Virginia Tech has all sorts of research projects going on simultaneously. Some may even end up affecting your dinner table.
The Human and Agricultural Biosciences building is soon to open and university officials says it's all about cutting-edge research for decades to come.
Black pepper is considered to be the world's most traded spice, and researchers inside the new 94,000 square-foot research site are working on ways to make spices safer.
Getting inside the new Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building takes several card swipes. Dr. Monica Ponder is an assistant professor in the department of food science.
"Really, we didn't understand how large the problem is until the last couple of years. We never thought of spices as associated with food borne illness."
Virginia Tech says some 40 researchers from food engineering, science, and technology will work side-by-side in this first of four buildings. They will study food packaging, bioenergy, and food safety, among other things.
Back to spices and the never before known link to E. coli and Salmonella discovered only five years ago
"It wasn't really until 2009 when there was a sausage outbreak and it turned out the sausage was made exactly how it should've been in order to be safe. But then they added this pepper afterwards and that pepper was what ended up being contaminated."
This new building costs $54 million. The first floor is cavernous, big enough to bring in and study just about any piece of equipment that manufacturers are having problems with. There are dozens of refrigerators and walk-in coolers not meant for your lunch.
Dr. Ponder said many spices used in America are imported from countries where sewage sometimes ends up in the water.
"And so you have human sewage that is ending up in the rivers and rivers are being used for irrigation waters for the spices and that's probably the most logical source of where this contamination is coming."