Guelph Food Experts Making Headlines

October 11, 2012 - In the News

University of Guelph professors and researchers are emerging as Canada’s top food experts on the recent meat recall issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The recall of contaminated beef products was first issued last month and covered meat that came from Alberta’s XL Foods' Brooks facility, which processes a third of the country's beef, on specific days in August and early September. It has since been expanded, and the number of products on the recall list now exceeds 300, with many stores across the country affected.

In addition, U of G researchers have taken part in numerous related media stories recently, including continued concerns about global food prices.

Food science professor Keith Warriner has been providing insight into the contamination of beef products, explaining how it happened and how it can be prevented. He was interviewed by Oct. 10, talking about union concerns about the culture of food safety at Alberta's XL Foods plant. He has also appeared on Ontario Today, done an interview with the CTV News Channel, appeared on CBC's News Now and been interviewed by CBC’s The National.

Warriner and his research team have developed decontamination methods to improve food safety, including effective ways to sterilize seeds and a method that could effectively eliminate Salmonella contaminations. His team has also tested the effectiveness of a sanitizing system aimed at neutralizing bacteria on food and surfaces.

Prof. Alfons Weersink, Department of Agricultural Economics and Business, was quoted in a recent Toronto Star article on economic trends. Weersink discussed the effects of the summer’s drought in the United States on food prices. He said corn crops were most severely affected, with the price of field corn soaring by 50 per cent. The increase in the price of field corn is expected to nudge overall food price inflation up by three and five per cent, he said.

Weersink’s research focuses on the effects of technology and government policy, particularly environmental policy; on decisions made by firms in the agri-food sector; and on the resulting structure of the sector. He was raised on a cash crop/dairy farm near St. Marys, Ont., and continues to be involved with the farm.

Geography professor Evan Fraser was featured on Chinese Radio International (CRI) Oct. 9. He took part in a live panel discusion on global food prices that aired on the CRI English program Today, a news magazine show that focuses on domestic and global news and current affairs. Other participants were from universities in Hong Kong and the United States.

Fraser joined U of G in fall 2010 as the Canada Research Chair in Global Human Security. He co-wrote the book Empires of Food: Feast, Famine and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations about how and why human culture depends on food, what happens when a culture runs out of it and our likely future.

Sylvain Charlebois, associate dean of research and graduate studies in the College of Management and Economics, wrote opinion articles that were published in the Ottawa Citizen and in the Globe and Mail . In the editorial columns, he talks about the effect of the recall on Canada’s beef industry and consumers, and the need for increased transparency.

Charlebois also did a live interview on the CBC Network, discussing safety standards in the meat industry and the recall process. In addition, he was featured in a Globe and Mail article on the recall, discussing Canada's ability to track contaminated food. He is an expert in food distribution and safety and belongs to the CFIA"s national expert advisory committee.

University professor emeritus Carlton Gyles, Department of Pathobiology, was quoted in an Oct. 4 Globe and Mail story about the merits of a national E. coli vaccine. He was involved in research a few years ago that involved testing the effectiveness of a Canadian vaccine for cattle that would reduce the risk of E. coli to consumers.

Gyles began studying E. coli more than 35 years ago and was among the first to pinpoint how a toxin produced by E. coli — similar to the toxin produced by cholera bacteria — could cause illness in pigs.

John Cranfield, a food, agricultural and resource economics professor, is quoted in a Globe and Mail Oct. 2 story that looks at consumer issues, including how to know if meat products are safe. He discussed how consumers change their eating and buying patterns following outbreaks.

A U of G professor since 2001, Cranfield studies consumer behaviour and demand analysis among individuals, households and markets. He conducted studies on how Canadians changed their buying and consumption behaviour following the 2008 recall associated with listeria in ready-to-eat meats and the impact on firms.

Brita Ball, Food Safety Network co-ordinator, appeared on CHCH News. She discussed how people at home can mitigate the risks of consuming contaminated meat by cooking it properly and following proper sanitization procedures. She also did a cooking demonstration.

Ball studies food safety management systems in the food processing sector, including how factors such as the food safety culture and production systems influence employees, food safety and quality assurance.

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