WASHINGTON – Food safety is the meat and poultry industry's top priority and U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) research funding should reflect that priority, said Betsy Booren, Ph.D., American Meat Institute Foundation (A.M.I.F.) director of scientific affairs.

Ms. Booren participated in a stakeholder meeting hosted by U.S.D.A'.s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (N.I.F.A.) held to gather comments on how the agency should develop requests for funding for its 2011 Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (A.F.R.I.).

A.F.R.I. is the flagship competitive research grant program by N.I.F.A., which was established by the 2008 Farm Bill.

The A.M.I.F. strongly supports the funding of extension education programs to solve food-safety problems throughout the entire food chain, but the removal of food science and other agricultural disciplines from the A.F.R.I. program compromises food-safety challenges facing the industry, Ms. Booren said.

“Research on food-processing technologies, food ingredients, animal production and other critical multi-disciplinary areas in the food sciences is needed to solve the problems facing today’s agricultural community,” she said. “These multi-disciplinary areas are integral to food-safety research”.

Excluding food sciences-related research may also create a shortage of trained food scientists, she continued. “The Foundation strongly encourages N.I.F.A. and the A.F.R.I. program to reexamine the data used to determine funding priority areas that will reduce the public health risk of consuming certain foods,” Ms. Booren said. “The A.F.R.I. program should target these areas, the areas of greatest societal impact, for the development of future R.F.A.s.”

The Foundation would also like to see increased focus on basic research and believes that having the fundamental understanding of biological, physical, microbial and chemical properties will only improve our ability to find solutions to the problems facing the agriculture and food industries, Ms. Booren said.

It has been the experience of the Foundation that solutions to food-safety problems have often been found when it is not the primary objective of the research, Ms. Booren continued. Allowing scientists to have the freedom and rise to the challenge to develop new and creative solutions to food-safety problems has led to successful innovation. By not being strictly prescriptive, the Foundation has discovered ideas and research that never would be evaluated for funding under a traditional review program.

“The A.M.I. Foundation encourages N.I.F.A. to allow for investigator-initiated research ideas to be considered, if not funded. As this country’s public funding organization for food and agriculture it is your responsibility not to be a roadblock to discovery, but be an organization that fosters it,” Ms. Booren concluded. 

Visit: http://www.meatami.com/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/59981 to read Ms. Booren's comments.