High Five for Food Safety! Mars GFSC Scientist Credits Cutting Edge Technology and World Stage at Mars for Breakthrough in Exciting Pathogen Identification Method

11/16/2020

Silin Tang is a Senior Research Scientist in Microbial Risk Management at The Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC). Here, Silin explains why she entered a career in food safety science at Mars and why she believes that a scientific breakthrough in foodborne pathogen identification could be a potential ‘game changer’ for microbial risk management.

What inspires you most about working in food safety science at Mars? ​

Working on cutting edge research and technologies which have the potential to save the lives of millions of people inspires me every day. It was the Chinese melamine milk incident of 2008 made me realize that I wanted to become a food safety scientist. It really brought home to me the reality that unsafe food costs lives.

After obtaining a PhD in Food Science at Cornell University, I heard that Mars was opening a world-class research center in Beijing, focused on food safety research for the food industry. It was serendipity. I’m proud to work with a team of global experts at the Mars GFSC who share my passion for science. Their drive for new discoveries and developments inspires me every day. 

What is your greatest scientific achievement at Mars? ​

One of my career highlights has been contributing to the development and evaluation of a new method for foodborne pathogen identification. In the fast-moving world of food manufacturing, where rapid identification and the ability to respond fast to potential pathogen contamination is required, developing a more efficient pathogen identification method is critical. This method could help the food supply chain discover the true genesis of pathogen contamination more efficiently, raising the bar on food safety.

Evaluation of real-time nanopore sequencing for Salmonella serotype prediction

How would you describe working in food safety science at Mars in one word?

Rewarding. My work at Mars is VERY rewarding. Each day I work on cutting edge science and evaluate new technologies which have the potential to make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of countless people and pets. I don’t just work in laboratories, I attend global conferences, meet people and share ideas. The most rewarding aspect of my job, however, is that it is meaningful to the world and to my family too, which makes me even more dedicated.

Why is it critical that we take steps to ensure food safety today for a better world tomorrow?

As the food supply chain becomes ever more global and interconnected, the opportunity for food to become contaminated by foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella and E coli, increases.

Unsafe foods have debilitating human, economic and social consequences. For example, Salmonella, the pathogen that food safety experts strive to monitor and control across the global food supply chain, is 1 of 4 key causes of diarrheal diseases globally, causing about 1.35 million infections and 420 deaths in the United States only every year.

In mature economies legislation and regulatory frameworks are in place to help ensure safe food production and manufacturing, helping to protect people, businesses and economies. Even so, the risk of food contamination with potentially harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli continues to challenge the food industry.   

The Mars GFSC is working tirelessly to help tackle microbial risk management. We partner with more than 20 organizations to advance research and share best practice across the board, because just one player adopting a solution will not improve the food we eat or the supply chains that provide it.