Cornell and IBM collaborate to ensure safe supply of milk globally


US-based Cornell University and IBM have announced a joint research project to ensure the safe supply of milk worldwide using genetic sequencing and big-data analyses.

The new collaboration intends to reduce the chance that hazardous food will reach consumers, prevent food fraud and reduce spoilage by applying metagenomics and analytics to food safety.

IBM Research – Almaden vice-president and director Jeff Welser said: “We are thrilled to partner with Cornell to find new ways to keep our food supply safe before fraud or contamination hits by developing advanced algorithms, applying machine learning and mathematical modelling to sequence data.

“Safe food is the first step toward human health. We’re extremely optimistic that with Cornell’s involvement in the consortium we will make a huge difference in improving not only food safety, but our overall health as well.”

Researchers are set to collect genetic data from the microbiome of raw milk samples in a ‘real-world’ scenario at a Cornell farm and the Cornell Dairy Processing Plant in Ithaca, New York, under the project.

"We’re extremely optimistic that with Cornell’s involvement in the consortium we will make a huge difference in improving not only food safety, but our overall health as well."

The data collected will serve as a raw-milk baseline that will be later used to expand IBM’s Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain bioinformatic analytical tools.

Cornell and IBM will sequence and analyse the genetic code of food microbiomes in order to create tools with the capability to detect anomalies in raw milk that represent food safety hazards and possible fraud.

The research will also focus on conducting several studies that compare the baseline data of raw milk with known anomalies to devise various models for use in additional studies.

The consortium was initially launched in 2015 by IBM Research and Mars, and was later joined by Bio-Rad Laboratories last year.


Image: Cornell’s Teaching Dairy Barn. Photo: courtesy of Lindsay France / University Photography.