Food scientist Cutter receives Nesbitt Faculty Development Award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Catherine Cutter, professor of food science and food safety extension specialist focusing on muscle foods, has been named recipient of the Arthur W. Nesbitt Faculty Program Development Award in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Made possible by a gift from alumnus Arthur Nesbitt, this endowed award supports faculty research, teaching or extension activities in agribusiness, dairy science or food science. The Nesbitt Award also is aimed at attracting additional funding for selected faculty members' programs.

Cutter, who is Penn State Extension assistant director for food safety and quality programs, will use the award to help fund research on the effect of an educational intervention on the microbial safety and quality of farmstead cheese.

"There is great consumer interest in farmstead cheese, but unfortunately there have been several foodborne illness outbreaks associated with these types of products, and when a contamination source was identified, post-pasteurization mishandling was considered the primary cause of the outbreak," she said. "Surfaces remained contaminated after inadequate sanitation, and pathogens and spoilage organisms persisted in the dairy processing environment."

Food safety and sanitation knowledge has the potential to impact the safety of the final product, Cutter noted. Her research will evaluate the effect of an educational intervention on the behavior, knowledge, attitude and skills of cheese processors, as well as the effect of the training on contamination levels of farmstead cheese operations.

Information from the study could be used in the development of additional control measures -- such as sanitation procedures, antimicrobials, processing interventions and employee training approaches -- to reduce unwanted microorganisms in the plant environment and/or final product.

"It is with great pleasure that I assist in recognizing outstanding faculty members for their tireless efforts in educating our students," Nesbitt said. "It is my hope that the excellent quality of our faculty will encourage new students to come to Penn State."

Cutter received her bachelor's and master's degrees in pathobiology from the University of Connecticut and her doctorate in food technology from Clemson University.

Formerly a microbiologist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service, she joined Penn State's Food Science Department faculty in 1999.

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Last Updated January 15, 2016