Researchers at Kansas State University and elsewhere are making progress with a sweeping five-year study focused on preventing Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in beef.
Less than two years into the study, Randy Phebus, K-State professor of animal sciences and industry, says he’s seen progress on several fronts.
“We’ve already done some beneficial research,” said Phebus, who added that scientists are working closely with industry production and processing partners because it’s important to study the problem in real-life settings.
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The $25 million effort announced two years ago includes more than 50 collaborators across the country, including 14 universities and government agencies. Seventeen K-State scientists are working with the lead institution, the University of Nebraska, and others on a multi-pronged approach aimed at reducing the occurrence and public health risks from Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC). This group of bacteria is a serious threat to the safety of the food supply, causing more than 265,000 infections in the United States each year. Eating contaminated food or direct contact with fecal matter from infected cattle and other ruminants causes most of these illnesses.
“I think this is really ground-breaking work that we’re doing,” Phebus said. “It’s work that hasn’t really been done elsewhere just because of the scope of it.”