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Center of Excellence for Food Safety Research in Child Nutrition Programs


Children washing their hands2015- 2017 Research Initiatives

Behavior-based Food Safety Study

Foodservice employees all have innate barriers that prevent them from modeling proper food safety practices. This study will identify those barriers, develop and test a revised Serving it Safe training course, and increase employee knowledge of food safety.

Food Safety Regulations in Child Care Settings

Child care operations vary greatly from state to state in terms of regulations, services provided, times of operation, and type of care offered.  This study will identify state food safety regulations and operational characteristics of child care settings. This information will serve as a baseline for future research projects focused on improving food safety in child care operations.

Sustainability and Reducing Wasted Food

Several research studies have evaluated plate waste in schools, but few have explored ways to reduce pre-consumer wasted food.  The purpose of this study is to explore ways to improve food sustainability and decrease the related cost of wasted food in child nutrition programs while maintaining food safety practices. A model and operational activities to reduce wasted food will be developed with guidelines for maintaining safe food practices.

Impact of Temperature on the Microbiological Quality of Food

Packing school lunches for field trips exposes foods to increased risk due to elevated ambient temperatures.  Sack lunches meeting National School Lunch Program standards containing a deli-turkey sandwich on whole grain bread, sliced apples, and baby carrots will be spray inoculated with multiple-strain cocktails of Salmonella spp or L. monocytogenes.  The inoculated lunches will be strategically packed into a cooler with or without ice, and the coolers will be held at ambient temperatures found on school busses parked in the sun during field trips.  A programmable smoke house will be used to simulate the bus temperatures.

Cooling Study: Phase II

Based on results of the Center's 2012 cooling study, the next step is to develop best practices for cooling methods most commonly used by schools.  In addition, this study will use microbiological testing and pathogen modeling to determine microbial growth for products cooled based on the FDA Food Code standards for time and temperature if those standards are met or not during cooling. After food products are cooked, they will be inoculated with surrogate microorganisms.  Those microorganisms will be allowed to grow during the use of the various cooling methods, and each food will be microbiologically analyzed at 4 hours, 6 hours, 8 hours, 12 hours, and 24 hours after inoculation.  A total of four food products will be prepared, held in both 2-inch and 3-inch depths, and cooled using different cold-holding storage methods.  

2014-2015 Research Initiatives

Safety of School Lunches Served on Field Trips

Food safety across the entire school environment is very important. Very little research regarding the safety of field trip meals has been conducted. Both teachers and school foodservice managers will be surveyed to determine current practices with field trip meals with the purpose of identifying opportunities to improve food safety.

See the report sent to USDA (pdf)

Food Allergy Study

Schools are responsible for ensuring that students with food allergies who are participating in the national School Lunch Program receive safe, healthy meals. This study will survey district foodservice directors across the nation to collect baseline data on food allergies and allergens in schools. This research explores practices and challenges of managing allergies in schools as well as the incidence and nature of recent food allergy reactions.

See the report sent to USDA (pdf)

Summer Food Service Program Study

The Summer Food Service Program feeds low-income children when school is not in session. Sponsor organizations include schools, churches, and other community partners who provide meals that meet Federal nutrition standards. Food safety is a vital part of all foodservice programs. This observational study is designed to gain better insight into how non-school organizations are delivering meals to children and identify food safety concerns.

See the report sent to USDA (pdf)

Behavior-based Food Safety Study: Phase I

Foodservice employees all have innate barriers that prevent them from modeling proper food safety practices. This study will identify those barriers, develop and test a revised Serving it Safe training course, and increase employee knowledge of food safety.

2011-2013 Research Initiatives

Cooling Foods in School Foodservice Operations

Improper cooling has been identified as a risk factor for foodborne illness outbreaks. This study examined the effectiveness of common cooling methods used for foods in schools. Rice, marinara sauce, chili, and taco meat were cooled in 2-inch and 3-inch depths in a walk-in refrigerator and walk-in freezer. Ice water baths and chill sticks were used for some treatments. Results will be used to develop best practices for school foodservice operations.

See the report sent to USDA (pdf)

Status of Food Safety Programs Based on HACCP Principles

Food safety programs based on HACCP principles became mandatory with the passage of the 2004 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act but no evaluation has been made of implementation methods or impact of the programs. This study will gather information from state agency staff, district directors, and school employees and will generate priorities for research and employee education.

See the report sent to USDA (pdf)

Food Safety Practices in Schools

Schools are required to have two health inspections annually, yet there has been no research to examine outcomes of the inspections. This study will gather health inspection reports from across the U.S. to look at scores and identify common violations. Results will provide guidance on training needs for school foodservice employees.

See the report sent to USDA (pdf)

Effectiveness of Washing Treatments to Reduce Pathogens in Fresh Produce

Foodservice employees receive many different messages about how to wash produce, yet little is known about the effectiveness of these methods. This study will determine the efficacy of using aqueous ozinated water, commercial fruit and vegetable washes, and water to wash tomatoes, leaf lettuce, and cantaloupe. Results will provide guidance for developing best practices.

See the report sent to USDA (pdf)