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J Anim Sci. 2009 Jan;87(1):419-37. doi: 10.2527/jas.2008-2008-1151. Epub 2008 Aug 15.

ASAS Centennial Paper: Developments and future outlook for preharvest food safety.

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  • 1Food Safety Center of Excellence and Department of Animal Science, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville 37996, USA.


The last century of food animal agriculture is a remarkable triumph of scientific research. Knowledge derived through research has resulted in the development and use of new technologies that have increased the efficiency of food production and created a huge animal production and food manufacturing industry capable of feeding the US population while also providing significant quantities of high-quality food for export to other countries. Although the US food supply is among the safest in the world, the US Center for Disease Prevention and Control estimates that 76 million people get sick, more than 300,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die each year from foodborne illness. Consequently, preventing foodborne illness and death remains a major public health concern. Challenges to providing a safe, abundant, and nutritious food supply are complex because all aspects of food production, from farm to fork, must be considered. Given the national and international demand and expectations for food safety as well as the formidable challenges of producing and maintaining a safe food supply, food safety research and educational programs have taken on a new urgency. Remarkable progress has been made during the last century. Wisdom from a century of animal agriculture research now includes the realization that on-farm pathogens are intricately associated with animal health and well-being, the production of high-quality food, and profitability. In this review, some of the developments that have occurred over the last few decades are summarized, including types, sources, and concentrations of disease-causing pathogens encountered in food-producing animal environments and their association with food safety; current and future methods to control or reduce foodborne pathogens on the farm; and present and future preharvest food safety research directions. Future scientific breakthroughs will no doubt have a profound impact on animal agriculture and the production of high-quality food, but we will also be faced with moral, ethical, and societal dilemmas that must be reconciled. A strong, science-based approach that addresses all the complex issues involved in continuing to improve food safety and public health is necessary to prevent foodborne illnesses. Not only must research be conducted to solve complex food safety issues, but results of that research must also be communicated effectively to producers and consumers.

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