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Listeria and Traceability: Auburn Speaks to the Importance of Tracking Food

lab testingOn Friday, April 24, 2015, Inventure Foods, Inc. in Jefferson, Georgia announced a recall of many food items due to listeria, including some found regularly in our freezers such as fresh frozen vegetables and Jamba home smoothie kits. http://www.inventurefoods.com/information/frozenrecall  This announcement adds to the growing list of foods found to contain listeria recently, including Blue Bell Ice Cream and Sabra Classic Hummus.

Listeria is a form of bacteria that causes listeriosis, an infection that can potentially harm newborns, pregnant woman, the elderly, and others whose immune systems are already compromised. Common symptoms include fever, body aches, and gastrointestinal distress. These conditions can be serious for those already in poor health and can lead to life-threatening conditions for the fetuses of pregnant women.

Recent listeria recalls point to the importance of tracking food from its origins to the table. In the 2014 edition of Auburn Speaks, entitled Food Systems, Brian Gibson, Joe Hanna, and Mark Clark overview ways that technology can track foods through supply chain management principles and technological applications. The authors argue that prompt traceability (which they define as the “ability to follow a food product through the processes of production, processing, and distribution”) helps to ensure food safety while allowing farmers, wholesalers, and retailers to track their stocks and improve supply and efficiency.

To limit the impact of contamination like that of listeria, Gibson, Hanna, and Clark recommend implementation of better data gathering techniques that will help authorities quickly identify cases of food similar to those they find to be contaminated. They suggest that two current methods, barcoding and RFID chips, may offer the most immediate solution. Both of these technologies involve placing a marker of some sort on each case of product. This marker can then be scanned to reveal information about the product’s history and handling, including who produced the product, the lot number from which it came, and the packing date.

More consistent and precise data will help authorities trace potentially damaged stock back to its original source. In addition, this information allows authorities to identify all of the produce linked to a source of contamination and eliminate it from supermarket shelves. The authors stress that information is one major method for minimizing the potential dangers of food-borne pathogens like listeria.

To learn more, and to get the stories behind the headlines, check Auburn Speaks: On Food Systems.

To purchase issues from the award-winning Auburn Speaks visit the Auburn Speaks Store.

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Auburn RFID Technology could revolutionize Food Safety

Mother and daughter in produce section

Imagine pointing your smart phone at a head of lettuce in the grocery store and having the phone tell you what farm the lettuce came from and that the produce arrived in the grocery store three days ago. What if your phone could even tell you what temperatures the lettuce was exposed to in transit?

Would you pay extra for that lettuce? You bet I would.

This scenario might sound like science fiction, but the technology already exists. It’s called Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), the technology already used by some retailers for inventory control.

To learn more, visit: http://www.auburnspeaks.org/2014/04/10/tracing-food-history/

What is Auburn Speaks?

Auburn Students
As a land-grant university, Auburn serves the state and its people as a discoverer of new knowledge and ideas and as a repository of science, literature, history, art, and culture. Every day, Auburn experts add to that store of knowledge–developing new processes, materials, and technologies along the way. They then take this expertise and focus it on real-world challenges and problems. In putting good ideas to work, Auburn researchers improve quality of life, strengthen the economy, and help keep us safe and secure.

Because this aspect of Auburn University is little known and often not well understood, Auburn Speaks seeks to translate and make accessible the sometimes dense and mysterious language of research, and to capture Auburn’s role in addressing the increasingly complex issues facing our state, nation and world. Produced jointly by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development and the Office of University Writing, Auburn Speaks is an annual book series focusing on a specific research topic of interest to a public audience.

Released in April of 2012, the inaugural issue, Auburn Speaks 2012: The Gulf Oil Spill, was devoted to chronicling Auburn University’s research related to the catastrophic oil spill in the Northern Gulf of Mexico.

Released in the spring of 2013, the second issue, Auburn Speaks: On Water, seeks to provide readers with insight into the breadth and depth of water-related research and creative scholarship at Auburn.

Released in the Spring of 2014, the third issue, Auburn Speaks: on Food Systems will focus on food, food-related topics, and hunger.

The fourth issue Auburn Speaks: On Cyber is scheduled for release in the Spring of 2015 and will focus on cyber and the rise of the digital domain across a wide spectrum of disciplines.

To learn more about Auburn Speaks, see sample pages, and find out where to order your copy, visit: www.auburn.edu/auburnspeaks.

Auburn Research Hubs

Auburn_Hubs

Our vision for the future of Auburn Research cuts across department boundaries.  We have examined the most pressing challenges both within the borders of Alabama and far beyond, from the environmental risks in the Northern Gulf of Mexico to security in our cyber world.  We have analyzed Auburn’s existing strengths–great minds turning ideas into meaningful results in fields like biomedical imaging and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.

Based on this insight, we have focused strategically on clear research objectives in six interdisciplinary hubs.  Auburn Research is bringing together seemingly disparate interests to harness our intellectual power and passion toward vital common goals like curing cancer, sustainably meeting our energy needs and defining the future of transportation.  This is how Auburn Research will move us from the world we have now to the world we want tomorrow.

Our hubs:

  • Energy and the Environment
  • Health Sciences (including Food Systems)
  • Cyber
  • Transportation
  • Gulf of Mexico Research and Restoration
  • STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education)

To learn more, visit: www.auburn.edu/research