Cultivating Curiosity

Serving up the facts: food science and safety

July 29, 2022 CAES Office of Marketing and Communications Season 1 Episode 3
Cultivating Curiosity
Serving up the facts: food science and safety
Show Notes Transcript

We spoke with Manpreet Singh, professor and department head of the CAES Department of Food Science and Technology. From debunking some common food safety misconceptions to exploring the local, national and international impact of the department, this episode is a literal smorgasbord of information!

Resources:

UGA Cooperative Extension's website
More about UGA-Griffin
More about UGA-Tifton
The FoodPIC
UGA's Center for Food Safety
The Innovation Gateway at UGA

Edited by
Carly Mirabile
Produced by Jordan Powers, Emily Davenport, Carly Mirabile
Music and sound effects by Mason McClintock, an Athens-based singer, songwriter and storyteller who creates innovative soul-pop music that transcends traditional genre boundaries. Hailing from small-town Southeast Georgia, Mason's influences range from the purest pop to the most powerful gospel. Mason is a former Georgia 4-H'er and current University of Georgia student. Listen to his music on Spotify

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Emily Davenport:

Welcome to "Cultivating Curiosity," where we get down and dirty with the experts on all the ways science and agriculture touch our lives, from what we eat to how we live. I'm Emily Davenport.

Jordan Powers:

And I'm Jordan Powers. And we're from the University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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Jordan Powers:

We're talking to Dr. Manpreet Singh, department head and professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Thank you for joining us today.

Manpreet Singh:

Thank you for having me here. It's a pleasure to talk to you and actually the general public about food science and technology and food safety. And hopefully, I'll share some insights about what I know and have learned along my career.

Emily Davenport:

So we've heard you're solving some food mysteries from TikTok. Do you know what I'm referring to?

Manpreet Singh:

Yes.

Emily Davenport:

Okay. Can you tell us more about that specific mystery? And maybe others? If there's others?

Manpreet Singh:

I'm surprised that did the rounds. But yes.

Everyone:

[laughter]

Manpreet Singh:

No, I think, one of the things is with the way media is now everybody's looking for access. By access, I mean, not access to be somewhere but access to information, someone who can reach me is in access to me. And that means if it's about a situation where they are, or if someone's put out a Tiktok video about, um, you know, in this case, specifically, the example was a classic example of social media, it came through three channels of social media, to eventually be a TikTok video, which was shared through other platforms. And the video was about a customer who had gone out and bought a pack of chicken, chicken breast in this case, and marinated that and then, post marination, they saw some white spots on the chicken breast. And they were worried about "what is that?" And because of the lack of information, or the lack of knowledge, customers might sometimes be very quick to say the grocery store did that, or the processor who made that did that. So when things like those happen, questions do come up for clarification. So I was sent that from another Extension specialist from a different institution to get my opinion on.

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Jordan Powers:

UGA Cooperative Extension specialists are members of the CAES faculty that operate at a state level to train and assist farmers and producers on a variety of topics. Extension agents collaborate with farmers one on one, create educational programs and workshops and publish research-based information for the public. You can read more about UGA Extension at extension.uga.edu. And we'll add that link to the show notes.

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Manpreet Singh:

And I had dealt with this over the years, with other brands and in other countries as well on the retail shelves. So it ends up that if you have chicken or chicken breasts, which sit out on a grocery shelf for a longer period of time, or there's some temperature abuse beyond the intended shelf life of a product, you could see some growth of mold on it. And that's where those spots could be. So actually, that's a really great question now that I think of it because our own Dr. Larry Bouchard, who was from the Center for Food Safety, I want to say about 18 years ago, or 20 years ago had a similar situation when he had a visiting scientist here and they were doing some projects and collecting, you know, samples from retail stores. And when they subjected them to beyond a certain intended shelf life, they started seeing these white spots on chicken and it actually was ID'd out to be a type of mold that grows on it, so that provided the information on this story that okay, you know, just I've seen such situations, this is what it is, it's not something that the processor has done or it's just natural foods are going to be that way over a certain time. So that's one example of that TikTok video that I had gotten an opportunity to look at and review but again, these are things where you can't believe a TikTok video because we know how much information is accurate until you do a verification on the information. So I always make sure that I'm verifying information before I provide any advice on it.

Jordan Powers:

So there's a lot of products that we see out there that we might see on a grocery store shelf, you know, mayonnaise, pasta sauce, things like that, that have a label on them that says refrigerate once opened. So we're expected to bring them home, open them and use them and then put leftovers in our fridge. How is it okay that they're on the shelf at the grocery store but then once open need to be refrigerated?

Manpreet Singh:

That is an amazing question. Now I will tell you this, that if you go to a grocery store, you will, you're right, you will find mayo or you will find certain products which you think should be in a refrigerator on the shelf. They're called shelf stable products, they have been processed to such high temperatures, that they have been made shelf stable, that means they can be kept on a shelf without refrigeration. The moment you open that container, the moment you open that lid, now that product, that food, is compromised. So that's why once you open it, you always put it in the fridge. Same thing with some milks. Actually, there are some tetrapack mills which are UHD, ultra high temperature pasteurized milks, they are shelf stable milks. But our perception is that if we want to have milk, it has to be in the refrigerator section. So we go look for them there. That's because we want to make sure consumers don't have the perception that milk sitting on a shelf is going to be bad. It's just high temperature pasteurized, so they are completely safe and they're shelf stable products. And actually FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, has a regulation and they clearly defined them as shelf stable products.

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Emily Davenport:

If you're anything like us, you might be wondering, what is pasteurization? So we asked.

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Manpreet Singh:

Anytime you subject a milk or a juice to a higher temperature for a certain amount of time, you're basically, for the lack of better terms, boiling it or, you know, heating the product up and eliminating any of the inherent bacteria, which could be present in that food. So that's why you pasteurize.

Emily Davenport:

Can you talk a little bit about expiration dates on food, you know, tossing that jug of milk out when it's past its expiration date? How does that relate to food safety? [laughter]

Manpreet Singh:

You know, that's, again, one of the myth questions. But I love answering that question. Because expiration dates are, if you go back and look at the dates on the products now, it actually says sell by dates, it doesn't say expiration dates much anymore. Because expiration dates kind of give the perception that this food's gone bad. Sell by date means for best quality, or for the best experience of that food, you need to consume that food by that particular date. It doesn't mean it's gone bad from a safety perspective; the quality of the food might have been compromised or been different now. Now, if you're a connoisseur, and you have a particular brand of a cheese you like, and it has to taste a certain way, you will be able to tell a day or two later beyond a sell by date that oh, it's not the same. It has no food safety implications. So, but people do perceive something tasting bad to mean oh, it's gone bad meaning maybe there's a food safety issue. Or, you know, the quality not being good is a major factor that, that's why you see sell by dates on the product and not an expiration date.

Jordan Powers:

So I feel like a lot of us grew up being told that when you're cooking a hot food, say a pasta sauce or something on your stovetop that you eventually want to put those leftovers in the fridge or your meal prepping for the week and want to package that for the week in the fridge, that you need to let it sit on the counter and cool off for a certain period of time before you then package it and put it in the fridge. Is that what we're supposed to be doing?

Emily Davenport:

I've been told that as well. And we do that, we let it sit out on the counter and cool down and then put it in the fridge. So are we doing it wrong?

Manpreet Singh:

The reason why that would happen is if you have cooked something which is hot, and it's in a glass container. And if you put it in the fridge, the temperature fluctuations can cause the glass container to actually, you know, break the glass. And now you have an issue, which is not food safety related but...

Jordan Powers:

Safety related. [laughter]

Manpreet Singh:

A bigger mess to be cleaned up in the refrigerator. However, if you look at the industry, what do we do, we heat up the product really quick, and we cool it down really quick. It's hot product, which is cooled really quick. So quick heating and quick cooling is one of the better ways, or one of the best ways, to make sure that the product has been cooked correctly, cooled down correctly and it is being maintained safe. So I have, if I have warm or hot product, I might wait for a few minutes for it to just air out and then I would put it in the refrigerator. I do not wait for it to get down to an ambient, lukewarm temperature and then go because it might be 30, 40 minutes or it could be an hour depending on how much you've made and what the type of product is.

Emily Davenport:

So what's the risk of letting it sit and cool down slowly? What are we worried about?

Manpreet Singh:

So, when you cook products or when you cook foods at the house, there still could be certain bacteria which are a lot more resistant to heat than your normal cooking temperatures. Or there are bacteria which can form spores. I'm getting too technical in this.

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Emily Davenport:

We don't want to get too technical either, but just wanted to jump in with some definitions for you. Vegetative cells are bacterial cells that are used for reproduction. And spores are another type of cell used by bacteria for reproduction or defense. They have thick cell walls that help them withstand high temperatures.

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Manpreet Singh:

But there are bacteria which form spores which are heartier than normal vegetative cells. Now those spores, when they're in warmer environments, can start germinating because they were just heat shocked with all the food, that the heat that you provided to the food. It's a typical examples are typical case of this is around Thanksgiving with gravy type of products. When you cook the product and let it sit out, it's warm, the you shock the spores, if there were those type of bacteria in the food, and now those spores will start to germinate and the bacteria starts to grow in it. So that's where it starts getting to be a little bit of a food hazard or a dangerous situation.

Emily Davenport:

And how fast can some bacteria multiply?

Manpreet Singh:

Oh! Given ideal conditions within 20 minutes, the bacteria double itself.

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Emily Davenport:

When Dr. Singh refers to ideal conditions, he means an environment with warm temperatures and enough food to support bacterial growth, like your gravy sitting on the counter on Thanksgiving.

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Manpreet Singh:

So if there's ideal conditions, and there's decent number of bacteria in there, high enough number, you can imagine that after three hours of sitting out on a counter, it could be pretty intense.

Jordan Powers:

That'll just give you the heebie-jeebies. [laughter]

Manpreet Singh:

I'm not here to scare you guys.

Jordan Powers:

So I feel like some people though, not looking at my husband, but looking at my husband, need to be a little scared into following those safety tips. Now I have one of those kind of curiosity questions on the flip side of that; I love to bake. And a lot of the recipes that I read talk about bringing things up to room temperature before you use them, you know, bring your buttermilk up to room temperature, bring your eggs up to room temperature. Is there the reverse risk there of bringing a cold food or refrigerated product to room temperature before using it? Or is there some kind of food safety net built into that?

Manpreet Singh:

Oh, no, again, that's a great observation, Jordan, because if you think about why they're saying that is not, the main purpose of that is you want to bring it to a room temp so that you know when you mix the products, they mix well. Sometimes there are cold ingredients which don't mix well. However, now if you think about your baking temperatures, you bake them really hot. At that temperature, let's, I mean, last I checked, there was an oven in our house, which was running at 350 degrees for 20, 30 minutes, that's pretty high temperature, for a pretty long enough time. So when you bake something, post baking, that risk is fairly low. Or, I would never say no risk, but I will say it's fairly low. And in that scenario, when you're doing, when you're making or baking products, rather, you can bring them to ambient temperature and then you're, you know, ultimately, you're going to bake it and the temperature is going to be fairly high. So the risk is not much.

Jordan Powers:

Okay. But you're telling me I should avoid that raw cookie dough or cake batter.

Everyone:

[laughter]

Manpreet Singh:

You know, raw, again, raw cookie dough is a thing, right? Because until now people, you know, were not paying attention to it and all of a sudden there were, there were some outbreaks related to raw cookie dough. We have certain enterprises in our town, which actually sell cookie dough, but it is not raw. It is now pasteurized. So if you ever go to certain stores and you get cookie dough, you can eat it, because they say it's pasteurized. However, there are situations where there's raw cookie dough, which is not pasteurized. Now, that could be dangerous.

Jordan Powers:

Noted. I'll do my best to keep my finger out of that, that baking dish.

Emily Davenport:

What food safety information do you think is important for the general public to know?

Manpreet Singh:

There's no day that goes by without someone asking me that question. So I feel fairly confident in some of the things that I think about are valuable. But that's just my opinion on things, but I'm sure you talk to different food safety professionals, they will have different preferences and advice that they give to people around the world. For me, one thing I always harp on, and it's a cliche, is washing hands. What better time than now, right? Over COVID times, everybody was discussing, wash your hands, then sanitize. It's nothing new in the food safety world. We always have preached that. So when this happened, for people like us, it's not anything different that we wash our hands and then sanitize but, you know, it seems as a minor thing, but washing hands properly goes a long way. Cross contamination, touching raw foods and then touching cooked foods, or touching meat products and then touching produce, there's always the chance of cross contamination and people getting sick because if you think of produce, most of it is consumed raw. So if we are going to touch meat and then go back and touch produce without washing hands, there could be chances of people getting sick from that. So washing hands is one that I really harp on widely. Some of the other things I mean, if you're just, you know, you since you talked about summertime, cooking foods, not just cooking foods to say you cook your food until the juice is dry, because I believe in thermometers. So if you cook a product, and if you're going to cook it to an internal temperature that is desired of the product, have a thermometer ready. Now the second part becomes using the thermometer correctly. So there's so many layers to this. But understanding that you need to have the tools to be able to not only produce but to actually cook food safely over the summertime grilling is a classic example making sure the meat's cooked properly. The other aspects could be just when you're doing your cutting in the house, having different set of cutting boards when you're cutting produce versus cutting meat or meat products, just so that you're avoiding any sort of cross-contact. So these are some of the very common simple topics or advices I talk about from a food safety perspective. The other ones, always because it's so hot outside right now is we assume that we're going to take a product out of a refrigerator and keep it on our kitchen counter, and come back two hours later and still be okay with that. So I always say keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot, and eat them the way they're intended to be. And by that I mean if a hot food is intended to be eaten hot, don't leave it out to be lukewarm. And there for 30, 40 minutes and then go back and consume it because there's a potential for that now to be a source of contamination or a source where bacteria could be and then ultimately impacting public health. Let's follow these simple rules.

Jordan Powers:

You never want to be the person at the party that makes everybody sick, right?

Everyone:

[laughter]

Manpreet Singh:

Absolutely not. Yes.

Jordan Powers:

Not the legacy you want to leave at the summer barbecue.

Manpreet Singh:

I hope not.

Everyone:

[laughter]

Jordan Powers:

You know, speaking of food safety, do you have any personal stories or professional stories of food safety mishaps that you've experienced along your career?

Manpreet Singh:

Oh, there's plenty. But I think most of those type of situations happen when you travel. If you notice, you go back and look at like a CDC data or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, their data and anecdotal information that you get from people. Typically, you will see people reporting situations or issues from travels. Traveler's diarrhea is a very common terminology that people use. So we were in a country where it was a tradition to have shrimp with lime juice and like a ceviche type of product. I usually would not mind it, if I'm in country, if I know a place or a restaurant, which which has a good history, and if I know the sources of that, but when you go into like banquet type of settings, where, you know, things are happening behind the scenes, which majority of our lives when you go out and eat, we're basically in the hands of the food preparers. So, we were at a banquet. And of course, the ceviche-type of product was being served. And I distinctly remember telling my colleagues that I will not be eating my plate. And they asked me the question, why not? And I said, I just don't feel comfortable with it. Somebody else was like, well, I'll eat it. It doesn't do anything to me. I've always eaten these type of products. I said yes. But we're also traveling, and we don't know how long and where this product has come from. But you know, people like to enjoy food. So they did. But early next morning, we had a flight back to Atlanta.

Jordan Powers:

Oh no.

Manpreet Singh:

And it is just not a fun ride. If you have gotten sick and are on a plane for about 10 to 11 hours. And, and to date, even to this date, they they do come back and call me and we make jokes about it. But they always listen now saying I think you were right. I said you think I was right or was I right? Because you did get sick.

Everyone:

[laughter]

Manpreet Singh:

And so that's one example of where it is. And another one. You know typically it happens in larger settings. We were out, and this happened in the U.S., we were at a tailgate event somewhere and I don't tend to eat too many products or foods which are supposed to be served cold and when they're sitting out in the sun, because if you think of classic football season in August, September, until mid October in the southeast, it does get pretty warm and humid. And foods do sit out, and it might not be as cold. So I try to avoid certain foods, just because, you know, they're sitting out for that long. And people in those settings were consuming, you know, just food like potato salads, or, you know, a chicken salad or a, you know, an egg salad. But they all have a lot of mayo and other types of like, products in them, which, if they're warm, can cause major public health issues. So I tend to stay away from that, just because of the temperatures now. So perfect. It's a cold winter day, and it's sitting out there, I would be okay with that. But that's just some examples of where I have seen situations and firsthand seeing that.

Jordan Powers:

Absolutely. So time before tailgate season to look up those recipes for neutral temperature foods that can sit out for long periods of time.

Manpreet Singh:

Well, and I'm sorry, yes, not only neutral temperature food, but the other idea is, yeah, you can, there's no, there's nothing stopping us just making sure we keep it cold. And, and ensuring, because we get so busy in our entertainment and social event at that moment that nobody bothers to go back and check if the potato salad is still cold. Is the ice still there? Or did it all melt away? And so if we can just be mindful of the type of foods we're putting on the table, and you know, if it constantly check on them, then, it's always okay to do that.

Emily Davenport:

OK, I think I'm guilty of not keeping cold food cold. It's one thing to be like my hot food has to say hot because you want it to be hot, but you don't think cold food needs to be cold. So that's a...

Jordan Powers:

good reminder.

Emily Davenport:

Tp keep in mind, I don't want to eat at a tailgate in August anymore. [laughter]

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Jordan Powers:

Can you tell us a little bit about your story? How did you get to where you are today?

Manpreet Singh:

Absolutely. I think that's a very good question and an interesting question, in my opinion, because I have been or have done the rounds around the land grant institutions.

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Emily Davenport:

A land grant university is an institution in the United States that provides research based programs and resources for residents within the state. There's at least one land grant institution in every state and territory of the United States as well as the District of Columbia. Each institution receives federal benefits as set forth by the Morrill Acts of 1862, 1890 and 1994.

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Manpreet Singh:

I started out as an undergraduate with an ag science major, and majored in food science and technology in India, which also was from a land grant institution. From there, I moved on for my Master's at Kansas State University in food science, which again was another land grant institution in the Midwest and moved on to Iowa State for a Ph.D. in food science and human nutrition, which again was a land grant, so had a flavor of land grant within different countries and but only in the Midwest region of the country. Along the lines, as soon as I finished my Ph.D., I had the opportunity and was fortunate enough to get a job as a faculty member in a food safety and microbiology in Auburn University, which was another land grant university in our Southeastern Conference, spent about seven years in Auburn, I started as assistant professor, but when I left Auburn, I was promoted in tenure to be an associate professor, was recruited to go to Purdue University in the food science department and wasn't working in Extension and research specifically. I must mention when I was in Auburn, I had a research and teaching appointment. So I had the flavor of teaching both these sides of the spectrum of the land grant mission. And then when I moved to Purdue, I was focused a little bit more on Extension and research. So I got the extension side of the mission as well from the land grant institutions. I worked at Purdue for about five years and, you know, along the lines as you move along in your career, your personal life also changes. When we had moved to West Lafayette, Indiana, it was just me and my wife. And then we had a daughter when we were in Indiana, and then we just thought it was about time that if we had an opportunity to move closer to family, and an opportunity came along in Athens and have been here since 2017, at UGA and have loved every part of being at Athens and being closer to family. So that's where I am and here I am today.

Jordan Powers:

It's always important to move near family and it's always great when an opportunity like you have at UGA comes along with it.

Emily Davenport:

What do you wish that the world knew about the Food Science and Technology department at UGA?

Manpreet Singh:

The Department of Food Science and Technology at UGA which is within the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, needs no introduction to the world. It has done amazing things over the years. If you look at it, we're a department which is spread across the Athens and the Griffin Campus.

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Jordan Powers:

CAES offers undergraduate and graduate programs on three campuses in Georgia: Athens, Griffin and Tifton. While you may hear the Athens campus referred to as "main campus," and it does offer the highest number of undergraduate and graduate programs, the Tifton Campus celebrated 100 years of service and 2019 and excels in research on a wide range of commodities, including cotton, peanuts, vegetables and turfgrass, all of which make agriculture the number one industry in Georgia. The Griffin Campus, meanwhile, was originally established as the Georgia Experiment Station in 1888, and has played an integral role in the development of modern agriculture. The Griffin Campus is also home to the UGA Center for Food Safety, and the Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center.

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Manpreet Singh:

And we have tremendous faculty who are world renowned in the research they do, anywhere ranging from food chemistry, to food microbiology, to food engineering, processing. But some of the things that we are known for is the Center for Food Safety, which is recognized worldwide and has built a reputation. We are in the process of actually now building a brand for the Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center. And that is down on the Griffin Campus. But our faculty doing the research and winning awards for the research they have been doing on both campuses, along with our students, I must mention, they are very motivated. And they do enjoy the challenge that food science presents to them. But one thing that I will say is that we produce world class students from our department who go on to be leaders in the industry, whether it's being in the food industry, whether it's being in academia or government organizations, they all flourish in their careers. And that's been a tremendous thing to watch over the years.

Jordan Powers:

Absolutely. So you, you talked a little bit about the students and, and where they go in their careers after leaving the program or completing the program; what types of careers would graduates be looking to enter?

Manpreet Singh:

For students who are typically graduating, whether undergraduates or masters or Ph.D.'s, they are in the industry in the capacities of doing product development. If you look at ideas, like just let's look at our day, from this morning, you wake up and if you're a person who eats cereal, someone was there, as a food scientist, developing the cereal for convenience of us to consume it; if you go along the day, and if you're someone who eats yogurt, and you're now switching to a Gogurt, someone came up with the idea to make it more convenient. So a food scientist was involved in that, every aspect of your day that you're consuming of food, whether it's convenient, whether it's tasty, and yummy, or whatever that aspect is, a food scientist has put an effort for that to be enjoyed. And I should mention for it to be safe for every different demographic of the population to consume. So they they get jobs in product development, quality assurance, food safety, regulatory agencies and looking at regulatory policies, the sky is the limit for the type of jobs they can have, and they start flourishing in them.

Jordan Powers:

That's gonna make me look at any food package I pick up a little bit differently, I think and how many people were involved in getting it to my hands to eat.

Everyone:

[laughter]

Emily Davenport:

Definitely. You mentioned the FoodPIC briefly, can you tell us more about the FoodPIC and what it is and why it matters?

Manpreet Singh:

Yes, the FoodPIC, as I mentioned, the Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center, it is a center down on the Griffin Campus. It actually is a facility which encourages entrepreneurs, from the point of having an idea to develop a food product, to making it market ready so that they could go and market that in the market space. I'll give you an example. If someone had an idea of developing some sort of a dairy product, they would come to the FoodPIC, talk through that we call it the ideation phase. And then with the help of technical assistance that we can provide, from the FoodPIC through our FoodPIC director, FoodPIC staff or faculty who are engaged with FoodPIC activities, they could then see what are the different aspects of that dairy product that need to be taken into account so that they can develop a stable, safe and market viable product. And at the end of the day, they got to make a living too. So we also help them look at some economics and competition in the market to see how feasible would it be for them to get into the market so, we call it some feasibility studies as well. So the way I look at it, as I say it's from ideation to market ready products, anything in between is what FoodPIC can help with.

Jordan Powers:

That's an incredible service to have right here in the state of Georgia. How do people get involved? How would a producer or someone with one of these ideas get involved with the FoodPIC?

Manpreet Singh:

So first point of contact would be someone who would reach out, maybe through our UGA website through our Extension resources or Extension agents in the counties, or even in the region, someone might say, okay, if you have something that you have an idea about reach out to Food Science and Technology, then we make the connections through Extension, or through the faculty who are going to be involved with that. The faculty follow up with these entrepreneurs, or stakeholders, if you will, and, have a discussion on what exactly is on their mind before we get started. So as they are reaching out to us, we're also guiding them through the process of what needs to be happening and the next step, and slowly and surely, we get to the point of okay, now you got to work with our Innovation Gateway. To have an NDA a nondisclosure agreement.

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Emily Davenport:

The Innovation Gateway helps UGA researchers move their research breakthroughs into the marketplace through licensing and startups. We've added a link to their website in the show notes.

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Manpreet Singh:

So that way, when these products are being developed, people who are developing it, want to make sure that they own the rights and they want to make sure that they can have insights to the recipes and search for the product. So working through these different pieces is very critical. But we guide them through that, through our FoodPIC staff, through our Extension staff, and our Extension faculty as well.

Jordan Powers:

Tell us about some other ways that your department partners with the industry.

Manpreet Singh:

Food science and technology is actually a very applied field. If you think about it from that perspective, I just gave you some examples on product development or sensory science where you're tasting product to see whether people will like it; food safety. So there's a lot of applied aspects to food science. So naturally industry is a go to partner for us. We have a lot of alumni in the industry, we have quite a bit of our students who come back to us and seek our expertise because of them being familiar with our expertise. And not to mention that we have faculty who actually travel around the world, and every one of them is seeking them, inviting them to their conference or to their facility, because they view them as experts in their field. So when that happens, naturally, there's a collaboration that starts happening. And so there's a lot of organic discussions with industry, but eventually they do turn into some sort of project. The other side is our faculty are very successful in getting grants. With that what happens is, when they're publishing or when our Extension faculty are going out and doing workshops, it increases visibility, and slowly if you do a search on some ideas that somebody wants, if we pop up, then that's another way of looking at it. So it just lends itself, the field itself lends us to have collaborations and engage with the industry.

Emily Davenport:

Can you tell us how the work your department is doing is making an impact locally, nationally, and internationally?

Manpreet Singh:

Our faculty, our students and other, you know, researchers who are engaged with local research, we have people who are doing research with the local commodity boards in the state of Georgia, whether it's on pecans or whether it's on you know, the citrus board. I mean, we did not realize there's a big pomegranate industry in the state of Georgia as well. We have faculty who are engaged with them to see how they can work with them to value add on their products, because that's where the money is. If I were to go get a pomegranate, yes, it's an X amount of dollars. But if I can transform that pomegranate into some sort of a dehydrated powder, which I can now later on use into a juice, that's amazing. That's value to it. People pay more money for that. But the commodity boards like it too, because they want to make sure that there is value in that. The next part. I mean, if you if you look at, internationally, I'll give you a personal example. We just recently were in Senegal, and we were awarded a food safety innovation lab grant for the dairy value chain in Senegal. So we were out in Senegal in, I believe mid to late May. We spent about two weeks there, myself and Dr. Harsha Thippareddi is now the interim dean for research and he's a faculty member in poultry science, but he's a co-PI with me. Understanding the dairy industry all the way from, you know, the milking to the point of milk collection, transportation, transforming that milk into cheese and yogurts and other products to be available in the market. And understanding what the gaps are in these continuum, because those gaps are key gaps where food safety has an implication on public health. And not only does it help improve public health, but it also helps them in improving their local market, their products, and eventually, with the hopes of, you know, influencing policy change, we have a lot of partners in Senegal that we're collaborating with. And eventually, the goal is to see that they increase their exports of the dairy products that they're producing. So that's just one example of how things are done. Recently, there was a study abroad program with a faculty member they took him to Costa Rica, it's called a Choco Rica program. So definitely students get to learn a little bit about the chocolate industry as well, and how the products are made. So there's always these different moving parts, we had a faculty member who was in Italy with the Cortona project. So students were enrolled in that program to understand the wine industry in Italy. So it just is such an amazing field to be in that it ranges to a broad spectrum. And, you know, people all over the world eat foods. So it's amazing to have this.

Jordan Powers:

Okay, wine and chocolate, I feel like I need to go get my advanced degree in food science and technology now. That sounds amazing.

Emily Davenport:

So you mentioned that this is an applied science with a lot of opportunities in industry. What's kept you in academia?

Manpreet Singh:

So one of the things that I do enjoy by being in academia is that it's called the academic freedom, right. So if I choose to do research in a specific area, I have the freedom to do that. The other part of that is recruiting students, training them, them flourishing through the program and going out and doing the things they do in their professional lives is just an amazing opportunity to view that growth is such a impactful growth that you can see day in and day out, which is exciting to see. And that's why I like the academic side. Yes, industry. Like I said, the food science and technology is such an applied field industry is all over it. But I enjoy the interaction with students, being in a campus environment, enjoying the energy of the campus town, to, to keep me going and motivated to do what I do day in, day out.

Jordan Powers:

So you're you're solving food mysteries from TikTok, you're traveling to Senegal, you're leading a department that covers things like the FoodPIC and the Center for Food Safety; what does a typical day look like for you?

Manpreet Singh:

As you see is all over the place. But if I were to look at a typical day, when I'm here, it starts off with definitely, you know, understanding what are the departmental needs on a day to day basis; we are a changing department, we have quite a few new faculty. So right now, if I look at a typical day, it does focus on "what are our next steps?" How do we remain relevant? How do we have discussions on our undergraduate enrollment? We talk about these every day, day in day out. How do we maintain our graduate student numbers? How can we be on the social media scene? How can we appeal to the younger generation to be a major of choice? So we continuously look at hiring different type of people, that's also a strategy. But engaging in discussions with stakeholders, and by stakeholders, I say, you know, our faculty, our students, our staff, the college, the university, outside stakeholders, industry partners, how do we continually engage with them and find collaborative opportunities? So, and then meeting with students. That's a very important part, because we always tend to hear what we're doing good. But I want to see how can we improve the things that we're not doing so good. And that's where, maybe once a week, we're meeting with a student and talking about, so what are the things which are not going so good that we can look at, and then we can improve on that. Because we want to make sure it's a good experience for the students too. So I know I've gone all around the place, but that's kind of how the day looks like. So that's a typical day in my life.

Jordan Powers:

An honest representation of a typical day.

Manpreet Singh:

Yes.

Everyone:

[laughter]

Jordan Powers:

Well, thank you so much for coming in today, we know that you are really busy and don't want to keep you but before we let you go, is there anything else that you would like our audience to know today?

Manpreet Singh:

No, I think we've covered quite a bit in this session. But once again, thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk to you guys about it. But more importantly, even telling our story from food science and technology and showcasing our faculty, our students and staff because they are all doing amazing things. They're all very relevant. And we hope to continue to stay that way in the very near future.

Jordan Powers:

Wonderful. Thank you so much for coming in and joining us today.

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[music]

Emily Davenport:

Thank you for listening to "Cultivating Curiosity," a podcast produced by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. A special thanks to Mason McClintock for our music and sound effects. Find more episodes wherever you get your podcasts.