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Our lives are frequently and significantly affected by food. Because we must eat to survive, many human cultures have developed with food at their very core. The goal of this podcast is to explore the complexity and nuance of food systems, celebrate the progress we have made, and debate the best ways for humans to proceed forward into the future. 

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Jun 7, 2021

In celebration of World Food Safety Day, this week we are joined by researchers from the Food Science Institute at Kansas State University: Sara Gragg, associate professor; Randall Phebus, professor; Carla Luisa Schwan, postdoctoral fellow; and Jessie Vipham, assistant professor.


World Food Safety Day aims to draw attention to foodborne risks and inspire action to prevent, detect and manage risks. This important work contributes to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development. The World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations jointly facilitate the observance of World Food Safety Day, in collaboration with member states and other relevant organizations. This international day is an opportunity to strengthen efforts to ensure that the food we eat is safe, mainstream food safety in the public agenda and reduce the burden of foodborne diseases globally.





Something to chew on is a podcast devoted to the exploration and discussion of Global Food Systems produced by the Office of Research Development at Kansas State University. I'm Maureen Olewnik. Coordinator of Global Food Systems.

World Food Safety Day is June 7, 2021. This is a day to reflect on the importance of safe and sustainable food, heed the work being done at K-State, and around the world on advancing an understanding of cause and control of food safety issues, and look toward better nutrition through safe food worldwide. Today we are excited to share with you a panel of food safety experts that work with interdisciplinary teams in the  Food Science Institute  here at K-State. Food safety is a major area of research in the  Food Science Institute , including animal and plant-based foods. Through outreach to colleagues here at K-State, nationally and internationally, the  Food Science Institute 's research team has tackled some of the most challenging food safety problems. From testing in our Biosecurity Research Institute, biocontainment bsl3 facilities, to helping teach consumers in developing regions of the world the basics of handling and preparing safe food. We welcome back co-host Dr. Jim Stack Professor of Plant Pathology, and welcome to our panel of experts Dr. Sara Gragg, Dr. Randall Phebus, Dr. Carla Luisa Schwan, and  Dr. Jessie Vipham. 


World Food Safety Day is a great time to focus on the work being done at K-State in the area of food safety through the  Food Science Institute. We're going to take a bit of a different tact on this podcast by welcoming a panel of scientists that have made food safety their professional passion. They will share with us a vision of food safety research carried out at K-State, and explain how K-State is participating in the recognition of this notable day. I'd like to welcome back to the podcast doctors: Jessie Vipham, Dr. Randall Phebus, and Dr. Sara Gragg and first time welcome to Dr. Carla Schwan. Give us a little background on what the 2021 World Food Safety Day is, and where K-State fits into that? 


Yeah, this is a really exciting endeavor that is led out of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and it was actually envisioned and put into play back in 2018, so we haven't, I don't think, as a university, here at K-State, participated in the past. But we saw this, the date is June the 7th, it's always every year, June the 7th, and the FAO has asked people to participate, and they've given some guidelines on things that we could do. And to highlight some of the food safety work that we're doing here at K-State, which is pretty extensive. The aim of World Food Safety Day, according to the FAO is to draw attention and inspire action to help prevent, detect, and manage foodborne risk. As we know, it's not just the health aspect of foodborne risk, but it's also how food safety contributes to food security, and human health, and economic prosperity, and success in agriculture, and market access, and tourism, and sustainable agriculture. So, there's a lot of things that are connected to food safety, and you know honestly, we address them all here at K-State in one way or the other. It's really interesting every year they come up with kind of a theme for this. For the event in this particular year, for 2021, the theme is safe food today for a healthy tomorrow. And what they're trying to do is kind of take the one health approach, holistic approach, to how food safety interacts with our daily lives. whether we're producers, or processors, or consumers, or someone transporting, or whatever we all have a role to play. And it's all systemic and integrated, you know, one weekly in the chain, start to finish, can cause a lot of people to get sick. And so, I think it's really exciting that we can do some things here, and Carla has actually kind of taken on some of the leadership as far as putting some of our activities together for that day that she'll tell you about here in just a minute. But you know, the FAO really stresses that governments, processors, consumers, and everyone in the chain has to be coordinated and focused on food safety to prevent all of these illnesses. So, just think about in a world today where we have over 600 million cases of foodborne illness annually, and as many as 420,000 deaths, and about a third of those are actually children under five years old. So, this is truly important and work that you know we do a lot of things here for the United States but our work finds its way out globally. Thanks to people like Dr. Vipham and Dr. Schwan that they're going to tell you about some of their international work 


In the food security arena, we often throw around the figure that we lose 35 to 40 percent of the food post harvest. Free consumption are there analogous figures of loss due specifically to food safety concerns. 


Well, you know, I don't know if there's any figures about food waste or food loss, but if you look at what foodborne illness does to things, other than just, you know, people getting sick and having diarrheal diseases and that sort of thing. You're looking at lost productivity. You look at chronic illnesses across the world. People may be, you know, having syndromes and sequelae well past you know the initial infection, so that the cost is just staggering in terms of economic loss, adjusted years of productivity losses, and that sort of thing. So, you know a lot of what we don't think about from a food safety standpoint is, you know, what does it do to young children with diarrheal diseases and setting them back for sometimes their entire life. To get past the foodborne illness or waterborne illness falls into that category too. 


You know, when we think about losses in the industry, though if there is a food safety concern, the industry does have to respond in different ways. Some of which, might be diverting a raw meat product to a cook operation, for example. And in doing so, that can result in, not lost product per se, but lost income, because cook product operations usually result in a lot less income. And so, there are different aspects in the food industry that can result in different losses. Sometimes the product is destroyed as a result of a food safety concern. And so, that could be quote, unquote, food waste or food loss issue that is related to food safety as well. 


Yeah, I think the World Trade Organization, oh 2017 2019, I can't even remember what the date is they had a figure that they put out that was something like 9.6 billion dollars in loss that the world experiences due to unsafe food on an annual basis. 


Yeah, and then I think for especially, specifically for low and middle-income countries, I think the figure is like 110 billion on medical expenses and productivity productivity losses specifically for those countries. But, I'm sure that you know United States and developed countries also experienced that similar levels of losses. 


Yeah so, it's significant, but the problem really becomes how do you begin to measure some of the loss. Right, so two, I think, some of the points that Randy and Sarah have made you have loss on a very individual perspective, but you also have loss on an industry level. And so, how do you really get figures around that and and ultimately when you look into the environment around economics, as it pertains to food safety, that's a really new and budding area of research, surprisingly. So, I think at this point in time we really don't have a lot of awareness for what the exact costs of food safety are, but I think based upon what we all know, we can really make the assumption that it's fairly large. 


Yeah, thank you very much.


I'd add to that, you know, when we talk about food safety a lot of us always think about pathogens, viruses, bacteria, some fungi, and parasites. But, you know, we also have a lot of toxins and chemicals and allergens that are very important, and just as deadly in some cases, and particularly in some of the developing countries where we, you know, we have grain. You can't just you know throw the grain away but with fungal aflatoxin and mycotoxins that are produced. You know, some of what happens to consumption and chronic consumption of such contaminants, you know, it could be cancers and shortened life and you never really know that, you know, 20-30 years in advance.


Great, thank you so much, Carla. I think could you give us a bit of an idea of what K-State is planning to do for Food Safety Day and how the  Food Science Institute  is going to be approaching that big day. 


Yes, as Dr. Phebus mentioned earlier, we've met a few weeks ago, and I think our food safety team came up with a really great idea of creating a specific video that we feature different students of our department here. And they're all from different countries of the world. For example, we have Costa Rica, we have Indonesia, Cambodia, Brazil, United States, India, Africa, all over the world pretty much. And so, we have those students, we brought them in, and we wanted to just ask simple questions to understand what is their food safety perception. Some of them are food safety students, but some of them are not. And so, it was interesting to see how different people from different countries and cultures perceive food safety in one day, or another. So, we are working on that project, and we're going to have this video ready to release on June 7th as part of the Food Science Institute Initiative for the World Food Safety Day. So, stay tuned for that. Additionally to that, we are featuring some of our students here to explain their projects, and what they are doing in food safety, how they're improving food safety, how their projects impact public health, and the significance in events and science in this area. And so, those videos are going to be released all month of June as part of this initiative, but we're going to be individual videos of our students, and then on June 7th we're going to have our group video of everyone talking about the World Food Safety event, and perceptions. And all of that. So stay tuned for that.


Great! Can one of you speak a bit to the global perspective of the food safety work that's been done? 


You've mentioned, a few of you mentioned, several countries that you've worked in. And I know Carla, you and Jesse, you two in particular, have done work worldwide. How does the work at K-State impact these places around the world, and what do you learn in those places that you can bring back to K-State? 


Yeah, I think so, I think I'll go ahead and take that question. When it comes to food safety, I think that one of the exciting things about food safety, and probably one of  the messages that gets lost in terms of food safety education, is really the breadth of opportunities that food safety provides for students, for education. Right, you can be someone who's very interested in industry, and find a place for yourself in food safety. You can be somebody who's very interested in economics, right, or in travel and and find spaces within food safety for yourself. And so, I think that when you look at food safety it really has a very wide swath of opportunities for itself, and when we first, I guess, started our work in international spaces. Carl and I work mainly in Africa and southeast Asia, that's West Africa East Africa, sorry, and southeast Asia. I think we really began to recognize that food safety can take on a very different perspective depending upon what part of the world you're in. So, my educational background was really focused on you know us food safety focused on industry level intervention work. Right, how do we improve really high quality systems, versus, you know, we get to Africa, we get to southeast Asia and and you're really starting at very rudimentary spaces, and I don't mean to communicate that you know that those environments don't have their own successes or their own opportunities but you're just working in a very very different environment, a very different mindset for food safety, and typically very different cultures. And so, a lot of our work for food safety we had to kind of I think tear down our education and our thoughts on food safety to really begin to look at food safety in different ways. And so, as a part of that you know we've done a lot of work looking specifically at fresh food markets those are huge across the world. So typically, when we think about the United States we have these really beautiful streamlined chains of food production. Right, I have someone who produces livestock or vegetables or fruit that then goes to some form of a distribution group or processing group that then sends that through to a grocery store and that's how we access our food. And then, you get into Africa or Asia and it's like a hair of how things get produced and how things end up you know actually sold to people. And, most the time that hair ball ends up finishing at what they call fresh food markets. And so, we've spent a lot of time working on fresh food markets focusing on what are some of the main points of contamination within those markets. How do we untangle those points of contamination, and then focus on interventions that are very adoptable. And so, that's I think, back to that you know how we untrain our food safety minds. You can't go into that space and and just go, okay well, just yeah, you know, you just gotta do this right you just have to use lactic acid or you just use ultraviolet light. And you're good to go, right. You have to really think about what is going to be the best intervention for this space that is adoptable in an environment where people are living on very low incomes they have very low decision-making power the government has a very strong ability to change their mind on any given day. And so, regulations aren't very clear policies aren't very clear how do you work within some of those constraints. And so, that's a lot of I think what our food safety work has been, is to look at what are very applicable food safety interventions to solve the food safety issues that we have identified for specific environments within Africa and southeast Asia. 


One of the things that I have I've really enjoyed my time working with Jesse and and Carla in their international work, but one of the things that I perceive is that people citizens, of wherever they are, they really have a desire to know proper methods, proper storage, proper disinfection. And that sort of thing and the outreach efforts that I've seen  Carla and Jesse do seem to have really good acceptance and effect. And so, I think that's kind of where K-State gets thrown across the oceans is with our outreach and educational efforts in addition to the science. 


I would say we do more outreach and sort of extension style work than even science. You know, I guess in one sense I think that would be, you know, we're more extensionists, yeah than scientists.


We have developed so much material even for kids. And then, if you remember Bangladesh, but just small things that you can do to prevent foodborne illness that we just sharing that information. It seems so obvious to us, but sometimes you go to those places and just share that piece of information it makes all the difference. And so, I remember in Cambodia when we were doing my project in 2018, the vendors at first they were a little bit worried why we were trying to sample their stalls, and why we're there. Then, our students, our converting students, participate in this study, they explained everything and once the vendors knew what we were doing, they would actually come to us and say please come to my cell and temple here, because you you need to help us save our children, because they're dying from E Coli. And that was to me was so impactful, because I didn't even know they were aware of all of that, and they want us to help, and they want to participate they were so friendly and welcoming in those environments. And I don't know it's such a great feeling of helping someone in this food safety area that we can impact. Even though as Jesse mentioned, sometimes  the infrastructure is not as comparable to the us, but still you can impact make great impacts, and and change their environments and lives by just sharing information. 


I think one of the major challenges with food safety around the world is that when you look at the population of the world, the largest population exists within countries that have compounding public health issues. And so, you're not just dealing with whether or not someone's going to come into contact with raw chicken. Right, you're dealing with someone who is malnourished, who might come into contact with raw chicken, who also might come into contact with a mosquito carrying malaria, which who also might come into contact with water that is contaminated, right. So, you have all of these compounding public health challenges that really create an environment that's hard to work in, but I think very rewarding and it kind of takes food safety from this space, and I don't want to diminish the work of us food safety, because it's incredibly important, but it does take it from this you know hey we're improving these really great systems to wow, you know, if we could unlock one of these components, and find a solution something really powerful could happen. And so, that's kind of a driving force, for I think, a lot of our work, in particularly, Africa and southeast Asia. I think that's a lot of why I keep going back. True. 


Well, Jesse, I think they excuse me. I think you're also forgetting to talk about your work to help with capacity building for governments, like our project in Paraguay. Yeah, you know maybe you should comment also on that. And how working with the governments improve their food safety testing is also important. 


Well, I also don't want to take up too much of the time, but I think that that is a good point and kind of speaks to you. We just talked a lot about low income food safety, and I think the point that you're making, Sarah, is a great one which is that there's also a lot of middle-income countries where the again the food safety dynamic changes. And so, you're not really talking about the same scenario that you are in Africa and southeast Asia so if we move to places in South America such as Paraguay. You're really looking at emerging economies environments in which people are looking to enter into trade, and what does the dynamic of trade then due to the safety of that food supply. What are the lenses from a government perspective that need to change in terms of regulation and the capacity that that government then needs to develop in order to participate in in trade not only for success of trade, but success in protection of their own you know food supply their own public health environment And so, we have participated I think and you could probably speak to that too right pretty heavily in parkway in terms of of looking to work with labs and help with their testing capacity and work with them on whether or not they can actually you know effectively carry out trade programs that still provide that that stamp of approval in terms of safety of the products that are coming in and the products that they're they're sending out. 


One thing that's been really interesting for me participating in those types of projects, and in that project particularly is in terms of evaluating what labs like food safety testing labs, government labs, and other countries have in terms of their capacity. That's always really eye-opening as well, and learning about the challenges of wi-fi issues, and paper-based versus electronic systems, and how to convert a paper-based system to an electronic database for example. And the slowdowns that all of that creates in the pipeline in terms of not just receiving and testing the product. But also, creating the reports, and the invoices, and then getting payment. And so, when you evaluate the landscape, if you will, and then seek to provide solutions, it's very sort of knee-jerk. I guess to say, well we use this system in our government labs and it works great, and that's not necessarily applicable. Right, because no wi-fi or spotty wi-fi. And so, that's another example I think of what you were talking about, Jesse, in terms of we have to evaluate what we're working with, and then be creative, also, in solutions and supportive And so, that's always I found to be very rewarding as well and challenging from a professional growth perspective, also. 


One thing, I always get to chuckle at is we talk about other countries. And it seems like we have this mindset that the U.S. food supply is the safest in the world. And you know, we have to be pretty proud of our U.S. food supply but we still have some major issues food safety wise, and when I look across the country I know Dr. Stack does a lot of international traveling, also, there are countries that probably have at least elements of their food safety system that are better than the U.S. system Australia, and New Zealand, and Japan, Singapore places like that. So you know, there's just such a broad diversity of food safety standards. And what not across the globe and trying to tackle all of them all at one time is overwhelming, but that as Jesse just mentioned, I mean, you can really make a lot of headway with some basic elements in some places. Whereas, in other places you know they're pretty sophisticated, so.


I like that you bring up the fact that we are, we'd like, to tout ourselves as the safest food supply in the world, right. But, we are always learning and improving, as well. And I really appreciate Randy, that you bring up the fact that we can learn from other countries. Also, that we're all here to share and learn together, and that inc that in turn creates a safer global food supply, which in turn improves food security, and nourishes the world. So ultimately, we're all in this together and that's what we're trying to do here in K-State. And on that note, actually I might add a few comments regarding what K-State does in food safety. So really, we're as a land-grant institution, we're involved in food safety from the standpoint of teaching research and extension, and I mean that from a global sense even as Jesse demonstrated, that we're carrying out these types of activities all across the globe. But, what really that includes is not just us sitting around the table. I want to emphasize that K-State has many experts across campus in food safety. And so, we're just here to represent a small portion of experts. But you know, in terms of extension, we actually have consumer educators that work on food safety at the consumer level we have extension experts working with processors small processors especially helping to support their hasso plans and their testing for their facilities and a lot of that also includes small food producers, who are really trying to grow from an incubator kitchen and elevating up and becoming a larger processor in the kansas or missouri areas. So that's an important part of what we do from the extension side, and then of course, food safety is incorporated into so many classes across campus. And not just here in the department of animal science, and then the Food Science Institute. But you know, there are elements of Bakery Science, for example, that they talk about food safety and brain science. And that department is a part of our food safety efforts, both teaching, and research, and extension, and vetmed, for example. I don't want to list too many because I'm going to leave somebody out, and that's not what I'm trying to do. But, I really want to really capture the essence of the collaborative effort that is food safety, and you know not to leave out research right, but we work across so many colleges and disciplines to pull off a food safety project. And I really want to refer back to something you said, Jesse, about this includes economics, as well. And we work with social scientists, and it's animal scientists, as well it's pathologists, and you know it really brings in depending upon the project and the funding agency we work with a variety of disciplines to pull off our food safety research. And I think that's a critical point to make that it's not just us doing food safety work across campus. 


You know, I've been told and I haven't confirmed this myself, but if you go into some of our grocery stores here and buy a processed packaged food, say a tv dinner. Dr. Stack, you and I would refer to them. I don't think they make tv dinners anymore, but a product like that might have 40 or 50 countries represented in that one package. So, we are truly a global supply and food chain and you know the systems. Whether, they're informational systems data systems whatever you know even hot topics like climate change, and things like new emerging pathogens that we've never really seen before. You know, we can never get relaxed, we can never sit back, and say well we know enough to be effective, because everything is changing so fast now. And so, that's what makes food safety in particular food science in general and agricultural in general, but food safety is it's almost every day something new happens whether it's in this country or globally. And so, that's what you know having students coming from all parts of the world, like Carla coming from Brazil, it really makes our program stronger because we have that international flair at a very high level. 

You know, over the past, say 70 years or so, we've experienced the emergence of several zoonotic pathogens from animal hosts reservoirs that have had significant impacts on human health, sars kobe 2. and there are several suggested drivers for that emergence including land use, change climate, change trade and travel for speeding them around. So the first part of this, I'm going to ask you to exclude, so excluding the emergence of antibiotic resistant strains because I'd like to touch on that later, but excluding antibiotic resistance has there been a significant emergence of new foodborne pathogens and what were the primary drivers? 


Well, that is an excellent question. Who wants to address it? I'll give you the first, really beautiful, if you want to call it beautiful example. We went back in 2011 when we had the emergence of never before determined sugar toxin E coli strain 0.04. That happened in Europe mainly in Germany where we had four thousand people just all of a sudden become ill at a really high hospitalization and death rate relative to other sugar toxin E coli infections. And come to find out, it was definitely an emerged pathogen that kind of mixed the virulence properties of more human E coli enteric disease, with what we refer to as enterohemorrhagic types of things. As far as the way the organism attached in our GI tract. And so, that's a perfect example of picking up you know just a floating around piece of DNA that all of a sudden turns on the switch to make something almost a super pathogen in this case. And so, we you know we tracked that one back to the type of bean sprouts that were being produced and marketed out of Egypt. And so, you know that you always have to be aware that these genetic virulence properties can jump from one organism to the other, and most of the time they don't have much of an effect but all of a sudden everything can come together and you've got a really important pathogen at that point.


I think there's lots of examples within salmonella as well. Where we see salmonellas that we don't take very seriously from a public health perspective. We know that they, you know, exist within certain animal populations but we don't really see them show up in public health data. And then, all of a sudden you'll have a large outbreak that will occur with a certain serotype that you just really haven't seen in public health data before. And so, kind of back to some points, you know that are being made is that we have those genetic components, where you ultimately what you end up with is a strain that takes on, you know, the genetic capacity to then cause human disease. I think along those lines there is a level too, where I think, from a food safety perspective. We do need to recognize, and not to communicate that we don't, but that we are dealing with from a biological hazard perspective. A lot of little living microorganisms, and they have a lot of capacity to change, and I know that Sarah and I's advisor always makes the comment, turns out they don't read the book on themselves. Right. And so, we tend to get into a mindset of this is how salmonella behaves this is how E coli behaves and all of a sudden they don't behave that way anymore. And I think that that then pushes us as as food safety scientists as individuals within the food industry to just try to be as adaptive as possible be as open-minded as possible. Particularly, when we're talking about pathogens that have shown the capacity to adapt, and in actuality I can't really think of one that hasn't.And so, yeah go ahead.


I'll give you a perfect example of what Jesse's talking about, and related to climate change. You know, we have data showing that some of the ocean waters are warming right and used to vibrio parahaemolyticus and vibrio vulnificus which are two really important public health pathogens associated with shellfish mollusc mollux it was really you know we didn't see it much up in our northern borders of northern coast even here in North America but now we're seeing kind of a migrate migration and emergence of vibrio problems in shellfish in the harvested in what was traditionally the colder waters. And it's even more complicated than that. We're seeing what we refer to in microbiology as viable but non-culturable. So, you really can't detect some of these organisms until they're maybe in your body, you know, in doing the damage, you know, so it's, you know, all of these science facts. You can get really comfortable thinking, you know, enough and then all of a sudden you don't know, you know. It's causing 4,000 people as the E coli 104 outbreak caused 4,000 people to get sick in a matter of a couple of weeks.


Yes, I think kind of back to close the loop on your question I think some of the driving factors can include you know some natural just variation that occurs. I think that there are some factors that come alongside changes in dynamics in terms of our production and our management practices or the environment. But I think some of it also comes from maybe some dogmatic thought processes within kind of this is this is the way that it is and there's no way salmonella can be in black pepper, or in dried flour and turns out, yeah it can.


So we didn't mention antibiotic resistance, because you asked us not to. Yeah, well speaking of.  


Yeah, no. I just wanted to separate them, because the antibiotic resistance challenge is substantial and you know just by parallel tracks we've learned so much about  how microbes interact. And you know, the rate of exchange across taxa is just far greater than we ever anticipated. Than we would have predicted, probably 15 years ago. And so, you know the obvious concern for antibiotic resistance is the ineffectiveness of subsequent treatment for infection, but I guess to tie it to the previous question. That the question I wanted to pose is for foodborne pathogens. What are the inherent risks of transmitting that resistance to other intestinal bacteria during the course of the infection and subsequent clearing. So, I'm looking at it as you know not only are we concerned about resistance in the foodborne pathogen, but are the foodborne pathogens becoming a vector for moving those resistance cassettes. The genomic islands around just as a course of how we do business. 


So, I might comment on that a little bit from the perspective of shiga toxin producing E coli actually. So, we actually don't recommend antibiotics as a course of action because a lot of times what can happen is that sugar toxins being produced in the cell and the antibiotics that then might lyse the cell and release it. And then, suddenly you have a mass release of the sugar toxin that can kind of overwhelm the body all at once and create many complications from a clinical perspective for the patient. So you might ask the question, then well why should we care about antibiotic resistance genes or characteristics in something like aztec, and it's really from a perspective of what you're mentioning Dr. Stack in terms of then if we do have s tech in cattle or in the environment or in our guts, for example. That there are other microorganisms around other bacteria that can then share those genes so even if a antibiotic resistant s tech might not get treated in a human with an antibiotic, because of the concerns I mentioned. There are concerns though that it will be sharing its genetic makeup and sharing those genes to others. And so, now we might have something that was a susceptible bacteria that is now harboring antibiotic resistance genes. And of course, the risk there depends upon what is being shared with, and then of course how broadly does that. Then share its genes, so you can see there's kind of a domino effect, but when you think about animals, and their gi tracts, and their environments, and our gi tracts, right. They're a separate sort of ecosystem with a variety of different bacteria, and other microorganisms hanging out, and that can impact the sharing of genes, and that is a concern. 


Yeah, one of the big issues that has emerged over the last decade in antibiotic resistance is clostridium deficient and my father was just in the hospital, he passed, but I was actually talking to some of the doctors there at fighting  clostridium deficient antibiotic resistance in a hospital environment. Whether that's in the cafeteria, whether your general population is consuming food, or the food being brought to infirmed patients. And now it's expanding to cafeterias, and schools, and places like that, and a lot of the isolates are antibiotic resistant and that makes it even more difficult to address. 


Yeah, from the research we have conducted and commenting back on on Dr. Graham's point, we've seen that some of because we did some whole genome sequencing with the isolates from the research. And we've seen that some of the isolates collected from the year before. Some didn't have antibiotic resistance. And then, next year they already presented that antibiotic resistance, and really looking at the whole genome sequencing and comparing those strains they were the same consider the same strain, but acquired some of those genes they didn't have before and really this complex environment that you have many different species playing around, and they just interact so much that it's so easy to see then you know something that didn't have now all of a sudden, he has this resistance. 


And you're referring to your work in southeast Asia right?


Yes to my, specifically, my work in southeast Asia. 


And well, I just I think I would just follow up on a lot of the conversation with you know that this in the whole area of antimicrobial resistance and research in antimicrobial resistance is an incredibly complex area, right. There's so much to consider, and I think, the more we know the less we know. And that's just what's being made clear right is that as we begin to unravel some of the components around amr and antibiotic resistance. It really is becoming clear how well are you measuring it, how well do you know, you know, phenotypic versus genotypic can you trace back to you know source all those things become incredibly complex, right. And you almost get into you can really get into a very circular space. Where one set of isolates collected from one environment could be a lifetime worth of evaluation to try to identify what exactly is going on there. And are you measuring that as accurately as possible. And I think a point that I just wanted to make is you know when we started doing Carla's research, and looking at that whole genome sequencing of the isolates that we collected from fresh markets. I think it became very clear to us early on that there's so much out there in terms of taking that data evaluating that data, and then re-evaluating that data because they're just a lot. And you could probably speak to it better than I could. There's a lot in terms of understanding these genes, what they mean, how they interact together, what the names are, what you know there's various names for the different antibiotic resistance genes. I'm trying to ensure that you see that from a phenotypic perspective. 


And not only just the genes. Sometimes, we focus on the genes that could  come for a resistance to specific antibiotics, but then it has the gene. But, somehow it's not expressing resistance or it doesn't have the gene. But it's expressing resistance, and then you look you dig a little bit a little bit deeper and you find it has some pumps that were not present before that people didn't know about. And now maybe that efflux pump is helping in this specific antibiotic that we were not aware before. And so, it's very interesting to look over time, and the database that ncbi provides, and just see that you know last year we saw five different resistance five different genes that could encode resistance. And then, this year we have like additional two if flux pumps that were not that before and are helping to explain why we might might see that, or why we might not see that resistance in those isolates. So, it's really interesting how it just changes as the more gathered information, less we know. Probably, as Jesse mentioned, and yeah.


And today, the way we trade food and agricultural products. Whatever that gene is down in Brazil, could be in America in two days, right. Yeah so, then they will adapt you know I mean I think that again not to just kind of continue with the same comment but they are going to from a bacterial perspective right we have to recognize a food safety mindset that they're going to adapt. And so, we're always working with a, I don't want to call him a foe that seems harsh, but we're working on prevention of a group of organisms microorganisms that are going to adapt to whatever we're doing, and that's got to be part of that thought process.


Yeah, I had to follow up on that. In the plant world, we have of course a group of enteric bacteria that infect plants outright, and we're finding what we would have considered a species in the past, they're so variable that they're exchanging on genomic islands. They're not just exchanging resistance genes, or genes for adaptation they're exchanging whole secretion systems, so that we, you know, we can have certain populations with one or two secretion systems and all the one with half a dozen. So, those are the tools that those bacteria need to adapt, and maybe, even adapt to new host species. I, to get it to kind of bring us back to world food day, world Food Safety Day,  what do you consider are the pressing gaps in our knowledge? And what are the opportunities for reducing the impacts from foodborne illness? What do we need to head what's our vision?


Oh I think that a huge one, a huge one, is understanding the role of foodborne disease on nutrition gains. And again that comes back to when you look at the population of the world and the percentage of that population that lives in environments where nutrition is a major concern major concern and I mean I think that that could be applied to high income countries, as well. But, you know my focus is really low income countries. And so, I guess I'll speak to it from that space having an understanding for the dynamics between foodborne disease and negated nutrition gains. Would I think change the discussion around investment in sanitary and hygienic infrastructure around the world. Which, ultimately, at the end of the day, I think is it's alarming that has not been a bigger conversation. That we have such large populations of the world that are living in incredibly unhygienic unsanitary environments. And so, I think until you are able to say the reason why Africa is not seeing gains in their nutrition outcomes, or the reason why Asia is not seeing gains in their nutrition outcomes has a lot to do with diarrhoeal disease. Which is a hypothesis that most people working within food safety and international spaces have. I don't know that you're going to see a huge investment in that space. And so, I think having data that really can explicitly show that would be huge. 


And I'll also add to your question jim if you especially if you bring it back more toward home and developed countries, is we are in an era where we're really going toward minimal processing of foods, what we lovingly refer to as clean labels. You know, doing away with preservatives and you know really going toward fresh and local, and that sort of thing. And to me, you know, some of this technology is opening the doors to new issues in food safety. I'm not, I don't, want to just come out and say that those types of products are less safe. But, they have to be managed differently. If we're not putting preservatives and things in foods then obviously you can have more microbial growth And so, I think it's an error, that especially me, I'm really into interventions and things like that research as far as food safety. It's something that's a very pressing and real issue today, and I think it is as we look into the next five years, I don't see it changing. I think we're really going toward that more natural clean label green produced type food system, and we have to address it. And I think, if you look at fba for instance, they have just come out with a document that's kind of giving their vision for the new era of food safety is what they call it. And a lot of it is global supply chains, minimal processing, and emergence of new pathogens, things like what we've talked about today on this podcast. 


And I might add too, that and this is a little biased because I'm a primarily salmonella researcher, but I feel like the salmonella problem is going to continue on our radar for the foreseeable future, you know, we've made tremendous progress on chicken toxin producing E coli, you know. Particularly, we focus a lot on the beef industry and we've made tremendous progress there. What we haven't made progress on, and you might argue we've made some progress, but is reducing salmonella in terms of public health. And as well as a in different food commodities, including beef for example, and we're making a lot of progress and starting to understand why that might be and particularly in different food products. How is it in a cow, for example and therefore, why is it a risk, so we're starting to make progress, but in terms of like the healthy people guidelines for the government, we aren't making progress there. If you look at it from that perspective. And so, I feel like food safety is going to continue to really be emphasizing funding to figure out what the salmonella issue is, why it's a problem, and then what do we do about it. And that's in a variety of products right, Jesse you mentioned flour, right and we've mentioned beef it's been in produce just to name a few of the many so salmonella will definitely continue to be on the radar for a while.


Yeah, salmonella is actually a bonafide plant pathogen based on all the genetic work done in the last few years. Yeah, 


Interesting, thank you for sharing, that I did not know that.


I was just going to close the loop here and talk about I think part of the extension and outreach, you know, the consumer side. How do we educate consumers to then make sure that, you know, if we are all diligent and make our part and everything everybody's doing their part all across the chain. And then, when he reaches consumer and they don't know what to do, and how to handle their food safely, that could be very detrimental to you know preventing food-borne illness. And I think just looking at the calls of action that the World Food Safety Day calls for one of them is team up for food safety, and I think we really could use that to team up for food safety and educate people around us our friends our families. And I find sometimes hard to just communicate, and I think I have spoken enough times to my friends not to eat a raw, not raw but underdon, burger. That now, when they are eating with me, they look at me and they said “okay, yeah. Well done please.” and they asked the server to be well done, and I guess you just have to do it over and over and over again until, you know, we’re to a point where people just have that in their minds, and they know some of the practices they can choose. Some of the choices can be safer than what they used to do, and I think just it's as much as important as everything else just the consumer awareness, and they know what to do.  What they can do to protect themselves and their families.


I just want to take a minute and actually underline that, because as we were going around I thought if no one says it I'm gonna be selfish and take a second stab, because I think that, I mean as much as that sounds a little crazy, and I don't know, I get kicked out of every food safety group I exist in. But, we need a grassroots movement back to consumer education. We really do because we've moved away from it and there is a true lack of, I think, understanding of just really basic food safety and home food safety information in upcoming generations of people. My mom always kind of takes the stance that it’s because of home economics, and I think I think she's got maybe a point. But, her point is grounded in that it's due to a lack of food safety education for consumers. And so, whether that's home economics not being in high school anymore, or not right, it means that there isn't something that is providing particularly young people with some level of information on ‘this is how you safely prepare food within your home’ and we do we have to have a grass root roots movement back to it, because we've kind of forgotten it. 


One of the scariest things, as a food microbiologist myself, is walking around the tailgates at football games and watching what goes on at tailgates relative to food safety. It's amazing that we don't have huge outbreaks every weekend, you know, in these types of environments. 


You know, unfortunately, for us, people don't want to invite us over for, you know, let's be honest we don't have friends, we're safety scientists. A lot of my friends actually say that they're intimidated for me to even be near them when they're even five feet within the kitchen. 


So but, when you're traveling internationally they all want to be sitting right next to you. 


That's huge, and they're like if Jessie doesn't eat it, I'm not gonna eat it. That's so true.


But, I really like how you all really close the loop with that conversation, because it's something we talk about amongst ourselves a lot but really struggle with. And another thing kind of going back to one of my comments earlier about how it takes all disciplines. And food safety is one of the things that we also really need is working with our social science friends and colleagues to understand how to get the message out in a way that it will be received and valued. And because that's another piece right is I could put together all the data I wanted on salmonella in cattle and but how do I make somebody care about it? How do I deliver that message in a way that's meaningful for my mom in her kitchen? Right, and how it translates from what we do here to the burger that she needs to cook well done. So, it really takes a whole team to address that question, as well. But, I really like though, how we started out talking about processors, consumers, researchers, everybody, and now you closed it with the consumers, as well. It's really good point. 


And, I guess that comment, and some of the comments that have been made throughout the discussion, brings back the importance of the Food Science Institute at K-State. Which is truly an interdisciplinary group, and you've got scientists and researchers from all aspects of research in that area, and very important approach to getting things done the right way.


The Food Science Institute is very focused on food safety, in along with general food science, and I would just like to remind everybody that as June 7th comes up, and the week before, and probably the week or two after, at our food science website, Food Science Institute, website we will have the video posted that Carla mentioned. We'll be sending that to the food and organization. Hopefully, it'll see some international use, and we'll continue to put out as much information as we can about our food safety program. And just general guidance for consumers and processors.


That sounds wonderful, and we will definitely get some connections to those sites through our global food systems website. As well, so that we can get the information out and share all the great things that you're doing, and the students are doing. I think this is an exciting time. 


If you're really interested in this topic you can find a lot of things going on World Food Safety Day gotta get that hashtag in there. I really enjoyed the discussion, so thank you so much for your time today. You know there's a difference between observing human behavior and understanding it, and that's our challenge. 


I agree with the comments about the need for re-engaging the public in food safety, because it seems like we're in this era of well undercooked is better. And you know, if you watch the food network shows it's almost sinful to cook things all the way through. I think your challenge is big, so good luck. 


Yeah, well and I think to that point, right. It may be one of the best ways to kind of close this down, is that the whole Food Safety Day, and their big theme, and has been, you know, across the different years, has been food safety is everybody's business. And so, you know, I think that that's something that we very much believe here at K-State that food safety is everybody's business, and that we're really attempting to cultivate an environment in which we take that into our classrooms, we take that into our research, and we take that into our extension. And so, engaging with the consumer is a huge part of that, and making sure that they are a part of that everybody's business  is a really important one.


Well, great. This has been a good experiment having a having a group of people discussing on an important topic like food safety, and we're really excited to be able to put this out in time for food safety International Food Safety Day and I want to thank you all for joining us, and we'll look forward to talking to you again sometime.


Thank you, thank you very much, thank you all, thank you, thanks so much, have a great day. 


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Our music was adapted from Dr. Wayne Goins’s album Chronicles of Carmela. Special thanks to him for providing that to us. Something to Chew On is produced by the Office of Research Development at Kansas State University. 

Keywords: Salmonella, lymph nodes, cattle, contaminated, research, food safety, animals, ground beef, Kansas State University