Better Safe Than Sorry: A Focus on Food

Better Safe Than Sorry: A Focus on Food



[SOUND] It's one of the world's most
critical needs, food. >> And I'm gonna buy some tomatoes,
strawberries, nectarines, peaches. >> And it's linked to our environment, our
society, and undeniably, our health. >> Is California on the leading edge of
food safety? Absolutely. >> It defines who we are and how we live. >> People always say you are what you eat. >> And for many, food is a source of fear
and concern, optimism, and potential. >> We're helping the industry improve the
quality of food. >> That potential is obvious when you step
foot on the University of California Davis, home to groundbreaking research
that's finding answers to global issues surrounding our
food supply. From the safety of it, to the future of
it, to what we should be doing with it right
now. In this half hour, we from those on the
frontlines of research that may well end the spread of
food borne illness. >> This is actually the machine that we do
the DNA fingerprinting on. >> Those who wish it would have come
earlier. >> We came close to losing Reagan. I can't imagine how much more difficult
our life would have been. >> And those like celebrity chef and
UC-Davis graduate Martin Yan. I have spring onion. I have beets. I have celery. >> And California Food and Agriculture
Secretary Karen Ross. >> I love to tell people that if they had
a salad today, at least half of those
ingredients came from California. >> Who say thanks to innovation happening
right here at UC Davis, California is poised to lead the
country and feed the world. >> You see they have a blower, and it's
blowing. Air and scaring the insects away and stuff
like that so the product comes out about as clean as
you can. >> Birds. Yeah birds. >> When Bob Martin started farming decades
ago, he never imagined he'd be so concerned with what's
growing alongside his produce. >> We treat every pile of poop like it can
harbor a pathogen. We gonna make sure that, that doesn't
cross over into commerce into the, into our
product. >> Sounds like a joke, but it's not. With deadly pathogens including E.Coli and
Salmonella becoming of main stream vocabulary, you could say
farmers in California are also part investigator, spending a
whole lot of time and money searching for what
shouldn't be there. >> We're sampling, sampling 60 samples per
acre. Okay? Into one composite sample. Every acre we pull 60 samples. >> Samples that will indicate whether
something potentially deadly is lurking on these
leaves. >> The thing is, we have taken, I think,
over 300,000 samples in the last three or four
years now. And not have one possible, not one presumptive, not, not a single issue with
pathogens. >> Not one problem and there's a lot at
stake. If there's so much of a hint at animals
getting into the plants, a paw print or a bird dropping, the entire acre, valued at
$4,000 is destroyed. And one acre of lost revenue is nothing
compared with what farmers are spending each month to
keep out food safe. >> Just in raw products, [SOUND] we spend
about $40,000 a month. In testing in this room, it's probably,
it's about 8 to $9,000 a month. We have 28 miles of eight foot high fence
along the ranches. We're talking millions of dollars. Just in mousetraps, we spent $250,000 last
year. >> Tim McAfee is part owner of Rio Farms, the successful large-scale
operation that Bob Martin oversees. With 650,000 pounds of lettuce shipped
each week to major customers like restaurant chains and bagged salad
providers, one stray pathogen in this facility could make its way through the
supply chain across dozens of states and into millions of mouths
within a matter of days. And that's exactly why farmers in one of California's most prosperous
agricultural regions are working alongside scientists at UC Davis, one of the world's most highly regarded public
research universities. >> As you can imagine, this whole area of
California is really one of the largest producers of lettuce and
leafy greens for the whole United States. It's a, you could say a success story in
many ways. But on the heels of that success has been
a growing concern about food safety. Unfortunately a few outbreaks have been
traced back to this area, so it's really motivated us at
WIFSS, at the University. To really try and figure out what's going
on with these outbreaks. >> WIFSS is the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security at the University of
California Davis. Rob Atwill is the director here. The institute is a partnership between UC
Davis, government and private industry, created to find answers to the many mysteries surrounding deadly
pathogens. Yeah one of our big questions right now
and a question a lot of scientists, a lot of the produce industry are asking, a lot of
consumers are asking, is where does e coli come
from. >> They don't respect fences very well. >> So Atwell and a team of graduate
researchers are working with the USDA at this field in
Salinas, California. They're conducting experiments on a crop
of lettuce planted solely for the sake of
research. >> What we want to see is when we turn on
the sprinklers, how the water will splash this to the lettuce heads that have
been flagged. >> They're using a variety of methods to
determine not only which animals are the most likely to carry disease, but also how it's transfer from the critter to the
crop. So once you trap them, what do you do
next? >> I take them to my work station get them
out of the traps. I take measurements to identify them to
see what species it is. I collect the sample and that sample get
immediately shipped to the lab. >> A lab much like this one, where the bacteria are grown and studied and tested
and tracked. >> So what you're doing is testing
different methods and trying to rule them out, until you narrow
down the culprit. >> That's right. And until we narrow down the culprit, we have a difficult position to tell farmers
exactly what to do, in the cheapest way, so that
they'll adopt it up and down the valley. >> The results are used to provide farmers
with ways to help protect their crop and in turn,
their customers. It's information they're eager to receive. Bob Martin realizes that one bad meal, one
unfortunate outbreak, could have a devastating effect not only on his
business but the entire industry. >> The spinach that caused the outbreak
was washed and bagged right here on August 15. >> That's what happened in 2006 when a
deadly strain of E.Coli known as 0157H7 made its way across the US, not seen,
smelled, or noticed until it was too late. >> The cramping and the diarrhea alone
were so bad. I had no idea that, you know, his kidneys
could shut down. That was not something that entered my
mind. >> Tiffany Erickson's son Regan was four
years old at the time that tainted spinach sent fear
through the nation. >> You can tell that he's just, he's pale
and puffy. The outbreak launched investigators into a
search for answers to what exactly was making so many people
sick. >> We realized something wasn't normal
about this. I mean I had gotten sick and was severely ill, and then Reagan had gotten sick, and
then Emma. And then it was this progressive. It wasn't your normal stomach flu. Although Tiffany and three year old Emma Erickson eventually recovered,
Regan's symptoms worsened. It took days to find the answer. >> And the hospital fingerprint matched
his E.Coli with the spinach. >> It was a batch of spinach that Regan
didn't even consume. Doctors suspect he contracted the deadly
strain of E.Coli 0157H7 by bathing in the same tub his mother had mother had bathed in
the night before while at her sickest. The pathogen spread throughout Regan's
tiny body, taking it's biggest toll on his kidneys. >> It's hard to be where I was. Yeah. But I was there pretty long. >> He spent nearly a month in a children's
hospital near his home in Salt Lake City, Utah, undergoing multiple blood transfusions and weeks of
dialysis. The bacteria came perilously close to
winning. Five years later, a shy nine year old
still remembers the sadness he felt in the hospital and the joyful day
when he finally came home. >> On the picture she decorated to say
welcome home Regan. >> How did that feel to come home? >> Happy. >> Hey, guys. Hey, buddy, how was school? >> Today, Regan Erickson is a third
grader. >> Thanks for carrying Emma's backpack for
her. >> With an extra close bond to his sister
Emma. She's a genetic match and perfect
potential donor for a kidney. He's expected to need more than one
transplant in his lifetime. But the Eriksons consider themselves
lucky, Regan is still alive. >> What's the first part? >> We realize now how important it is to
have family time, to go on family vacations, to take the moments now and
hold on tight because you never know. >> The Ericksons are among the 48 million people each year hit with a foodborne
illness. The US Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention estimates one in six Americans will contract a foodborne
illness each year. 128,000 of them will be hospitalized and
3,000 will die as a result. In 2011 alone, a new strain of E Coli killed more than 45 people in Europe and
sickened thousands. In the US, Jennie O Brands, recalled
turkey believed to be tainted with salmonella, which was also
the culprit in a papaya recall. In Oregon, E.Coli was discovered in
strawberries. In Washington, it was Vibrio from raw
oysters. Meantime 3,000 cases of Dole salad bags were recalled after a random test found
Listeria. And speaking of Listeria, in September it
caused the deadliest outbreak of foodborne
illness in the US in more than a decade, when tainted
cantaloupe claimed the lives of more than two dozen
people. In August, another record was set when one of the largest meat recalls in history
took place. Cargill pulled 36 million pounds of ground turkey that contained a drug-resistant
strain of Salmonella. >> This is an actual Salmonella plate. This came from a rodent sample. >> Michelle J Wressle is a researcher and
veterinarian with the Western Institute for Food Safety and
Security at UC Davis. She was also an investigator with the California Department of Public Health
during that landmark E.Coli case in 2006, the same one that nearly killed Regan
Eriksson. >> While there had been other cases of
E.Coli recorded, the 2006 outbreak was unique in a couple
of ways. For one, it was the deadliest outbreak in
our nation's history to date, claiming three lives and
sickening more than 200. But also, it was the first time
investigators were able to track E.Coli back to a specific
processing plant, on a specific date, and eventually to the
actual farm that was the source of E.Coli here in San
Benito County, California. >> What I would say broke the case were
investigators in New Mexico and other states that
actually went into patient refrigerators, pulled out left
over bags of spinach and found the DNA fingerprint, the matching
outbreak strain in that bag. >> But in the meantime, the FDA had issued an unprecedented advisory not to
eat spinach. It wasn't served in restaurants, it wasn't
sold in grocery stores, and for those in the industry, it equaled tens of
millions of dollars down the drain. >> Well, we were devastated. and, and the growers that grow for us were literally coming around the door and
saying what are we going to do with all this spinach that's ready for you guys to
harvest. >> Jim Lugg, Vice President of Food Safety
and Quality for the company that invented bagged salad found himself facing the kind
of crisis he had worked for decades to
prevent. >> In effect, it shut down our, our
spinach operation completely, even though we were not
implicated in the outbreak. >> It's everybody's nightmare that this
could happen. >> These days, Bob Martin allows UC Davis
researchers full access to his fields, where they test amphibians, rodents and
ground water, looking for clues into what carries
disease. [SOUND] Researchers now know what most
likely caused the 2006 outbreak. >> There was a large population of wild
animals, especially the feral pigs, that had access to these
various fields. About 1 in every 4 fecal samples that we
collected, had E.Coli 0157. >> Pigs, cattle, dirt, and creek water all
tested positive. But the question remained, how do we
prevent it? >> After that outbreak, the industry
actually very quickly set up the California Leafy Green
Marketing agreement, which is voluntary standards, very specific
descriptions of what growers and harvesters can do to make sure that outbreaks are,
are prevented. >> Shortly after, in 2007, the Center for
Produce Safety was launched at UC Davis. Jim Lugg now retired, serves on its
advisory committee. >> Obviously, people in our industry saw
the need and they've stepped up and, and contributed through a center for
produce safety to, to really enhance the
scientific foundation. And it's been a huge help for us. >> And in 2011, the historic Food Safety
Modernization Act was signed into law. It's the first major reform to FDA food
safety provisions in more than 70 years. It creates standards much like
California's already stringent guidelines for the
entire nation. >> The American consumer expects food to
be safe. We've learned over time that we have to keep pushing the edge to keep improving
food safety. If nothing else, because so many meals are
served each year out of this region that there's a huge
responsibility to do it right. >> While one team of researchers is
focused on ensuring food safety, farther north on
the campus of UC Davis, another is looking to make healthy foods not only safe but
enticing. >> One of the most important factors for
consumption of foods and beverages is how it tastes, how it
smells to us. And that's one of the biggest drivers of
acceptance and preference and liking. >> Seems obvious, if something doesn't
taste good or look good, you won't want to eat it, no matter how good
it is for you. Doctor Susan Ebler is delving into the
very basics, searching for the actual chemical composition that
makes food taste good. She's part of UC Davis' Viticulture and
Enology program, housed in the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine
and Food Science. It's a state of the art complex that's home to several facilities you won't find
on most university campuses, including an
energy-efficient winery, a state of the art brewery, a vineyard and a sensory
lab. Now this is the type of lab you may expect
to see. Here at the Ebler Lab, the focus is
entirely on food at the molecular level. >> We're trying to better understand the
flavor of melon so that we can have improved melon varieties with
improved flavor, better flavor so that when the melons are harvested and
transported to the stores, the, the product that the consumer receives is
a better quality, better flavor product. >> In short, she's searching for an end to
the flavorless fruit and soggy produce you
find when the product is harvested, stored or shipped before
it's ripe, likely a result of the bio-chemical process of that
plant being rudely interrupted. But if Doctor Ebler can identify the exact
compounds responsible for the bio-chemical process,
she might be able to find ways to keep it from screeching to a halt when the fruit is removed from the
vine. And that could mean an end to tasteless
tomatoes. But what machines can tell us about
chemicals, only real life taste buds can tell us about
flavor. And this is where the sensory lab comes
in. >> The color tells us a lot about what we
expect. It's going to be influenced by the
texture. For example, a cracker, if it's not
crunchy like we expect a cracker to be, our perception of it is
going to be very different. >> You need water or anything? >> Yeah, a little bit more water, if you
don't mind. [CROSSTALK] The state of the art sensory
lab, here at UC Davis, has 24 stations where volunteers look at
everything from taste to texture, sight to smell. On the day we visit, a panel is examining
fresh figs. >> So when they arrive, first we'll have
them come and smell the aroma references. Then we'll have them go to the tasting
booths and they'll taste their fig samples and then they'll move to
another booth to do the visual assessment. >> There are three goals for this
experiment. First, to identify flavor descriptions for
different fig varieties, much like you see for
wines. These sample aromas give volunteers a
reference point for describing the figs. They could for example be grassy, oakie or
fruity. Second, the fig industry may use this
information when developing new varieties that have a longer shelf life or
more desirable characteristics. >> Here you go, number two. >> Thank you. >> Finally, sensory descriptions could be
useful to bakers, food product developers and chefs, like internationally known Master Chef, Martin
Yan. >> The only thing that I need now is I
want to have a beautiful fresh fig. Oh, this is beautiful. This is for garnishing. >> The author and host of Yan Can Cook
invited us into his home to talk about three of his favorite things: gardening, cooking and the science
of food. >> Food science has very important, the
study of the food chain from the farm from the original raw ingredient to
the consumer market. Whether they can be fermented whether they
can be canned, or frozen, or dehydrated. All of these, each step are very
important. When you buy the tomato at the market, they're green, and then put in the
warehouse. >> They taste horrible. >> Right, they look beautiful, but they
don't taste as good. >> And in his business, taste is
everything. Yan says, just like you might buy a Fuji
apple because it's good with caramel, a chef might choose an ingredient, say a
fig, because of the other ingredients those
flavors might complement. To assist chefs like Jan, sensory testing
could focus on textures or colors. >> The concept of a sensory lab is to identify the flavor profile and make sure
everything tastes good. And, and when you, do food manufacturing
you know what is good and what is accepted, what is not accepted
by the general public. And I put them all together, because I
have something sweet, something a bit tangy, and it all fruit,
and all from California. Everything is grown right here. >> Flavor is very important, just because,
I mean, that's what makes you want to eat
something. And if it doesn't have a good flavor, if
it doesn't seem non-artificial, if it doesn't seem natural, I mean, you're
not gonna want to eat it. So flavor is the ultimate factor in
everything. [LAUGH] >> And inside the Ebler lab, flavor is the
focus with an eye on better products and practices that will keep food tasty
from the field all the way to the fork. >> Gently. >> It's a mission sought not only for the
sake of science but for the health of our nation, by creating
nutritional food we want to eat. >> If it tastes good, people will eat it. And if we want people to consume more
fruits and vegetables, we need to make sure that they
taste good. >> Improving the taste and quality of
foods is, of course, an important focus for food
scientists. But just as challenging are the issues
that we as consumers can't always see. Problems that happen at the farm,
sometimes the result of climate, environment, or plain
old bad luck. >> We're looking at our record production
ever of 1.95 billion pounds of almonds. >> When it comes to growing almonds, there's arguably no better place than
California. 80% of the world's almond supply and 100%
of the US supply is grown in the valley regions of
the golden state. But as farmers increase their crop to meet
demand, they face one potential problem. >> We've got these larger crops coming on. We're gonna be extending the harvest later
into the fall and obviously there's more risk
of rain. >> And rain can create what's known as
concealed damage. It's a problem growers have seen only a handful of times in recent history, but
with a larger crop lasting well into the rainy season, they're expecting to see it more
often. The damage occurs after the almonds have
been shaken to the ground, where they're normally left to
dry before harvesting. >> But when they're drying on the ground
and you get these excessive rains and you
can't get in. You can't dry the crop. You can't get in to, to pick it up. You can't get in to to deal with it
properly. That's when the problems come. That's why almond growers have gone in
search of a solution. It may seem like a problem only mother
nature could solve, but that's exactly the type of challenge
food scientists focus on. >> So you could see, these almonds all
look the same on the outside. Yet when you open some of them up, they
may open up to have concealed damage. So we're trying to help the industry
understand ways of, that they can actually measure concealed damage
without having to open all of the almonds. >> If a solution is found, and they say it
looks promising, the result can save the almond
industry millions of dollars. It would also carry on UC Davis's century
old tradition of creating new techniques and innovations that improve food quality
and support California's food industries. >> We work with lettuce. We work with tomatoes. We work with peaches. We work with any commodity that's grown in
the state of California. Olive oil, we have a big olive oil program
here. And then we also do work with multiple
industries, you know, everybody from Mars to Pepsi is
involved in research here. >> As for almond growers across the state,
finding a solution to their problem could mean
peace of mind during harvest and the guarantee that they
can continue to produce a very healthy product for an
increasingly health-conscious society. >> Knowing this answers will helps us
manage the conceal damage, so that we are preserving the quality of a wholesome,
nutritious, highly desirable nut to eat. >> Preserving the quality of healthy
foods, making them safer, more accessible and
more desirable. For researchers at the Western Institute
for Food Safety and Security that means protecting us all from
dangers we can't see. For Sue Ebler, it means creating foods
that taste good, even through shipping and storing, so that more people will eat
more food that's good for them. >> It's taste and aroma. >> We are at the analytical forefront of
finding out. >> And for Alison Mitchell it means
finding solutions to problems that affect our food supply
starting in the field. >> The goal is to produce higher quality
foods, taking what we've got out there and making it even better and
understanding it from the ground up. >> And that understanding is going all the
way up to the top to those who lead the state, in a state
that leads the nation. >> Having the kind of technology and the
science and the innovation that, that starts on a
college campus somewhere and then it's extended to the end use, is
very much a part of why we're so successful in
agriculture today. When you look at the productivity of a farmer back in 1930, maybe they fed 12
people. And today one farmer is responsible for
the food source of 155 people. That's a productivity gain. That's an efficiency gain. That's from science. That's from technology. It's taking all of the tools and deploying
them in a way that has made us continually get
better, to be more productive, and do it in a way that, that provides choice and
affordability to our consumers. >> It's choice and affordability, coupled
with life changing innovation happening through these doors, in these
fields, and under these microscopes. Innovation that has the potential to not
only feed a nation, but fuel the world with food that is healthy,
and accessible, and safe.

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