Apr 9, 2019
USDA ARS scientist honored for fruit, vegetable work

Distinguished Senior Research Scientist Tara McHugh

For her outstanding contributions to food science and processing, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist Tara H. McHugh is the agency’s Distinguished Senior Research Scientist of the Year for 2019. McHugh, director of the ARS Western Regional Research Center (WRRC) in Albany, California, is one of many ARS researchers being honored for their scientific achievements.

Prior to becoming WRRC director in 2018, McHugh led the center’s Healthy Processed Foods Research Unit in Albany, located in the agency’s Pacific West Area. There, she oversaw the development of new or improved food-processing methods. In particular, her team focused on creating value-added products from fruits and vegetables deemed too small or flawed for fresh market sales, but are otherwise safe and nutritious to eat. Their efforts, in turn, led to the patenting, licensing and commercialization of several new food products, including 100-percent fruit bars, edible films and purees.

McHugh also oversaw the development of infrared- and ultraviolet light-based processing methods. In walnuts, for example, infrared drying reduced energy costs by 25 percent and cut the total drying time by 35 percent. Her team’s investigation of ultraviolet processing opened the door to increasing the vitamin D content of mushrooms and meeting 100 percent of the daily recommended allowances.

Jan SuszkiwUSDA ARS

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