Oct. 7, 2022
New poultry science researcher plans to pursue foodborne pathogen control
By Jessica Wesson
Center of Excellence for Poultry Science
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- Tomi Obe joined the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science as assistant professor
- Investigates pathogen persistence in poultry production and processing environments
- Obe’s research targets Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry
PHOTO of Tomi Obe: https://flic.kr/p/2nQLMBj
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Tomi Obe, new assistant professor with the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science and department of poultry science, is eager to find ways to identify and control foodborne pathogens in the poultry industry.
“I was introduced to poultry processing and food microbiology,” Obe said. “This attracted me to want to investigate Salmonella in poultry, and I have since dedicated my research to investigating Salmonella in poultry during live production and processing.”
Obe conducts research for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. She also has a joint appointment with the food science department and will contribute to the research conducted by the Center for Food Safety. She received her bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees in poultry science — all from Mississippi State University.
While at Mississippi State University, Obe said she became interested in improving food safety in poultry and poultry products. Her current research focuses on understanding Salmonella and Campylobacter persistence in poultry production and processing environments.
Salmonella is a leading cause of bacterial foodborne illness in the United States. According to Obe, 1 in 6 human cases is linked to poultry.
“Salmonella is very diverse with over 2,500 serotypes that are unique, and it has been a challenge for the industry to effectively prevent contamination of poultry products,” Obe said.
Serotypes are distinct types of Salmonella within subspecies of Salmonella species, and some forms of control may not work for all serotypes, she said.
Obe said she plans to build on her past research on Salmonella. At Mississippi State University, she tested how the bacteria adapted to stressors in poultry processing.
“I evaluated ways that Salmonella adapts to poultry processing-related stresses to acquire tolerance, persistence in processing environments and biofilm formation on food contact surfaces,” Obe said.
Biofilms are structures formed by microorganisms like Salmonella, she said, often as an adaptation to survive in less ideal conditions. Data from her previous research showed that Salmonella could persist on processing surfaces using different techniques, especially biofilm formation. Moving forward, her team will be bio-mapping Salmonella prevalence and quantity on food-contact surfaces and exploring ways to establish targeted mitigations for virulent serotypes.
The end goal, Obe said, is to improve control methods that will benefit the poultry industry in a practical way.
“Our goal is to use the information from our research to develop techniques to quickly identify virulent foodborne pathogens and establish targeted control strategies,” Obe said.
“We are very excited to have Dr. Tomi Obe join our program. She has an impressive background in researching the presence of foodborne pathogens in commercial poultry in both the production and processing environments,” said David Caldwell, director of the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science and poultry science department head. “We fully expect that Dr. Obe will make impactful contributions to our research, teaching, and outreach programs. She is a great addition to the faculty in our department and center.”
To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: aaes.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. For information about the Cooperative Extension Service, visit www.uaex.uada.edu and follow us on Twitter at @AR_Extension. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.