requirements for food handling vary across the state. This can be a problem for operators of restaurants located in different cities, but the techniques for food handling remain the same everywhere. A typical sanitarian may inspect 200 restaurants a year, looking for such items as foods kept at the correct hot or cold temperatures, proper food storage, chemicals such as silver polish or disinfectants stored away from food preparation areas, no evidence of vermin, employees hatted and gloved, no dirty dishrags on counter tops, and dishes stacked upside down.

Beuchat presents Frazier lecture at UW-Madison
Larry R. Beuchat, Professor of Food Microbiology at the Center for Food Safety and Quality Enhancement, University of Georgia at Griffin, presented the 8th Annual Frazier Memorial Lecture at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in May 1999. His lecture, “Advances in Food Mycology Methodology,” was given in conjunction with the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Wisconsin Food Research Institute.

The Frazier Memorial Lecture was established to bring to the university a noted food microbiologist and also to honor the late William C. Frazier, a pioneering food/dairy microbiologist at the University of Wisconsin.

In his presentation, Beuchat, an IFT Fellow and a scientific editor of the Journal of Food Protection, described (a) the use of molecular techniques to quantify yeasts and molds to distinguish among species and to determine the ability of these microorganisms to produce toxins; (b) an electronic nose to detect filamentous fungi through volatile compounds they produce; (c) media made selective by added dyes and minerals and useful to detect toxigenic molds; and (d) selective media useful to detect aciduric and osmophilic/xerophilic yeasts.

FAO and U-Mass convene expert consultation on the impact of Listeria in fish products
In May 1999, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations convened an Expert Consultation on the Trade Impact of Listeria in Fish Products as the first formal interaction with the University of Massachusetts since the university’s Department of Food Science was named an FAO Center of Excellence this year. The consultation elected Professor Herbert O. Hultin of Massachusetts’ Department of Food Science as Chair.

There has been a dramatic increase in world trade of fish and fish products over the last ten years, especially from developing countries. Developing countries provide about 50% of all fish and fish products currently entering the global market. Listeria monocytogenes can be isolated from fish products, but there are wide differences in where and how this can be done. A high occurrence of Listeria in ready-to-eat and lightly processed products has raised concerns about the survival and growth potential of this pathogen.

Twenty-seven consultants took part in the discussion. Although participating as independent scientists, they represented 16 different countries. The expert consultancy examined current scientific knowledge about L. monocytogenes in fish and fish products identified gaps in knowledge relating to the pathogen, its control, and its geographical distribution. Consumer education was considered to be extremely important, as was labeling all products with a “use by” date. The success of this consultancy ensures a continuing relationship, both nationally and internationally, between the University of Massachusetts’ Department of Food Science, FAO, and the United Nations.

Washington State food safety program recognized as great success
In the Hispanic culture, grandmothers (abuelas) occupy positions of great respect and authority, and they are closely associated with food traditions, such as soft cheese made from raw milk. Thus it was that Washington State University (WSU), Pullman, Wash., incorporated abuelas into its educational program to combat outbreaks of Salmonella food poisonings.

The program is credited with essentially ending the 1997 outbreaks happening in Yakima Valley, Wash., and traced to the use of raw milk to make queso fresco cheese. Under this emergency, Val Hillers, WSU extension food specialist, and Theo Thomas, WSU Yakima County extension educator, developed an educational program to teach Hispanics how to make queso fresco from pasteurized milk, thus eliminating the risk of Salmonella poisoning. A second goal was to help end the sale of queso fresco made from raw milk in small-scale, unlicensed, cheese operations.

Hillers and Thomas recruited abuelas in Yakima Valley to help develop a recipe for queso fresco made from pasteurized milk and to teach others how to use it. The new recipe was modified in the WSU food science and human nutrition department to inhibit undesirable microbial growth, increase shelf life, and make preparation easier, then was translated into Spanish and distributed through cheese workshops. A followup survey six months later revealed that more than 250 people had attended workshops conducted by the WSU-trained abuelas and that almost half of those had switched to making queso fresco with pasturized milk instead of raw milk.

The Yakima Valley Abuela Project has been expanded to more counties across Washington State and now has about 45 abuela trainers. WSU’s Food Science and Human Nutrition Department also is helping to develop a small-scale process for making commercial quantities of queso fresco from pasteurized milk, and Thomas is working to help develop a facility.

Recently, the Abuela Project team was honored with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Honor Award for Group Achievement in Public Service.

Diez-Gonzalez joins food science and nutrition faculty at Minnesota
Francisco Diez-Gonzalez has joined the faculty of the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, as an Assistant Professor of Food Safety Microbiology. His research program is focused on studying foodborne pathogens and developing methods to reduce food contamination.

Diez-Gonzalez earned a B.S. in food technology from the Monterrey Institute of Technology (ITESM), Mexico, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in food science from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. His doctoral dissertation focused on the charactization of clostridial fermentation of lactate.

He has worked at Griffith Laboratories in research and product development. Prior to joining the University of Minnesota, he was a Postdoctoral Associate in the Section of Microbiology at Cornell, where he investigated the ability of Escherichia coli O157:H7 to grow under high concentrations of volatile fatty acids and to survive extremely low pH. He also conducted research to study the role of cattle diet on the dissemination of acid-resistant E. coli.