FVSU graduate student wins food safety award

Published By: Latasha Ford June 12, 2018

Richa Arya, a Fort Valley State University graduate student, examines goat meat samples that have been exposed to pulsed ultraviolet-light.

A Fort Valley State University graduate student received recognition at a recent conference in Beltsville, Maryland, for her research in food safety.

Richa Arya, who is pursuing a master’s degree in biotechnology, won $200 and a certificate for her oral presentation during the second annual 1890 Association of Research Directors (ARD) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Center (USDA-ARS) Food Safety Consortium Symposium.

Proud of her award, the 25-year-old said it shows that all of her hard work paid off. While at the conference, she met USDA scientists and 1890 ARD faculty. “It was a good opportunity to network and gain knowledge about new and ongoing research in related fields,” Arya said.

Her research focused on the inactivation efficacy of pulsed ultraviolet-light (UV-light) against Escherichia coli (E. coli) K12 on goat meat surfaces. She found that pulsed UV-light significantly reduced the bacterial count. “E. coli is a foodborne pathogen that causes illnesses such as bloody diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a disease where kidney failure occurs,” she said.

Using pulsed UV-light, Arya said this novel, non-thermal technology could be a good alternative for killing microorganisms compared to other conventional techniques such as thermal and chemical treatments. “The high intensity light pulses in the wavelength range of 100 to 1,100 nanometers are used to kill E. coli,” she said. “It is a reliable and environmentally-friendly technology. It can kill microorganisms within seconds. It also does not change the quality of meat and is efficient in using less power to achieve decontamination.”

The award recipient said the research she is conducting is important to the growing population. “There are many cases of foodborne illnesses, so it is important to provide customers with safe food,” she said.

Working alongside her mentor, Dr. Ajit Mahapatra, a FVSU associate professor of food and bioprocess engineering, Arya said it is an honor.

“It is a delight to work with Richa on such an important topic, and our collaboration has been very productive. I am proud of her,” Mahapatra said. He added that his research collaboration with graduate students is the most exciting part of his career at FVSU.

As a graduate student in the biotechnology program, Arya said there are many ongoing research projects at the 1890 Land-Grant University. “The biotechnology program provides us with an opportunity to use our knowledge in industrial applications,” she said.

Her plans after completing her master’s degree are to pursue a doctorate in food safety and a career as a food safety researcher.

The 1890 ARD and USDA-ARS Food Safety Consortium Symposium highlights current 1890 research, education and Cooperative Extension efforts and impacts related to food safety and agricultural water quality.

For more information about ARD or USDA-ARS, visit https://bit.ly/2sbytzG or https://bit.ly/2s7baYw.