Mars, IBM collaborate on food safety genomics research

Feb. 2, 2016

Through a collaborative food safety platform called the Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain, the two companies plan to use the science of genomics to further our understanding of what makes food safe.

Food group Mars, Inc. has partnered with IBM Research on a project to drive advances in global food safety.

Through a collaborative food safety platform called the Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain, the two companies plan to use the science of genomics to further our understanding of what makes food safe.

In what’s claimed to be the largest-ever metagenomics study, they will examine microorganisms and the factors that influence their activity in a normal, safe factory environment. Scientists will investigate the genetic fingerprints of living organisms such as bacteria, fungi or viruses and how they grow in different environments, including countertops, factories and raw materials.

This data will be used to further investigate how bacteria interact, which could result in completely new ways to view supply chain food safety management, Mars said.

“The Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain has the potential to revolutionize food safety, providing a powerful tool to identify and address new threats on an unprecedented scale, enabling critical breakthroughs in global food safety,” commented Dave Crean, vice president of Corporate Research and Development at Mars. “We are excited to be working with IBM Research on this, and look forward to welcoming additional partners in the future to help drive global innovation in genomics, food and agriculture.”

“Genome sequencing serves as a new kind of microscope — one that uses data to peer deeply into our natural environment to uncover insights that were previously unknowable,” added Jeff Welser, vice president and lab director, IBM Research— Almaden. “By mining insights from genomic data, we’re seeking to understand how to identify, interpret and ultimately create healthy and protective microbial management systems within the food supply chain.”

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