WASHINGTON — Food safety research grants totaling approximately $42 million were announced June 23 by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the US Department of Agriculture. Focused principally on proteins and produce projects rather than grains, the grants were made to 24 different institutions.

“While the US food supply is generally considered to be one of the safest in the world, approximately 48 million Americans become sick each year due to food-borne illnesses,” said Catherine Wotecki, chief scientist at the USDA and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. “These grants support the development of a more complete understanding of the sources and implications of microbial contamination and will promote the adoption of new food safety strategies and technologies. The goal is to greatly improve the safety of our food supply and ultimately save lives.”

Grants were made to institutions spread throughout the US, from Connecticut and Florida to Washington state and California. The largest grants, around $5 million apiece, were made to the University of Delaware (for processing technologies to destroy human noroviruses in high-risk foods, including shellfish and produce), the University of Georgia (to explore the feasibility of integrating various food-safety technologies into slaughterhouses), the University of Iowa (to explore factors leading to the appearance of staph bacteria on raw meat) and Washington State University (to expand the commercial possibilities of microwave technologies to control harmful bacterial and viral pathogens in packaged foods, especially ready-to-eat foods, deli meats and seafood).