IFAS News

University of Florida

UF food scientists call for new science in food safety

Topic(s): Biocontrols, Crops, Food Safety, New Technology, Vegetables

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Some University of Florida food scientists say U.S. food safety procedures need to get out of the 1960s and into the era of biotechnology.

Back then, America’s scientists devised a system to ensure astronauts’ food stayed safe. That system, called Hazard Analysis of Critical Point, became the U.S. industry standard.

HACCP (pronounced “hassip”) is largely based on choosing points during handling and processing to eliminate or reduce as many possible hazards from food. While the method has given America an unparalleled level of food safety, there are new options to explore.

Featuring articles from UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the new issue of the Journal of Current Opinion in Biotechnology focuses on applying recent scientific discoveries to food safety.

“We have to look at everything we know about the whole system,” said microbiologist Max Teplitski, who co-authored the journal’s lead editorial with food scientist Anita Wright. “And we know a lot more than we knew half a century ago. Recent food safety scares have shown us that maybe it’s time we started applying that knowledge.”

Topics such as biofilms and some aspects of genetics research are so new that they haven’t had time to be used in food safety systems, or need more study. Others, such as probiotics and stress-resistant bacteria, are slowly being integrated.

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Scientists lauded in second annual Florida Agricultural Experiment Station ceremony

Topic(s): Announcements, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida horticultural sciences researcher Paul Lyrene struggled as he worked to keep a grasp on five plaques given to him to mark five plant patents for blueberry cultivars he created.

“I think I won the most pounds of awards,” he joked as the second annual UF/IFAS Florida Agricultural Experiment Station awards ceremony ended Tuesday evening at the Harn Museum of Art.

Lyrene, one of more than 65 researchers honored, said he believes the ceremony helps scientists learn what their peers across campus-and often, the state-are up to.

Mark McLellan, IFAS research dean and FAES director, thanked the researchers for their dedication and hard work.

“It is time to salute some exceptional researchers for their passion … for their search and discovery of new ideas, and their intensity to create solutions-solutions for our lives,” he said during the ceremony.

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UF researchers find potential malaria treatment may extend to Legionnaires’ disease, botulism

Topic(s): Biocontrols, New Technology

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have found that a potential strategy for treating malaria also extends to the bacteria behind maladies such as Legionnaires’ disease, Weil’s syndrome and botulism.

The work, by researchers at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, hinges on some organisms’ ability to produce folate despite lacking one of the essential enzymes typically used to produce the compound.

As they report in the online edition of the Journal of Bacteriology, microbiologist Valérie de Crécy-Lagard and biochemist Andrew Hanson discovered that many bacteria use the same substitute for the enzyme as the parasite that causes malaria.

Folate, a vitamin best known for its importance to healthy pregnancies, is also essential to fueling the cell division that enables bacteria to spread.

Humans don’t have the biological process that produces folate, so drugs that disrupt the process are ideal candidates for disease treatments. Two widely used antibiotics, trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole, use this approach.

“It had been a big mystery ever since we started decoding bacterial genomes-what are we not seeing that allows certain bacteria to produce folate even though they are missing an essential step in the process?” Crécy-Lagard said. “The answer had already been found in the parasite that causes malaria.”

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New public television show aimed at Southern gardeners hits the air May 9

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, Florida Friendly, Green Living, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Southern gardeners will soon have a new tool to help them in the garden. “Your Southern Garden” with Walter Reeves is an educational television show created to help gardeners of all levels learn new tricks, get fresh ideas and visit interesting sites.

“This show provides the opportunity to really educate Floridians and others in the region about landscaping and outdoor water conservation,” said Millie Ferrer, interim extension dean for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Watering in the landscape is such an important issue right now and the faculty at UF and UGA can provide great tips and information to help conserve water.”

The show, produced by University of Florida IFAS Extension and the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is a one-of-a-kind program specifically for the Southeast.

The 2009 season of “Your Southern Garden” premieres May 9 on public broadcast stations in the Tampa Bay and north central Florida areas. Beginning in April 2010, it will air throughout most of north and central Florida area and the Georgia Public Broadcasting viewing area. (more …)

New technique for vulture population estimates could aid control efforts, UF researcher says

Topic(s): Biocontrols, Livestock, New Technology, Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For months, Erik Anderson tried to persuade a flock of vultures to stop roosting at Santa Fe College’s main campus in northwest Gainesville. In the end, the vultures won. Years later, he sees them as he motors down Interstate 75 to work.

“I don’t fight them anymore,” says Anderson, the college’s director of facilities operations. “It was a no-win situation for us.”

It’s a common story, says Michael Avery, a U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife biologist affiliated with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Avery is one of the nation’s top vulture management experts. He and U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service colleagues just published a paper on a mathematical formula that can help determine how many vultures can be taken from a local population without jeopardizing its long-term viability. The article is in May’s issue of The Journal of Wildlife Management.

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