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HBCU researchers probe farmers' market safety

  • UMES partners with Va. State and Del. State in three-year USDA-funded project

    Friday, June 26, 2020

    Ensuring produce sold at Delmarva farmers' markets is safe and preparing local farmers to comply with a federal Food Safety Modernization Act in 2021 are twin objectives of a nearly half-million dollar U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. 

    Dr. Salina Parveen, a University of Maryland Eastern Shore professor of food science and technology, is part of a team of researchers from historically black institutions that will use a “Capacity Building” grant to familiarize farmers with safe-practice expectations in the new federal law. 

    The team will be led by Dr. Chyer Kim, a food scientist at Virginia State University in Petersburg.  Dr. Theresa Nartea, a marketing Extension agent with the Virginia Cooperative Extension and scientists at Delaware State University will also participate in the three-year project. 

    The number of farmers' markets on Delmarva - and across the country - has steadily increased over the past 20 years as small farmers increasingly rely on Direct-to-Consumer sales strategies such as farmers' markets, roadside stands and Community Supported Agriculture, Parveen said. 

    Karen Stillerman, a senior analyst with the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, reported in 2017 that over 167,000 farms sold $8.7 billion worth of food to the public. 

    The USDA-funded research project, Parveen said, aims to “assess the bacterial communities, level of foodborne pathogens and prevalence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria on at-risk food products purchased at farmers markets on Delmarva, and to investigate the pathogen transmissions among neighboring states. 

    Researchers will also “develop research-based training modules on safe food production and handling,” she said.

    The findings from the study titled, “Preparing for the Future: Building Capacity for Food Safety Compliance at Farmers Markets,” will be used to conduct research and workshops for stakeholders through each of the institutions' researchers.


     

    Gail Stephens, agricultural communications and media associate, School of Agricultural & Natural Sciences, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, 410-621-3850, gcstephens@umes.edu .