LINCOLN, Neb. – The US Department of Agriculture awarded a $25 million grant to the Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln to research E. coli strains in beef.

The goal of the project is to develop STEC risk mitigation strategies that will control the pathogens along the beef chain. The research will help to identify hazards and potential exposures that lead to STEC infections in cattle. Dr. James Keen at UNL will lead a team of researchers from 10 research universities, the USDA's Agricultural Research Service and a research consortium comprised of government, academic and industry scientists and food safety professionals, USDA said. The team will also work with several consumer groups, cattlemen groups and meat processors associations.

“Shiga toxin-producing E. coli are a serious threat to our food supply and public health, causing more than 265,000 infections each year,” said Chavonda Jacobs-Young, acting NIFA director. “As non-O157 STEC bacteria have emerged and evolved, so too must our regulatory policies to protect the public health and ensure the safety of our food supply. This research will help us to understand how these pathogens travel throughout the beef production process and how outbreaks occur, enabling us to find ways to prevent illness and improve the safety of our nation’s food supply.”

USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the award on the university campus on Jan. 23. It is the largest grant ever awarded from the USDA to the university, according to Harvey Perlman, UNL chancellor.