The BioSafety Level 2 Microbiology Laboratory (BSL2) facilitates the study of containment of food-borne human pathogens such as E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. This is possible through the harvest of intentionally infected meat animals and the ability to inoculate meat products at any step in production with the pathogen of interest.
Decontamination of spaces with a known pathogen presence via heat, steam, and/or gas is studied. The smokehouses and cooling and cooking equipment in the kitchen simulate conventional practices or are used to test novel combination of steps (new treatments). Microbial samples are cultured in the Microbiology Lab of BSL2 to detect pathogens and measure the efficacy of intervention methods. Separate utilities, physical separation, wastewater treatment, and shower-out facilities contains pathogens from the USDA processing plant and the outside world.
“When I worked at Oscar Mayer, if I had said I wanted to inoculate a product with Salmonella and then cook it and try to kill it, they would have looked at me like I was crazy, because you can’t do that in a commercial meat facility. But here, in the BSL-2, I can do that. It’s a very specialized facility where we can do projects to help the industry that they can’t actually do in their own facilities.”