UC Davis African plant breeding academy

AfPBA students, instructors, and guest speakers from CIMMYT and GCP.

AfPBA students, instructors, and guest speakers from CIMMYT and GCP.

University of California, Davis
July 21, 2014

The African Plant Breeding Academy (AfPBA) held the second two-week training session for its first class at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya, June 15–28, 2014. The AfPBA is a continuing education program organized by the University of California, Davis, and an initiative of the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC). Continue reading

Posted in Agriculture, Breeding & biotechnology & genomics, Endangered & invasive species, International programs, Plant science, Students & education | Leave a comment

UC Davis Alumna receives major award

Navina Khanna was one of five recipients of the 2014 JBF Leadership Award. (Image credit: jamesbeard.org)

Navina Khanna was one of five recipients of the 2014 JBF Leadership Award. (Image credit: jamesbeard.org)

Congratulations to UC Davis Alumna Navina Khanna for receiving a JBF Leadership Award from the James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit culinary arts organization that celebrates America’s diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire.

The JBF Leadership Award recognizes individuals who work toward solving the complex challenges related to food sustainability, access, and public health. The award celebrates the people helping to create a healthier, safer, and more sustainable food world. Continue reading

Posted in Awards & rankings, Cultural studies, Demographics & population growth, Food security, Health, Outreach, Policy | Leave a comment

Color-changing petunias on their way

Nikolai Braun, co-founder and chief scientific officer of a new biotech company, Revolution Bioengineering, is working on color-changing petunias. (photo: Revolution Bioengineering)

Nikolai Braun, co-founder and chief scientific officer of a new biotech company, Revolution Bioengineering, is working on color-changing petunias. (photo: Revolution Bioengineering)

University of California, Davis
July 17, 2014

Petunias come in so many vibrant varieties; it’s hard to decide which color to buy. One day soon, you might not have to choose. Continue reading

Posted in Agriculture, Breeding & biotechnology & genomics, Plant science, Technology | Leave a comment

California’s groundwater use during drought threatens future supply

A well in Kings County pumping groundwater into an irrigation system. (Photo credit: Thomas Harter)

A well in Kings County pumping groundwater into an irrigation system. (Photo credit: Thomas Harter)

 “A significant number of regions in California won’t have groundwater available in another generation or two if we continue business as usual.” — UC Davis scientists Thomas Harter and Helen Dahlke

By Pamela Kan-Rice – University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
July 16, 2014

Nearly two-thirds of the state’s water supply is currently being pumped from wells that are tapping into California aquifers.

In the special edition of California Agriculture released today (July 16), UC Cooperative Extension specialist and UC Davis professor Thomas Harter and UC Davis professor Helen Dahlke call attention to the stress being placed on California’s aquifers as well as the catastrophic consequences of not having this hidden resource available in future droughts. Continue reading

Posted in Agriculture, Drought, Environment & natural resources, Hydrology, Policy, Water use & quality & irrigation | Leave a comment

Planting power: Edible landscape gardens

Carli Hambley, a sustainable agriculture and food systems major, works in the edible gardens. (photo: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Carli Hambley, a sustainable agriculture and food systems major, works in the edible gardens. (photo: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

University of California, Davis
July 16, 2014

If you had a super power that allowed you to transform into any plant, what plant would you turn into?

Interns working for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden’s edible landscape project pondered this at one of their more recent weekly meetings. They used to answer more mundane questions about their internship, but over the course of their time together, they’ve become a really tight-knit group and the questions have had to get a little more creative in order to eke out some new information about each other.

I recently interviewed one of these interns, Carli Hambley, about her experiences working on the project, and here’s what she had to say.

Carli is a sustainable agriculture and food systems major, just finishing up her freshman year at Davis. Before she even got to campus, emails about opportunities to volunteer and intern were being sent her way. Most she ignored, but the subject line of one in particular caught her eye, an email advertising the brand-new, yearlong edible landscaping internship. She says it looked like a cool opportunity that would be an interesting way to get to know her future campus and community.

Interns on this project work to design and build gardens that fall under the category of “edible landscaping,” which is, as you might expect, the act of growing food in gardens.

6715ca30-c725-4b64-bc2d-b38eda4c684aHowever, the project itself involves a lot more than just horticulture. Carli says that a lot of the work has been “out of the ground.” She’s had to talk to and coordinate with a lot of people to get her garden up and running. As this was the first year the internship had been offered, everyone involved was still figuring out how to get things organized. Therefore, interns spoke and worked with food experts outside the community to create a training packet for future use. The interns knew that food was already being grown and used on campus, so they knew there was a way to make this project run smoothly.

Their hard work has definitely paid off. Just a few weeks ago, Carli and her co-gardener got to start putting plants in the ground. Their garden is located near the Robert Mondavi Institute buildings on campus, in the Good Life Garden. They are growing squash, marigolds, peppers, eggplants, and beans and have built trellises for some of the plants to climb up.

The food from their garden will hopefully be going to the UC Davis Pantry, which provides meals to students in need.

Monica Bruce, a history major, works in the intern garden plot of the Good Life Garden of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. (photo: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Monica Bruce, a history major, works in the intern garden plot of the Good Life Garden of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. (photo: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Carli says that, beyond the horticultural skills she’s gained, the most important thing she’s learned while interning has been how to take initiative. The autonomy she has had over her project and the creativity she has put into it have taught her how to trust herself, push her ideas forward, and make them work. However, Carli claims that her absolute favorite thing about the project has been having the chance to work with other hard-working and passionate people

Carli will be continuing on next year as an internship coordinator. The application process for the next school year has just finished up and a number of new interns will be joining them in the fall.

Stacey Parker, a horticulturist at the Arboretum, is in charge of the edible landscape interns.

(This article was written by Kelsey Walker, an anthropology student at UC Davis, June 20, 2014, on Aggie Voices.)

Media contacts:

Posted in Food systems, Land use, Landscapes, Nursery & floral, Plant science, Students & education, Sustainability, Vegetable crops | Leave a comment

Drought impact study: California agriculture faces greatest water loss ever seen

View of Folsom Lake and Mormon Island during a drought from Beal’s Point in Granite Bay, California in February 2014. Credit: Karin Higgins/UC Davis

Groundwater key to state’s agricultural resilience and vulnerabilities.

By Kat Kerlin
University of California, Davis

July 15, 2014

A new report from the University of California, Davis shows that California agriculture is weathering its worst drought in decades due to groundwater reserves, but the nation’s produce basket may come up dry in the future if it continues to treat those reserves like an unlimited savings account.

The UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences study, released today at a press briefing in Washington, D.C., updates estimates on the drought’s effects on Central Valley farm production, presents new data on the state’s coastal and southern farm areas, and forecasts the drought’s economic fallout through 2016.

The study found that the drought — the third most severe on record — is responsible for the greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture, with river water for Central Valley farms reduced by roughly one-third.

Groundwater pumping is expected to replace most river water losses, with some areas more than doubling their pumping rate over the previous year, the study said. More than 80 percent of this replacement pumping occurs in the San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Basin.

The results highlight California agriculture’s economic resilience and vulnerabilities to drought and underscore the state’s reliance on groundwater to cope with droughts.

The “California’s agricultural economy overall is doing remarkably well, thanks mostly to groundwater reserves,” said Jay Lund, a co-author of the study and director of the university’s Center for Watershed Sciences. “But we expect substantial local and regional economic and employment impacts. We need to treat that groundwater well so it will be there for future droughts.”

Other key findings of the drought’s effects in 2014:

  • Direct costs to agriculture total $1.5 billion (revenue losses of $1 billion and $0.5 billion in additional pumping costs).  This net revenue loss is about 3 percent of the state’s total agricultural value.
  • The total statewide economic cost of the 2014 drought is $2.2 billion.
  • The loss of 17,100 seasonal and part-time jobs related to agriculture represents 3.8 percent of farm unemployment.
  • 428,000 acres, or 5 percent, of irrigated cropland is going out of production in the Central Valley, Central Coast and Southern California due to the drought.
  • The Central Valley is hardest hit, particularly the Tulare Basin, with projected losses of $810 million, or 2.3 percent in crop revenue; $203 million in dairy and livestock value; and $453 million in additional well-pumping costs.
  • Agriculture on the Central Coast and in Southern California will be less affected by this year’s drought, with about 19,150 acres fallowed, $10 million in lost crop revenue and $6.3 million in additional pumping costs.
  • Overdraft of groundwater is expected to cause additional wells in Tulare Basin to run dry if the drought continues.
  • The drought is likely to continue through 2015, regardless of El Nino conditions.
  • Consumer food prices will be largely unaffected. Higher prices at the grocery store of high-value California crops like nuts, wine grapes and dairy foods are driven more by market demand than by the drought.

Groundwater a “slow-moving train wreck”

If the drought continues for two more years, groundwater reserves will continue to be used to replace surface water losses, the study said. Pumping ability will slowly decrease while costs and losses will slowly increase due to groundwater depletion.

California is the only state without a framework for groundwater management.

“We have to do a better job of managing groundwater basins to secure the future of agriculture in California,” said Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which largely funded the UC Davis study. “That’s why we’ve developed the California Water Action Plan and a proposal for local, sustainable groundwater management.”

Failure to replenish groundwater in wet years continues to reduce groundwater availability to sustain agriculture during drought — particularly more profitable permanent crops, like almonds and grapes — a situation lead author Richard Howitt, a UC Davis professor emeritus of agricultural and resource economics, called a “slow-moving train wreck.”

“A well-managed basin is used like a reserve bank account,” Howitt said. “We’re acting like the super rich who have so much money they don’t need to balance their checkbook.”

vis researchers used computer models, remote satellite sensing data from NASA, and the latest estimates of State Water Project, federal Central Valley Project and local water deliveries and groundwater pumping capacities to forecast the economic effects of the drought.

The analysis was done at the request of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which co-funded the research along with the University of California.

The report’s other co-authors include UC Davis agricultural economists Josué Medellín-Azuara and Dan Sumner, and Duncan MacEwan of the ERA Economic consulting firm in Davis.

California produces nearly half of U.S.-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables and nearly a quarter of the nation’s milk and cream. Across the nation, consumers regularly buy several crops grown almost entirely in California, including tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, almonds, walnuts, grapes, olives and figs.

More information:

 

Media Contacts:

  • Richard Howitt, Agricultural and Resource Economics, (530) 752-1521, howitt@primal.ucdavis.edu (cell: (530) 304-4123)
  • Jay Lund, Center for Watershed Sciences, (530) 752-5671, jrlund@ucdavis.edu (cell: (530) 304-9543)
  • Josué Medellín-Azuara, Center for Watershed Sciences, (530) 574-8019, jmedellin@ucdavis.edu. (Josué is available for in-person interviews in Davis, Calif., the week of July 15, and Spanish interviews.)
  • Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-7704, kekerlin@ucdavis.eduView of Folsom Lake and Mormon Island during a drought from Beal’s Point in Granite Bay, California in February 2014.
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UC Global Food Initiative initiated by UC President Napolitano

Helene Dillard (left), dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, addresses the media at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, after announcement of the new UC Global Food Initiative. Also pictured: Craig McNamara, state

Dean Helene Dillard (left) addresses the media at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, after announcement of the UC Global Food Initiative. Also pictured: Craig McNamara (CDFA), Janet Napolitano (UC), and Karen Ross (CDFA).

University of California, Davis
July 14, 2014

The University of California, Davis, is front and center as the UC system musters its collective strength to help bolster the world’s food supply — making it healthier, larger and sustainable for a population headed toward 8 billion by 2025.

UC President Janet Napolitano announced the UC Global Food Initiative on July 1, first in Berkeley, then in Sacramento and finally Los Angeles. Helene Dillard, dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, joined Napolitano for the second announcement, which came during the monthly meeting of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture.

“At UC Davis, we have the additional benefit of the newly founded World Food Center, which will work with the UC Global Food Initiative to inventory the expansive expertise we have in agriculture across the UC system and help turn that knowledge into actions that address the global food challenges we face,” Dillard said outside the meeting.

The systemwide initiative is based on the existing strengths of the 10 UC campuses, the systemwide division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The different segments will work in subcommittees, with the Davis campus designated as a co-leader in these areas:

  • Agricultural sustainability
  • California’s response to climate change
  • Leveraging research for policy change
  • Student experiential learning
  • Food and agriculture literacy

The initiative encompasses UC’s tradition of innovative agricultural, health and environmental research, and expands on these efforts by incorporating other disciplines such as law and the humanities, education and social science to better shape, impact and drive food policy discussions.

UC will practice what it preaches, as the campuses strive to be models for the state, nation and world. UC Davis is already a showcase for these systemwide goals:

UC Davis student Alice Del Simone and other students address the Global Food Initiative in this video: http://dateline.ucdavis.edu/dl_detail.lasso?id=14874

UC Davis student Alice Del Simone and other students address the Global Food Initiative in this video: http://dateline.ucdavis.edu/dl_detail.lasso?id=14874

UC Davis is also a model for student farming: at the 37-year-old Student Farm (which sells to Dining Services and the Coffee House); and a garden plot in the Segundo housing area.

Under the UC Global Food Initiative, Napolitano also wants to see the campuses exercise their collective purchasing power and explore purchasing partnerships with kindergarten-through-12th-grade school districts. Further, the initiative aims to bring about new policies whereby small growers can become campus suppliers.

Best practices and toolkits

The initiative’s first phase calls for identifying best practices and developing toolkits to implement those practices — toolkits that, once successfully deployed around UC, can be made available everywhere.

Dillard said UC Davis will work to develop and disseminate management guidelines for food production, distribution and safety, plus school and youth nutrition programs.

UC is funding three $2,500 President’s Global Food Initiative Student Fellowships at each campus, to be awarded to undergraduate or graduate students for research projects or internships.

“The $7,500 allocated to each campus is ‘seed money’ for additional student support, and it provides us with an additional way to grow the future agriculture leaders of California, our country and throughout the world,” Dillard said.

“We are pleased that President Napolitano is eager to help us support great young minds to help solve these global food challenges.”

1 billion go to bed hungry

Segundo students have a garden to call their own, right outside their front door. In this 2012 photo, Jeff Mailes, an environmental science and management major, offers tomato planting tips to Katherine Park, left, and Rebecca Cheng, both food science majors. (photo: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Segundo students have a garden to call their own, right outside their front door. In this 2012 photo, Jeff Mailes, an environmental science and management major, offers tomato planting tips to Katherine Park, left, and Rebecca Cheng, both food science majors. (photo: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Napolitano said the initiative grew out of a commitment made by all 10 chancellors and herself.  “It is a commitment to work collectively to put a greater emphasis on what UC can do as a public research university, in one of the most robust agricultural regions in the world, to take on one of the world’s most pressing issues.”

She noted that by the year 2025, the world’s population would grow by 1 billion people. Already, she said, 1 billion people go to bed hungry every night, while a half-billion others suffer from obesity.

The initiative is not limited to seeking any single solution or set of solutions to the myriad food issues confronting the world, Napolitano said.

“The idea,” she said, “is to provide the intellectual and technical firepower, as well as the operational examples needed for communities in California and around the world to find pathways to a sustainable food future.”

Napolitano noted UC’s extraordinary capability for outreach on food and health, already exemplified by agricultural and public service programs in every California county and in more than 100 nations.

The initiative’s goal is similarly far-reaching: “It is to do all we can to help the world learn to feed itself in ways that are healthy and sustainable in the use of resources,” she said.

(This article was written by UC Davis Dateline staff, July 2, 2014.)

About the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UC Davis

The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of California, Davis, is the leading college of its kind in the world. Its researchers address critical issues related to agriculture, food, the environment, communities, and human and social sciences through cutting-edge research, top-ranked undergraduate and graduate education, and internationally recognized outreach programs. An overarching goal is to develop solutions for a better world, healthier lives, and an improved standard of living for everyone. www.caes.ucdavis.edu

Additional information:

Media contacts:

  • Helene Dillard, Dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UC Davis, hrdillard@ucdavis.edu
  • Ann Filmer, Senior Director of Communications, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UC Davis, afilmer@ucdavis.edu
Posted in Climate change, Communities, Demographics & population growth, Families & children & youth, Food safety, Food science, Food security, Food systems, Health, Income & poverty, International programs, Nutrition, Outreach, Philanthropy, Policy, Population growth, Students & education, Sustainability | Tagged , | Leave a comment

UC Davis strawberry facts and information

14.07.10-1bbThumbnail strawberry1University of California, Davis
July 11, 2014

Learn more about the acclaimed breeding program at UC Davis.

The California Strawberry Commission filed a lawsuit against UC Davis in October 2013 regarding its acclaimed strawberry breeding program. The commission expressed concern that the university was planning to end its breeding program.

In April 2014, following months of meetings with the strawberry commission, the university filed a motion with the Alameda County Superior Court, asking that the lawsuit be dismissed as meritless.

The university has assured the commission and other stakeholders that it is continuing the public breeding program, maintaining duplicate copies of each plant in the breeding program and recruiting for a new breeder with advanced genomic skills to join the program.

During six decades, the program has developed more than 30 patented varieties, made strawberries a year-round crop in California, and boosted strawberry yield from just six tons per acre in the 1950s to 30 tons per acre today.

In May 2014, at the request of California Assemblyman Luis Alejo of the 30th Assembly District, both the university and the strawberry commission agreed to enter formal mediation to resolve issues related to the future of the UC Davis strawberry breeding program. One mediation meeting was held in June, presided over by retired judge William Cahill, and a second meeting is scheduled for August.

For more details on the UC Davis Strawberry Breeding Program please read our frequently asked questions.

(From UC Davis News and Information, July 9, 2014.)

Additional information:

Media contact:

Ann Filmer, Senior Director of Communications, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UC Davis, afilmer@ucdavis.edu

Posted in Agriculture, Breeding & biotechnology & genomics, Fruit & nut crops, Plant science, Policy | Leave a comment

Champion of the alternative bee

Pollination ecologist Neal Williams checks the nesting site of blue orchard bees. (photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey/UC Davis)

Pollination ecologist Neal Williams checks the nesting site of blue orchard bees. (photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey/UC Davis)

University of California, Davis
July 11, 2014

Wild bees and honey bees pollinator crops; pollinator conservation is important.

When it comes to almond pollination, it’s more the merrier for growers when wild bees work alongside honey bees, says pollination ecologist Neal Williams.

For Williams, pollination isn’t just a buzzword.

“Pollination by bees is a critical input to many crops — as essential as irrigation, fertilizer or labor,” says the associate professor of pollination and bee biology in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

One of Williams’ main goals is to provide practical information to California farmers for improving the long-term stability of pollination. He also wants to promote pollinator conservation and management.

Blue orchard bees and bumble bees

Focusing on “alternative managed” bees, such as blue orchard bees and bumble bees, Williams likes to point out that on a per-bee basis, bumble bees are more effective than honey bees in pollinating tomatoes and watermelons. And the blue orchard bee is used to pollinate California’s No. 1 crop, almonds.

Williams advocates that national and global strategies be developed to support the diversity of bees and to enhance their habitat, especially with the decline of honey bees and bumble bees.

He cites crucial facts:

  • Thirty-five percent of primary food crops benefit from animal pollinators.
  • The global value of pollination surpasses $220 billion per year. In the United States alone, honey bees account for $14.6 billion, and wild or nonmanaged bees, more than $3 billion.
Male leafcutter bee peers over a rock purslane blossom. (photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey/UC Davis)

Male leafcutter bee peers over a rock purslane blossom. (photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey/UC Davis)

Making honey bees more effective

Williams was part of an international research team that found that honey bees are more effective at pollinating almonds when other bee species, including the blue orchard bee, are present.

The groundbreaking research, which took place in California’s almond orchards in Yolo, Colusa and Stanislaus counties, “is especially important because it increases the pollination effectiveness of honey bees as demand for their pollination service grows,” Williams said.

The researchers discovered that when blue orchard bees and wild bees are foraging with honey bees in almond orchards, the behavior of honey bees changes, resulting in more effective pollination for “this challenging crop.”

Research spanning the disciplines

Williams’ research on pollination spans the disciplines of conservation biology, behavioral ecology and evolution. A primary element of his research focuses on sustainable pollination strategies for agriculture. His interest in sustainability, in fact, has made him a core faculty member of the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute.

That research involves:

  • How native pollinators help alleviate the stress on honey bees and also suggests ways to more sustainably manage agricultural systems;
  • How farmers enhance habitat and diversify agricultural systems to promote managed and wild bees; and
  • Whether pollinators interact in ways to increase the overall effectiveness of crop pollination.

Williams’ past research in the Eastern and Western U.S. helped form the basis for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service planting guidelines to enhance pollinators in agriculture.

Developing bee habitats

Female sunflower bee forages on a Mexican hat flower. (photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey/UC Davis)

Female sunflower bee forages on a Mexican hat flower. (photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey/UC Davis)

Currently, Williams is looking at how landscape affects pollinators.

“Although other colleagues in our region investigate the importance of habitat for bees, we are unique in developing methods to identify best plants for bees and then applying these methods to select the plants,” Williams said.

His lab’s approach involves extensive field data, original computational modeling and controlled experimental testing. They are also testing how the resulting native plant mixes perform in real landscapes.

Working with growers

The Williams lab is working with more than 20 different growers and landowners in California and a variety of different crop types from orchard to row crop.

“We have helped to determine best practices for planting bee habitat, protocols for monitoring pollinator use and developed widely used methods for assessing pollinators’ contribution to pollination service,” he said.

The lab is compiling a database on “Honey Plants of California,” to be posted on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility website. It will include plant type, common name, genus, species, drought tolerance, honey value, honey color, pollen value and flower color.

Taking his practical findings to the next level, Williams says his next goal is to work with theoreticians to model bee communities and pollination.

(This article was written by Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist for the Department of Entomology and Nematology at UC Davis, as part of UC Davis Today.)

Media contacts:

Posted in Agriculture, Ecosystems & biodiversity, Fruit & nut crops, Insects et al, Plant science, Trees & forestry | Tagged | Leave a comment

UC Davis study identifies risky food safety practices in home kitchens

The most common risk in cooking chicken stems from cross contamination and insufficient cooking. (photo: UC Davis News Service)

The most common risk in cooking chicken stems from cross contamination and insufficient cooking. (photo: UC Davis News Service)

University of California, Davis
July 9, 2014

Findings reveal Americans often undercook chicken, rarely wash hands; research highlights need for increased consumer food safety education.

While most consumers are very aware of food safety issues, including salmonella, and the risk of foodborne illness, many do not follow recommended food safety practices in preparing their own meals at home, according to new research from the University of California, Davis.

The study, which examined preparation of raw poultry, found that the most common risks stemmed from cross contamination and insufficient cooking.

“The most surprising aspect of these findings to me was the prevalence of undercooking,” said faculty member Christine Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer Research at UC Davis, who authored the study. “We are now in summer, the peak season for foodborne illness, and these results come at a time when more consumers can benefit from being aware of better food safety practices. Even tips usually considered basic, like washing hands with soap and water before and after handling raw poultry, and never rinsing raw poultry in the sink, still need to be emphasized for a safer experience,” added Bruhn, a specialist in UC Cooperative Extension who studies consumer attitudes and behaviors toward food safety.

Most risks can be avoided by practicing thorough hand-washing, never rinsing raw chicken in the sink and using calibrated thermometers to determine that chicken is fully cooked. Researchers say these results will help narrow areas of focus and define important messages for food safety educators and advocates in their mission to promote safe food preparation.

The study analyzed video footage taken of 120 participants preparing a self-selected chicken dish and salad in their home kitchens. The participants were experienced in chicken preparation, with 85 percent serving chicken dishes in their home weekly, and 84 percent reporting being knowledgeable about food safety; 48 percent indicated they had received formal food safety training.

Cross contamination was of specific concern to researchers:

  • Most participants, 65 percent, did not wash their hands before starting meal preparation and 38 percent did not wash their hands after touching raw chicken.
  • Only 10 percent of participants washed their hands for the recommended duration of 20 seconds and about one-third of the washing occasions used water only, without soap.
  • Nearly 50 percent of participants were observed washing their chicken in the sink prior to preparation, a practice that is not recommended as it leads to spreading bacteria over multiple surfaces in the kitchen. See the U.S. Department of Agriculture website: http://1.usa.gov/1licv0U.

Insufficient cooking was also observed:

  • Forty percent of participants undercooked their chicken, regardless of preparation method and only 29 percent knew the correct USDA recommended temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Researchers observed that cooking thermometers were not widely used, with only 48 percent of participants owning one, and 69 percent of those reporting that they seldom use it to check if chicken is completely cooked. Most participants determined “fully cooked” based on appearance, an unreliable method according to the USDA. No participants reported calibrating their thermometers to ensure accuracy.

Based on the study’s findings, a coalition of agriculture and food safety partners, including the California Department of Food and Agriculture, UC Davis, the California Poultry Federation, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the Northwest Chicken Council, Partnership for Food Safety Education, and Foster Farms, are launching an educational campaign to increase consumer knowledge about safe food preparation practices in the home. The study was funded by contributions from Foster Farms.

“We all have an important role in ensuring food safety and preventing foodborne illness,” said Shelley Feist, executive director of the nonprofit Partnership for Food Safety Education. “Dr. Bruhn’s research shows that some home food safety practices need to be reinforced with consumers. Proper hand-washing and the consistent use of thermometers are basic preventive actions that need to be part of all home food handling and preparation.”

California agriculture officials and representatives have been vocal in recent weeks about salmonella control at the ranch level. “The California poultry industry has made great strides in reducing salmonella on raw chicken,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “However, even at this lower level, consumers still need to practice safe handling and cooking of raw poultry.” Ross recently recorded a public service announcement calling for more attention to safe handling and cooking for raw poultry and meats.

“The poultry industry takes its responsibility to produce a safe product very seriously, as evidenced by current food safety programs that are drastically reducing the incidence of salmonella,” said Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation. “At the same time, the research indicates that the consumer recognizes they also have a role in ensuring safety. This research provides a great opportunity to educate consumers with the most helpful information and tools to minimize risk and gives us a clear picture of what behaviors to focus on.”

The study’s complete findings will be published in the September/October issue of Food Protection Trends. Consumers can find free downloadable information on home food safety at http://www.fightbac.org.

(This article was written by Toby Baird and Karen Nikos-Rose, June 27, 2014.)

About Christine Bruhn

Bruhn is an expert in consumer behavior, food science, and consumer economics. She studies consumer attitudes toward food safety and quality and guides educational programs that inform consumers about food safety, new products and new technologies. She is a fellow of the Institute of Food Technologists, the Institute of Food Science and Technology in the U.K., and the International Association for Food Protection. In 2011, Bruhn completed a four-year term on the FDA Risk Communication Advisory Committee. She continues to serve as a consultant to the committee. Bruhn has authored more than 150 professional papers on consumer attitudes toward food.

Editor’s note: Interviews, original footage of participants and infographic available upon request. Find infographic at:http://photos.ucdavis.edu/albums.php?albumId=405946.

About the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UC Davis

The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of California, Davis, is the leading college of its kind in the world. Its researchers address critical issues related to agriculture, food, the environment, communities, and human and social sciences through cutting-edge research, top-ranked undergraduate and graduate education, and internationally recognized outreach programs. An overarching goal is to develop solutions for a better world, healthier lives, and an improved standard of living for everyone. www.caes.ucdavis.edu

Additional information:

Media contacts:

Posted in Birds & poultry, Diseases - people, Food safety, Food science, Health | Tagged | Leave a comment