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UGA Food Microbiologists Honored by CDC

University of Georgia food microbiologists Larry Beuchat and Michael Doyle have been awarded the Partners in Public Health Award by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Beuchat and Doyle are researchers with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences' Center for Food Safety in Griffin, Ga. They were nominated for the award by administrators at the National Center for Infectious Diseases.

Tomatoes and Salmonella

Beuchat is an internationally recognized expert on fruits and vegetables. He was selected for the CDC honor based on his work on several outbreaks of salmonellosis that were associated with raw tomatoes.

Before Beuchat's research, tomatoes were not viewed as potential vehicles for transmission of Salmonella. His research clearly showed the pathogen can grow and multiply on raw tomatoes at room temperature.

Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety, was selected for his participation in several investigations of large food-borne disease outbreaks.

Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

These investigations included a 1985 Midwestern U.S. outbreak of salmonellosis which affected 250,000 people and the 1993 hamburger-associated E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in western U.S. states.

The CDC also applauded the scientists' research into prevention recommendations. The award nomination listed as an example a multistate outbreak of shigellosis in 1998.

Parsley and Shigella

The Minnesota State Health Department was investigating three outbreaks that appeared to be linked to three separate restaurants. Health officials soon discovered the outbreaks, as well as Shigella outbreaks in several other states, were all linked to parsley.

Working with the CDC, Beuchat and Doyle conducted research to see whether Shigella multiplies in parsley under restaurant conditions and, if so, how this can be prevented.

Their studies revealed Shigella bacteria multiply much faster when parsley is chopped and kept at room temperature, a common practice in the restaurant business.

As a result of the study, the UGA researchers now recommend parsley be decontaminated by being soaked in either diluted bleach or diluted vinegar.

Beuchat has worked on joint projects with the CDC for the past seven years and Doyle for the past 15 years.

(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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