New Food Safety Professor Gives New Perspective

In food microbiology labs, the issue of food safety research at universities was at the back of everybody’s mind. The food safety specific labs only existed in the more rural part of the U.S. This was before Ms. Jennifer Quinlan realised the need for food safety research for urban areas and their populace.

The first grant she received in 2005 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture allowed her to survey food quality in small urban markets in comparison with larger suburban supermarkets. In her studies, Quinlan did case studies 360 retail stores in Philadelphia, from low socioeconomic, high socioeconomic and some composed of ethnic minorities.

From her research, Quinlan and her team of students discovered that the supermarkets in the low socioeconomic regions tend to have more food that is old or spoiled. However, there also seemed to be bias for the the low-income areas. Safety inspectors have more of an affect in the standards established at stores in low-income areas versus high-income areas. The demographic of the area also seemed to have affected the quality of the products in the supermarkets.

From her research, Quinlan was able to show that food-borne illnesses were found more often in the low-socioeconomic and minority populations. This began the question on whether low-income populations had greater rates of food-borne illness because of retail access to food or whether it was because of consumer handling after the food was purchased.

As Quinlan and her team began to decipher the issue at hand, they found out from their survey a similarity that breached the boundaries of all demographics – rinsing raw chicken before it is cooked. By washing raw chicken, it increases the spread of salmonella around the surrounding surfaces which inadvertently increase the risk of cross-contamination.

With this information, Quinlan decided to start a campaign that teaches all demographics the proper ways of having the correct food safety practices.

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