Food Safety at the Interface between Food, Water, Agriculture and the Environment: Where the Action Takes Place

Research Project:

Food Safety at the Interface Between Food, Water, Agriculture and the Environment: Where the Action Takes Place

Brief Summary: This ILSI proposal focuses on the emerging need of cross-disciplinary activities in controlling foodborne pathogens, harmful chemicals and other contaminants, including microplastics, at the intersection of food, water and agriculture. The identification of future research needs, as well as team building to bring together interdisciplinary and collaborative scientists, are the main goals of this project. Presented by Lee-Ann Jaykus.

Rationale and Approach: Solving complex issues that are inherit across all disciplines is a difficult undertaking especially when the focus is on the emerging need in controlling foodborne pathogens, harmful chemicals and other contaminants at the interface of food, water and agriculture. Entities in the environment, including but not limited to water (1), animals (2), and soil/filth (3) provide the source of foodborne pathogens to a variety of products. Urban contaminants include microplastics and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, which are human-made chemicals found in cleaning products, coatings, cookware, containers, wrappers, clothing. US EPA recently announced a “comprehensive national strategy to confront PFAS pollution” (4), to address issues like degree of human exposure; potential impacts to health; and remediation approaches. Similarly, accumulation of microplastics in air, water, soil, and sewage can lead to their unwanted presence in farmlands (5). It is only through collaboration between food and environmental microbiology, and with understanding of key plant and animal agriculture principles, that issues like these can be adequately addressed. This proposal aims at identifying the future research needs and establishing a cross-functional/collaboration of scientist whose goals are to identify viable solutions.


  • Establish a committee to work on identification of key product/pathogen or product/chemical contaminant combinations of high priority for cross-disciplinary food/environmental science research.


  • Establishment of new multi-disciplinary networks
  • Identification of future research agendas with inclusion of prioritization of topics
  • Greater opportunities for growth and funding through federal and international agencies, as well as the ILSI foundation


  1. Rodrigues, C., et al. (2020) Factors impacting the prevalence of foodborne pathogens in agricultural water sources in the southeastern United States. Water 12(51).
  2. Heredia, N., et al. (2018) Animals as sources of food-borne pathogens: a review. Animal Nutrition 4(3): 250-255.
  3. De Melo Ramos, T., et al. (2021) Survival and persistence of foodborne pathogens in manure-amended soils and prevalence on fresh produce in certified organic farms: a multi-regional baseline analysis. Front. Sustain. Food. Syst. 5(674767).
  4. United States Environmental Protection Agency. EPA administrator Regan announces comprehensive national strategy to confront PFAS pollution.
  5. Rolsky, C., et al. (2020) Municipal sewage sludge as a source of microplastics in the environment. Current Opinion in Environmental Science and Health 14: 16-20.

Contact us to get involved!