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Keynote Jason Reicks speaks during FAPC Virtual Research Symposium

Returning to Research: FAPC Resumes Research Symposium

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Media Contact: Mandy Gross | FAPC Communications Services Manager | 405-744-0442 |

The Oklahoma State University Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center was able to resume a sense of normalcy as the center hosted its annual Virtual Research Symposium on April 6.

The event highlighted a keynote speaker, student and faculty research, and top student winners.

“After having to cancel last year’s Research Symposium because of the pandemic, we were excited to host the symposium in a virtual capacity,” said Peter Muriana, FAPC food microbiologist and co-chair of the symposium. “We had tremendous interest in this year’s virtual event, which is going to pave the way for future symposiums.”

Muriana said FAPC was fortunate to obtain Jason Reicks from Florida Food Products as the keynote speaker to discuss natural curing meats and the use of vegetable-derived nitrite in the food industry, which is added to meat for food safety, flavor, color and texture.

“Curing methods are such an important component in meat manufacturing,” Muriana said. “A tremendous amount of research goes into making sure meats and other products cure properly to ensure the quality and safety of the product for consumers around the globe.”

Reicks has a long history in the meat packaging industry with more than 17 years of sales, marketing, and research and development experience.

“One might ask why use natural curing products,” Reicks said during his presentation. “What it boils down to is consumers are demanding cleaner labels. The push for natural, clean labels is not just happening in the retail market, but the foodservice arena as well. Major brands are eliminating synthetic and chemical additives.”

Reicks’ presentation tied into a faculty research presentation by Muriana, as he presented data on Florida Food Products’ celery nitrite powder as a Clostridium spore inhibitor in processed meats.

Muriana noted in his presentation the call for natural nitrite was the result of a new meat product category called natural meats, which prohibited the use artificial ingredients such as sodium nitrite. Since then, vegetable-derived celery nitrite has found its way into regular processed meats because the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has allowed a label claim of “No Added Preservatives.”

Muriana’s presentation was followed by a discussion on the impact of probiotics on the metabolome of cow and goat milk yogurt by Ranjith Ramanathan, faculty member in the OSU Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

In addition, the virtual symposium featured 12 presentations from graduate students and six presentations from undergraduate students. Awards were presented in both categories.

The top winners in the graduate division were Caitlin Karolenko (OSU Department of Animal and Food Sciences), first; Melissa Reed (OSU Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology), second; Alayna Gerhardt (OSU Department of Plant and Soil Sciences) and Morgan Denzer (OSU Department of Animal and Food Sciences), tied for third.

The top winners in the undergraduate division were the team of Sydney Cannon, Minyeop Kim and Trinity Smith (OSU Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering), first; Kristin McCay (OSU Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology), second; and Lauren Millis, (OSU Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering), third.

Thanks to event sponsors, including the Institute of Food Technologists-Oklahoma section, Stillwater Centennial Rotary Club and Oklahoma Association for Food Protection, winners in both categories received $500 for first place, $300 for second place and $150 for third place.

Chuck Willoughby, FAPC business and marketing relations manager, said more than 80 people tuned into the virtual event, and he was grateful for such a tremendous turnout for an event that was postponed in 2019 and cancelled in 2020.

“Having a virtual symposium this year led to a significant number of presenters, including two who presented from other countries,” he said. “Going virtual in the future will allow us to grow the symposium into an international event.”

A recording of the day’s events, including student and faculty presenters’ abstracts and presentation slides, can be found on the 2021 Virtual Research Symposium webpage.

FAPC, a part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, helps to discover, develop and deliver technical and business information that will stimulate and support the growth of value-added food and agricultural products and processing in Oklahoma.

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