College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Nutrition & Food Science

AGNR Professor Awarded Grants to Study Important Food Safety Issues

Project aims to identify risks of illness from organically raised pigs and lambs
Dr. Abani Pradhan was awarded federal funding for research in food safety

One of the newest faculty members with the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has been awarded federal funding for innovative research that will directly impact the safety of food on family tables around the country. Dr. Abani Pradhan, an assitant professor with the Department of Nutrition and Food Science and the Center for Food Safety and Security Systems, received funding for two separate projects through a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) competitive grants program.

Dr. Pradhan will be the lead investigator on a project awarded $495,856 to identify the risks associated with toxoplasma in free range and organically raised pigs and lambs. Toxoplasma gondii is a type of parasite that causes toxoplasmosis in humans. Toxoplasmosis is responsible for 24 percent of all deaths attributed to foodborne illnesses in the United States and causes an estimated 327 deaths per year. Pigs and lambs raised with free range are substantially more susceptible to toxoplasma gondii exposure compared to animals managed in confinement systems that use stringent biosecurity practices. In recent years, meat from pasture and organically raised animals has been increasingly popular with both producers and consumers because it is perceived as healthier. Given the high risk of organically raised pigs and lambs being infected with toxoplasma gondii, these meats could pose a significant public health risk. Dr. Pradhan’s research team will seek to assess and understand that risk over the next four years.

Additionally, Dr. Pradhan will be part of a project based at Cornell University aimed at providing dairy farmers with the tools to produce milk that is free of bacteria known as MAP. MAP causes Johnes disease - a chronic, progressive disease that affects dairy cattle and other species. Because the symptoms of Johnes disease in animals mirror those of Crohn’s disease in humans, there is concern over the potential role MAP may play in Crohn’s disease. This research will be led by Dr. Ynte Schukken at Cornell and will also span the next four years.

Grants for the two projects were awarded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). The AFRI program is charged with funding research, education, and extension grants that address key problems of national, regional and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of agriculture.

For more information on the Center for Food Safety and Security Systems, visit

For more information on the Department of Nutrition and Food Science, visit

For information on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, contact Sara Gavin at 301-405-9235 or


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