U.N. Organization Chooses UMass Amherst Food Science Department as Center of Excellence

AMHERST, Mass. - The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the University of Massachusetts have become linked by an agreement that enables FAO to use the University''s department of food science as a center of excellence. The agreement allows for a number of cooperative activities in the future between FAO and UMass in the areas of food science, quality, safety, and nutrition.

Fergus Clydesdale, food science department head, recently met with UMass alumnus John Lupien, director of the food and nutrition division of FAO, in Rome, to discuss the cooperative agreement. "Our collaboration with FAO offers our department a tremendous network of activities for teaching, research, and outreach," says Clydesdale.

Cora Marrett, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, says recognition by FAO as a center of excellence "enhances the international reputation of one of the University''s top departments." Clydesdale says the link with FAO also "provides the potential for membership in an increased global network to the companies that are members of our Strategic Research Alliance."

The alliance represents a partnership between the department and industry that enables member companies to tap into University research and provides additional sources of support for campus research.

As a center of excellence, the department will serve as a resource for FAO, providing faculty expertise and research findings when consulted on issues of concern to the organization. With its 174 member nations, FAO seeks to alleviate poverty and hunger by promoting agricultural development; improved nutrition; food quality, safety, and standards; and food science.

The first proposal being considered under the newly established cooperative agreement, says Clydesdale, is a joint FAO/UMass food science meeting sometime next year on Listeria in fish. Listeria is a food poisoning bacteria.

According to Clydesdale, it is essential to establish the incidence and danger of Listeria in fish because some countries are raising it as a problem and it could become a barrier to trade. The meeting, he says, would bring international experts to campus for presentations on the incidence and effects of Listeria, the levels of Listeria necessary to create problems, consequences, and means of prevention from the sea to the table.

Clydesdale says Lupien, who has recently been appointed an adjunct faculty member at UMass, will be on campus Aug. 12 to further discuss the partnership.