Faculty Member Feature: Dr. Siroj Pokharel

Contributed by Camille Silvera and Dillon Machado | Students of the AGC 470 class

When Dr. Pokharel first arrived at Cal Poly, he began studying food and microbiomes around the Cal Poly animal units. His current focus is on foodborne pathogens in meat products.

“All of my research is sort of correlated, from my past research in my masters and Ph.D. studying meat science and muscle biology to now researching meat science and food safety,”  says Dr. Pokharel. 

Dr. Pokharel came to Cal Poly in the spring of 2018. When he first arrived at Cal Poly, he started teaching a food safety training course on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP). This class teaches students how to identify and reduce food safety issues while helping them get certified in HACCP by the International HACCP Alliance.

Dr. Pokharel conducted a study during summer 2019 focused on finding solutions to foodborne pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes. This specific foodborne pathogen, which is mostly associated with dairy products such as milk and cheese, has been the cause of numerous foodborne disease outbreaks. In Dr. Pokharel’s research, he tests the effects of different acids against this foodborne pathogen on different meats.

“There are 31 known foodborne pathogens that can make us sick,” said Dr. Pokharel. Old methods of treating these illnesses include the use of antibiotics, which is becoming less valuable these days. Dr. Pokharel explained that this is because certain bacterias are becoming resistant to these antibiotics, making them ineffective.

In Dr. Pokharel’s research, he used a bacteriophage which is a virus used to infect bacteria and heal the pathogenic bacteria in meat. He also used lactobionic acids that are used to disrupt the bacterial cell wall and ultimately kill the bacteria cell. By combining the bacteriocin and the Lactobionic acid, they can determine if they can control the growth of the bacteria on meat.

“We have the Center for Disease Control that informs us of how many people have gotten sick from foodborne illness per year. They found out around 2011 that about 3,000 people die every year from foodborne illness,” Dr. Pokharel explained.

Having these new technologies that kill and reduce foodborne pathogens will help people in the long term. Dr. Siroj Pokharel likes what he does because he knows he is ultimately bettering the health of people. 

To read more about Dr. Siroj Pokharel's research click here!