Maryland Sea Grant Extension Welcomes New Seafood Specialist
Photograph: courtesy of Cathy Liu

FOOD SCIENTIST CHENGCHU (CATHY) LIU has been appointed as the new seafood technology specialist for the Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program. Liu will provide leadership in outreach service and education for the Maryland seafood industry and consumers. She will help seafood processors to comply with food safety standards and regulations and support the growth of a viable seafood industry in Maryland and the region. Liu succeeds Tom Rippen, who retired in 2013.

"We are excited that Dr. Liu has joined our extension program," says Fredrika Moser, director of Maryland Sea Grant. "She brings to this position a strong research background in aquaculture and a passion to connect university expertise with Maryland's seafood industry."

Maryland has long prided itself on its seafood, but the state's seafood industry faces challenges that include increased competition from imported products and declining fisheries. Liu will spearhead a long-running effort by Maryland Sea Grant Extension and its partners to help sustain these economically and historically important local businesses.

Liu was born and raised in China and received a master's degree in food science from the Southwest Agricultural University in Chongqing, China, in 1992. She earned her Ph.D. in food science from Ehime University in Japan in 2000. Liu served as director of the Laboratory of Marine Bioresources Utilization at the Shanghai Ocean University in China from 2004 to 2013. In spring 2013, she came to the United States to work as a visiting professor at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Gulf Coast Seafood Lab and later at Oregon State University.

Over her long career, Liu has made pioneering advances in limiting the transmission of dangerous Vibrio pathogens through shellfish products, a topic relevant to the Chesapeake's seafood industry. These bacteria live in marine environments in the Bay and across the globe and are a leading cause of food-borne illnesses in the United States.

Working with Pacific oysters, a close cousin of bivalves living along the Atlantic coast, Liu co-developed a flash freezing procedure followed by frozen storage that cools oysters to around -140° F and stores them at -4° for five months. The process kills more than 99.97 percent of particular Vibrio pathogens growing in the oysters, she says, enough to meet safety requirements set by the FDA. She hopes to apply her research and other food science and technology to ensure the safety of Maryland seafood.

In her new position, Liu will also lead seafood safety training workshops around the Mid-Atlantic to assist seafood processors in implementing the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and related federal and state regulations. Liu is a certified trainer for Seafood Sanitation Control Procedures and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HACCP, which has become a centerpiece of the FDA's seafood safety regulations. The agency expects at least one employee from each processing plant to be trained in HACCP procedures.

Liu says she's excited to apply her research to support coastal communities in Maryland. "Seafood science is an actively applied science," she says. Scientists can do more than just publish academic studies, says Liu. "It's better if your research can achieve economic, environmental, and social benefits."

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