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Better Sanitation and Cleaner Facilities Would Result in Safer Food, says MU Food Scientist

Sept. 13, 2007

Story Contact:  Bryan C. Daniels, (573) 882-9144,
Mengshi Lin, (573) 884-6718,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – In Missouri, a ConAgra Foods Inc. production plant that makes Banquet pot pies has voluntarily stopped production after being linked to more than 100 cases of salmonella in 30 states. Concerns about unsafe food have become all too common, according to a University of Missouri-Columbia food scientist.

 “We’re having so many issues because of problems on the production side,” said Mengshi Lin, assistant professor of food science in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. “Companies aren’t following good manufacturing practices.”

 Lin said such food-borne diseases often result from hygiene and sanitation issues during production. He said employees, processing facilities, the environment or contaminated raw materials are the causes. Food processing companies must require proper sanitation by employees and maintain cleaner facilities – meeting federal standards, Lin said.
 With the latest scare, company officials are requesting that stores nationwide pull the product. The company also is encouraging customers not to eat the pot pies and to throw them away. However, they said the pot pies are safe when cooked properly.

 Lin agrees, but also cautions consumers because salmonella is dangerous – even potentially deadly.

 “If consumers properly cook the pot pies and following the directions, they will kill those food-borne pathogens,” he said. “By thoroughly cooking at 165 degrees for a couple of minutes, most food-borne pathogens, such as salmonella or E. coli, will be killed. But, the problem is that consumers usually cook pot pies in a microwave with medium or high wattage. Microwaves do not cook food evenly and leave ‘cold spots’ in foods. So, the safest way is to cook pot pies a few minutes longer in a microwave than what is advised on the product package. If steam is coming out of the pot pie, it’s well cooked and safe to eat.”
Lin has been a MU faculty member since 2006. His research involves the development of novel instrumental techniques to improve food safety and quality. Lin worked as a food inspector and food safety regulator in China for five years before pursuing his doctoral degree in Food Science at Washington State University in 2001. 

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