Food Science Graduate Student Showcases Research Study at Clemson’s GRADS Event

Ibtehal Alsallaiy, a Clemson graduate student pursuing a M.S. degree in the Food, Nutrition and Culinary Sciences program, earned third place in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences division of the first annual Graduate Research and Discovery Symposium (GRADS) event held on Monday, April 8th in the Hendrix Students Center. Her research study was titled, “How Clean is a Restaurant Menu? A Study of Bacterial Transfer To and From Restaurant Menus.”

The GRADS event is a competition that allows graduate students at Clemson to showcase their research. The poster event displayed the innovative and outstanding work of dozens of Clemson graduate students while promoting the studies being conducted in more than 50 graduate programs in the arts, humanities, sciences and engineering. Every school on campus was represented during the event.

Ibtehal’s research project investigated the level of bacterial count of restaurant menus and the transfer rate of bacteria from these menus to consumer hands. The project also examined the survival rate of bacteria on menus after 0, 24 and 48 hours at room temperature. She collected samples from local restaurant menus to determine general levels of bacteria on menus. This part of research focused on the presence of total aerobic bacteria and the presence of Staphylococcus aureus on the surfaces of menus. The effects that were tested for bacterial counts on restaurant menus were the types of restaurants, the traffic periods (busy or non-busy, busy being lunch and dinner hours and non-busy being the rest of the day), the days of the week and replication. Ibtehal tested the transfer rate of bacteria from a menu to a consumers hand in the lab mimicking restaurant settings. The effects that were tested for this part of the study were the gender and handedness. For the third part of the study, she tainted menus with bacterial inoculum count that was similar to those found on restaurant menus and kept them incubated at room temperature for up to 2 days. The aims of this study were to analyze the level of bacteria on menus and thus whether menus might facilitate the transfer of food borne illnesses after direct contact or after 1-2 days.

“I felt honored and humbled to have won at 3rd place for the 1st GRADS event,” said Ibtehal. “I was proud to represent the department and the program.  I was so grateful and thankful for my work to be recognized.” The Department of Food, Nutrition and Packaging Sciences was well-represented by Ibtehal Alsallaiy and her research.

Ibtehal Alsallaiy
Ibtehal Alsallaiy