The Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) estimate that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of food-borne diseases. At least once a week we hear about outbreaks affecting vegetables, meats and other types of food that we consume on a daily basis.
This week’s featured Scientist of the Week on The Science and Engineering Cafe is a proponent of using new technologies to improve food safety. He and his team at the Food Safety and Intervention Technologies Research Unit (FSIT) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, PA have spent many years of research in successfully eliminating food-borne pathogens using a variety of novel technologies, including cold plasma.
Also, It is a great honor to present our first Scientist of the Week working in a US government lab: Dr. Brendan Niemira!
Dr. Brendan A. Niemira (BA, the University of Chicago; PhD, Michigan State University) is the Research Leader of the Food Safety and Intervention Technologies Research Unit (FSIT) at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, PA. He leads a team of 30+ scientists, engineers, technicians, postdocs and students in developing tools to kill human pathogens – E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Shigella, norovirus, etc. – on produce, meats, poultry, shellfish, and other foods. In addition to supervising scientific and administrative staff and setting short- and long-term research priorities for this $6M+ program, Dr. Niemira represents his team and USDA-ARS to the public and to stakeholders in domestic and international interactions.
His personal research focuses on the development and validation of cold plasma, irradiation and other nonthermal and precision thermal treatments for inactivation of human pathogens on fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. Additional research addresses pathogen attachment and biofilm formation on foods and food contact surfaces and how this alters the efficacy of antimicrobial treatments.
Dr. Niemira is the co-editor and author of a well-regarded reference text and holds two patents (one pending). He has published more than 100 peer-reviewed research articles, book chapters, and critical reviews. He is a professional member of the Institute of Food Technologists, the International Association for Food Protection, and the American Society for Microbiology. He serves on the editorial boards for “Applied and Environmental Microbiology” and “Journal of Food Protection”.