Food safety is the meat and poultry industries' top priority, Betsy Booren, American Meat Institute’s scientific affairs director, told USDA officials last week. She emphasized that USDA set its funding priorities accordingly.

Booren delivered that message at USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture meeting, which was designed to collect comments about how the agency should develop funding requests for its 2011 Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. AFRI is NIFA's flagship competitive-grant program established by the 2008 Farm Bill.

Voicing concerns that AFRI has already cut food science disciplines and its counterparts in other agricultural sciences from its programs. "Research on food processing technologies, food ingredients, animal production and other critical multi-disciplinary areas in the food sciences is needed to solve problems facing today's agricultural community,” she told the group. “These multi-disciplinary areas are integral to food safety research."

Booren added that excluding food science-related research eventually could create a shortage of trained food scientists down the road.

She wrapped up her comments by calling for more basic research, explaining that the AMI Foundation   believes a “fundamental understanding of biological, physical, microbial and chemical properties will help provide solutions to problems facing the agriculture and food industries.” Booren pointed to AMIF’s work in finding solutions to food-safety problems, many times occurring when that was not the research project’s primary goal.

"The AMI Foundation encourages NIFA to allow for investigator-initiated research ideas to be considered, if not funded," she said. "As this country's public funding organization for food and agriculture it is your responsibility not to be a roadblock to discovery, but be an organization that fosters it."

Source: AMI,