University of Vermont

Vermont Microbiologist Reappointed to National Advisory Committee

Burlington--Dr. Omar A. Oyarzabal has been reappointed to the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) for a second consecutive two-year term.

The University of Vermont (UVM) Extension food safety specialist is one of 30 appointees from universities, the food industry, laboratories, government agencies and the consumer sector, all leading experts in microbiology, food technology, toxicology, infectious diseases, epidemiology, risk assessment or related scientific fields. The committee, which is under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, serves as a discretionary advisory group to federal food safety agencies, providing expert, unbiased advice on public health issues related to the safety of foods.

Oyarzabal was first appointed to the committee in 2016 although prior to that appointment he was a subject matter expert for a NACMCF subcommittee that studied food-borne Shiga toxin-producing strains of E. coli. These strains, which can occur in fresh produce, ground meats and dairy products, can lead to serious illness, especially in the young or elderly.

UVM Extension hired Oyarzabal in 2014 to work with the Vermont Department of Health and other state agencies to assist commercial food processors with implementing food safety protocols in compliance with state and federal food safety laws. He is the founder and current editor-in-chief of Microbial Risk Analysis, a journal for risk-analysis work on microbial hazards, and a recent Fulbright specialist to Uzbekistan where he lectured students and trained faculty and staff at two academic institutions on the identification of bacteria with DNA techniques, specifically polymerase chain reaction assays.