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The Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention was recently featured on the OSU Chow Line blog:
By: Tracy Turner
Is there a local source that I can use to find information and resources on food recalls?
While there are several online sources of information on food recalls, the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (CFI) at The Ohio State University not only publishes information on the latest food recalls, it also provides multiple food safety resources, training, education, and information.
Founded as a nonprofit organization in 2006, CFI brought its 14-year record of protecting public health to Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) in September 2019.
The center, which is now housed within the CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology, has a mission to advance a more scientific, risk-based food safety system that prevents foodborne illnesses and protects public health by translating science into policy and practice, said Barbara Kowalcyk, a recognized food safety expert and CFAES assistant professor of food safety and public health.
“In bringing CFI to Ohio State, we hope to build a stronger network of food safety experts who have the resources and talent to address existing and emerging food safety problems,” said Kowalcyk, who is also the center’s co-founder and director. “As knowledge brokers, we then work to translate science into practical, evidence-informed policies that protect public health and prevent foodborne disease.”
This is significant, considering the World Health Organization estimates that 600 million illnesses and 420,000 deaths are caused annually by 31 foodborne hazards worldwide. In the United States, serious foodborne bacteria, viruses, and fungi cause an estimated 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths each year, conservatively causing $77.7 billion in medical costs and lost productivity.
The CFI website can be found at foodsafety.osu.edu. Some of the information on the site includes:
- Links to food safety-related research
- Food safety education and training resources
- Food safety online courses
- Consumer awareness and education information
- Information on food safety training
- Information on food safety outreach and public service
- Links to foodborne safety organizations and resources
- A food safety blog
Additionally, among its many contributions, the center collaborated with other groups to develop, pass, and implement the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 (FSMA), which was the first major overhaul of food safety oversight at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in more than 70 years. FSMA shifts the focus from responding to foodborne illnesses to preventing them.
The center also joined multiple efforts to strengthen government resources for national and state food safety programs, and it led an effort to require mandatory labeling of mechanically tenderized beef products, which have been associated with foodborne illnesses, Kowalcyk said.
During its tenure at CFAES, the center “is working to connect the many people at Ohio State who are working on different aspects of food safety into an active network and help those outside Ohio State find the expertise they need within the university,” said Kara Morgan, associate director of CFI.
“Our inaugural event last November, ‘Translating Science into Policy and Practice: What are the food safety priorities?’ was our initial effort and brought together over 100 people from around Ohio,” Morgan said. “Also, a webinar was held in June about food safety and COVID-19 to commemorate World Food Safety Day.”
To subscribe to the CFI listserv, you can click on the red icon on the foodsafety.osu.edu site or at go.osu.edu/CFIsubscribe.
Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor: This column was reviewed by Barbara Kowalcyk, director, CFI, and an assistant professor at CFAES’ Department of Food Science and Technology.
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CFAES Food Science and Technology
By: Aaron Beczkiewicz
As a firm believer that we are the sum of our experiences, I often find myself looking back on the various jobs I have held since starting college. While some of those experiences are starting to blend together, I will always remember my first supervisor telling me my sophomore year of college that I should take a statistics course even though it was not required for my major. Shrugging off this advice at the time, I thought to myself “I’ll never need statistics.” How wrong I was…
I was certain for the longest time that I wanted to be a benchtop scientist working in a laboratory my entire career. As I became more involved in laboratory work and my tasks became second nature, I realized that it was not actually the laboratory work I enjoyed but the challenge of learning and perfecting new skill sets. Like most students in a biology-based major who find they enjoy college coursework and do not want it to end, I decided to go to graduate school. While completing my master’s project, I came to view the challenge of synthesizing results into a cohesive argument as a puzzle I was working to solve. For me, this shift in thinking also brought the realization that what I really wanted out of a future career was something that would be intellectually stimulating and keep me constantly learning.
I was hesitant at first to continue on into a PhD program because, on a base level, I was concerned I would struggle due to my (at the time) limited experience with statistics and data analysis. What pushed me over the edge was the harsh reality that I would eventually need to shift out of the laboratory and into an office role to pursue the career I wanted. Regardless of whether I made the shift while still in school or ten years down the road, I knew it would require a different skillset than what I had developed in the laboratory. So, I set out to change that by focusing on quantitative research methods during my PhD program.
As a now fully computer-based graduate student surrounded by students who spend the vast majority of their time in a laboratory, I am sometimes asked why I would give up benchtop work if I truly enjoyed the hands-on aspect and excitement of walking in each morning to look at the plates I had streaked with bacteria the day before. My answer, in short, is always that data is the future of food safety and the broader food industry in general.
To see this, one has to look no further than the 2020 Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting where an entire panel discussion – “Data Revolution: Is Food Safety Sitting on the Side Lines?” – focused on what the food industry and regulatory agencies must do to bring the field of food safety into the 21st century. With increased automation of food processing resulting in companies collecting large amounts of data on a daily basis, there is a lot of potential to use this data to inform processing decisions for improved food safety. However, as recognized during the session, there is a lack of food safety professionals who can effectively translate and integrate information collected across the field of food safety. To address this issue, panelists and attendees voiced support for offering statistics trainings and short courses to individuals currently employed in the food industry. While increasing opportunities for individuals to obtain more advanced statistical training could help, I think the true challenge in meeting this need is going to be finding ways to engage and encourage a traditionally laboratory-based field to take advantage of the training opportunities provided.
Looking back on my academic and professional career since first starting in a laboratory six years ago, I am not sure whether I would have thought to pursue a data analytics focus on my own. Regardless, I walk into work every day happy that my first supervisor encouraged me to expand my focus beyond the laboratory for possible careers and I encourage others to do the same.
Graduate Research Associate