Tell me a little bit about yourself?

I graduated as food technologist in 1985 and obtained my PhD title in Industrial Biotehnology in 1999.  I am currently professor of Food Microbiology, Rapid methods and Automation in Microbiology and Hygiene for Food Business Operators at the Faculty of Food Science and Engineering from the "Dunarea de Jos" University of Galati, Romania, and I am qualified to coordinate PhD thesis in the domain of Industrial Engineering, specialization Food Industry. My current research is related to hygiene, including biofilm formation, detection of pathogens in food and food processing environments and destruction of microorganisms using alternative technologies (e.g. high pressure, intense light pulses).

Do you have a favorite microbe, which is it and why?

I have several microorganisms I am in love with. Firstly are the molds used in industrial processes to produce enzymes or bioactive compounds. Besides being the first microorganisms I was working with, I am fascinated by the possibility to manipulate them in our benefit. Then, I like lactic acid bacteria as they contribute to produce a diversity of fermented products as dairy, vegetable and fruit preserves and borsch, all being important for a healthy diet. Among the pathogenic bacteria I like Listeria monocytogenes as it manages to survive in various conditions, but allows us to study it being more relaxed than when working with other pathogens because of its high infectious dose (n.b. L. monocytogenes is a pathogen corresponding to class 2 of biological risk).  

How is the current situation, concerning food borne illnesses in your country?

Although statistics show that the number of outbreaks caused by food consumption is lower than in other EU countries, we still have such situations especially in connection with meals cooked for weddings or funerals. Regarding foodborne illnesses in general, I think that they are underreported as Romanians see physicians only if they are experiencing severe symptoms of the illnesses.

What is your role in Safeconsume?

I have several roles in SafeConsume: I am the institutional responsible for partner 21, represented by the “Dunarea de Jos” University of Galati, I am member of the research team as well, I am WP leader for Dissemination and Implementation of project results and I am member of the Steering Board. It is difficult to wear so many hats, but I like to be challenged.  

As WP leader I have many responsibilities. I have already coordinated the establishment of the dissemination strategy and implementation plan, the setting of the project website and social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and the initiation of a stakeholder database.

During the coming years I have to coordinate the project dissemination activities, interact with the scientific society by providing scientific data regarding managing food risk, disseminate educational materials to educators and students, promote the project good practice for risk communication policy models, make technical recommendations to authorities responsible for food safety.

I share these responsabilities with the task liders, who are representing Nofima (Norway), C-Tech Innovation (UK), Public Health England (UK), BfR – the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (Germany) and with the members of the Dissemination Forum. 

Regarding the field work, I am involved in taking microbiological samples from kitchens and analyzing them in the lab to see the faith of pathogens during the cooking process. The results of these microbiological tests will attest or not the correctness of consumers actions and will help food safety specialist to give them advice on how to avoid risky behaviors.

What do you think will be the most important benefits/deliveries from SafeConsume?

I believe that our project will manage to make consumers understand that most of the factors reported to contribute to foodborne disease outbreaks as inadequate refrigeration, poor kitchen hygiene, inadequate heating, use of contaminated equipment and ingredients, cross-contamination, preparation too early in advance, inadequate hot holding, inadequate heating before reuse, too long storage time or consumption of raw ingredients are all in their hands and they will be able to take preventive measures to avoid foodborne illnesses.

In other words, I hope to succeed in making consumers more responsible for their health and their families’ health. 

What are the ambitions of your operation in the field of reducing food borne illnesses?

Looking into the future, it should not come as a great surprise that SafeConsume project manages to change risky behaviours of consumers, to give companies involved in manufacturing kitchen utensil specific reasons to innovate and to support food safety authorities with ensuring a high level of protection of human health and consumers’ interests.

What is your best advice to consumer on how to reduce the risks of food borne illness?

My advice to consumers is to not base their actions on myths, but to search for scientific guidance on food and kitchen hygiene. Eating has to be equally delicious and safe, and hygiene is one of the key factors for maintaining health.