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South Korean Cuisine and the Food Safety Experience

July 29, 2022 - 6:05am --

By: Laura Onianwa

On May 2, 2022, I landed in South Korea, ahead of the US Eastern Standard Time Zone by about 11 hours. I do not speak Korean, nor am I well versed in Hangul, but it didn’t make me want to go any less and visit my close friend who resides there. Korean is the primary language spoken, as is to be expected. And although it is becoming more common, not everyone speaks English, since all Koreans aren’t afforded the same opportunity to attend English academies as young children. I was a little anxious, yes, but excited. The pandemic had previously uprooted my plans to study abroad in Spain two years ago, and I knew that opportunities like this didn’t come along often. Although I’ve never really been into K-pop or K-dramas, I can appreciate both; at any rate, I was both willing and ready to travel abroad to Korea.

Being a minority in more than one way, living on my own, traveling solo much of the time, and not being completely knowledgeable of the language, I most definitely would stand out as a foreigner. In preparation, however, I did educate myself on the culture and was given proper advice by friends familiar with the country. They helped in providing the major do’s and don'ts, and what is considered appropriate and/or disrespectful in the typical culture and customs of Korea.

Laura OnianwaLaura Onianwa

As ready as I could be, I would spend the next 2 months in Korea. My experience there was surreal at times, interesting, informative, and genuinely good! I experienced many things for the first time; hostel living, Buddhist temples, palaces, shrines, Hof bars and pubs, jazz bars, busking, outdoor markets, underground shopping centers, the subway/metro train (beyond awesome), the night scene, vivacious mountains, cozy cafes and bakeries (individualized and aesthetically pleasing all-around), authentic street food, photo booth studios, lovely parks, cultural venues, and delivery drivers on motorcycles riding through both red lights and upon sidewalks (which they are legally permitted to do). However, as a student with CFI, I paid special attention to all things food and food safety, especially when eating out.

Are Culture-Independent Diagnostic Techniques Too Independent?

July 9, 2022 - 1:46pm --

By: Drew Barkley

Let’s start by taking a quick trip down memory lane. The year is 2010, and after spending your evening watching highlights from the Vancouver Winter Olympics, you begin to feel sick. Your stomach starts to churn, and you realize that this might be something serious. You visit your doctor and they suggest taking a stool sample. Your sample gets sent off to a lab to be cultured, and after a few days you hear back that your culture came back positive for Salmonella Montevideo. Further, the lab submitted the Salmonella Montevideo strain isolated from your stool to PulseNet at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). PulseNet is a foodborne disease outbreak surveillance system here in the U.S. that uses whole genome sequence data taken from clinical isolates to find common strains between different cases. The isolate from your stool ends up matching isolates from other cases of Salmonella Montevideo around the country. As a result, the health department questions you about the food you ate over the last month to identify any common exposures with the other cases and identify a potential source of the emerging outbreak. 

Fast-forward to today. It’s 2022, and while watching replays from the Beijing Winter Olympics, your stomach begins to ache again. You feel the same illness coming on. However, when you go to visit the doctor this time, they do not send a stool sample off to the lab to be cultured. Instead, they use a small molecular array that looks like a chip to test your stool. Within a few hours, you receive the results that you are positive for Salmonella and are sent home to rest and recover. Because no culture was completed this time, unfortunately there is no way of knowing whether your illness is a sporadic case or part of a larger outbreak. 

The scenario described above highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of culture-independent diagnostic techniques, or CIDTs. CIDTs, like the small molecular array used to diagnose a foodborne illness in the paragraph above, are a relatively new method for detecting enteric or foodborne pathogens from stool. Unlike traditional culture methods that are labor-, resource-, and time-intensive, CIDTs are quick and easy, and can test for up to 20 or more different pathogens on a single test. Because CIDTs are so fast and test for several pathogens, they help physicians diagnose patients more quickly and allow for appropriate treatment to begin more rapidly as well. Within the last 5 to 10 years, because they are so easy and efficient, CIDT use has greatly increased. For example, the proportion of Campylobacter cases in FoodNet sites diagnosed with CIDTs increased from 13% in 2012-2014 to 38% in 2018.1 You can also see in the graphs below the increase in CIDT usage to diagnose various foodborne pathogens between 2015 and 2020.2 

Chart, bar chart

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So if CIDTs are easier, more efficient, and test for more pathogens, what is the problem with increasing their usage? If you remember back to the scenario at the beginning of this post, when the molecular array CIDT is used today to diagnose a foodborne illness, there is no isolate or culture to send to PulseNet at CDC. This means there is no way to determine if your illness is a sporadic case, or part of a larger outbreak when using just CIDTs. That is because PulseNet needs bacterial isolates so that the exact strain causing an illness can be determined. By identifying the exact strain, if the strain for one ill person matches the strain of another ill person, outbreaks and linked cases can be more easily identified. As CIDT use increases, the effectiveness of the PulseNet surveillance system in identifying ongoing foodborne disease outbreaks becomes more jeopardized.  

So what can be done? While more research is needed to fully understand the impact of CIDTs on foodborne disease surveillance, the CDC has launched a pilot study for how to adapt PulseNet to CIDT data. CIDTs typically rely on genetic material of the pathogens present in the stool. The CDC is currently investigating using metagenomic approaches to match the genetic material from CIDTs to common, known outbreak strains for specific pathogens.3 This “shotgun” approach to seeing if CIDT results match any previous outbreak strains is not the most efficient way to identify outbreak strains, but may prove a useful tool as we move further from culture and more towards CIDT use. 

Drew BarkleyDrew Barkley

Graduate Research Associate



The Need for Interdisciplinary Thinking

May 12, 2022 - 4:20pm --

On Wednesday, May 11th, CFI hosted the Inaugural OSU Food Safety Collaborative meeting. The goal of this meeting was to bring together the OSU food safety community to share ideas and build partnerships. To kick off our meeting, David J. Staley, who is an Associate Professor with the OSU Department of History, gave a wonderful talk titled "The Need for Interdisciplinary Thinking". The talk emphasized the importance of inter-departmental collaboration to solve food safety challenges and was the perfect talk to set the tone for what the OSU Food Safety Collaborative is hoping to accomplish.

The Need for Interdisciplinary Thinking
By: David J. Staley

I’m not an ecologist, but I understand that in ecology there is the concept of an “ecotone”:  a region of transition between two biological habitats/ecologies.  It turns out that this point of intersection between ecologies often produces “edge effects,” and is particularly noted as an attractive site for a rich, complex diversity of life. 

Thinkers such as diverse as Stewart Brand and Yo-Yo Ma have borrowed this concept to describe how creativity and innovation works.  And I wish to borrow the analogy as well: we are often admonished to “break down silos” with little or no guidance about what we are supposed to do after we have broken the silos. 

I would like to propose the creation of an “epistemological ecotone”—a point of intersection between disciplines—that induces edge effects: a rich, complex diversity of ideas.  

To continue the analogy: disciplines are habitats in this analogy.  Richard Ogle thinks of disciplines as “idea spaces”  “Idea spaces can take many different forms,” he writes. 

Established scientific disciplines and paradigms, for example, represent idea-spaces that embed collective intelligence about the most effective way to carry out research, typically providing an overarching framework of established theory, principles, practices, heuristics, methodological assumptions, lab techniques, and so forth.

A discipline—an idea-space—is an intellectual habitat.  The point of intersection between these intellectual habitats becomes the site and generator of edge effects.

This ecological analogy gives us a new way to think about interdisciplinarity/about collaboratives (like the Food Safety Collaborative).

Frans Johansson describes this condition as “The Intersection”

The key difference between a field (a discipline) and an intersection of fields lies in how concepts within them are combined.  If you operate within a field (within a discipline) you primarily are able to combine concepts within that particular field, generating ideas that evolve along a particular direction—what (he) calls directional ideas.  When you step into the Intersection (what I’ve been calling the “epistemological ecotone”) you can combine concepts between multiple fields, generating ideas that leap in new directions—what (he) calls intersectional ideas.

The Intersection is a liminal space—a threshold—an environment that is in-between disciplines; and it can be difficult and disorienting and unsettling to reside here because:

1) it is difficult to manage, in part because outcomes are difficult to foresee or to plan for or to control.  Surprise and fortuity, serendipity and epiphany are edge effects of life in the epistemological ecotone.

2) this liminal environment often has no recognizable academic infrastructure: journals, conferences, professional societies, degree programs, TIUs.  Faculty are often rewarded for their contributions to disciplines, not for the edge effects they might create when in The Intersection.  Perhaps this is why universities are often hesitant to create and maintain (and fund) these liminal, in-between spaces. 

The threshold space I am describing is a kind of “Third Place.”   In urban design, a third place is a convivial space that is neither home (First Place) nor work (Second Space). What you are building here with your Collaborative is an “epistemological third place,” neither one discipline or another, but the liminal edge between them. 

In design, we often talk about “wicked problems.”  These are challenges of such size, complexity and uncertainty that they appear seemingly unsolvable.  The maintenance of food safety certainly qualifies as a wicked problem, one best addressed by breaking down silos between stakeholders and collaborating together…at the edge.

David StaleyDavid Staley

Associate Professor with the OSU Department of History






Food Safety Practices for Food Delivery Orders

April 5, 2022 - 10:45pm --

By: Michala Krakowski  

Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, direct-to-consumer and third-party delivery methods were on the rise. The food delivery industry has tripled since 2017 with 8% growth just in the last few years (Ahuja et al., 2022). With this rapid growth in industry, regulatory agencies and establishments have had less time to adapt to the increasing food-safety concerns.  

There are three resources that I have found to be useful when looking for advice. The first is the Partnership for Food Safety Education, an organization that promotes and develops education programs to reduce the risk of foodborne illness among consumers (Partnership for Food Safety Education, 2021). The second source of information is from the Conference of Food Protection which is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing food safety guidance that is incorporated into food safety laws and regulations throughout the United States (Conference for Food Protection, n.d.). The third source of information comes from StateFoodSafety, an online food safety training company, where their efforts are designed to educate the public and ensure the health of communities nationwide (StateFoodSafety, n.d.).  

Here are a few tips you can use to ensure a food delivery order remains safe regardless of your role:

  • Consumers are individuals who seek out food orders for their own consumption: 
    • Partnership for Food Safety Education encourages consumers to: 
      • Ask the delivery company or restaurant questions about their delivery standards and what you should do if your order has been compromised. 
      • Ensure you or someone you know will be able to accept the delivery of your order so that it can be stored in a safe place if the food is not consumed immediately.  
      • Inspect the packaging once you have your order to ensure there is no damage and promptly cook, serve or save your food depending on your plans.

Consumer pic

  • Food Businesses are establishments that prepare, cook, and serve food to their customers. 

  • Protect your food by providing adequate packaging to ensure four things: 

1. There is no cross-contamination between perishable foods, 

2. Unpackaged food items do not have contact with major allergens, 

3. Food is protected from time-temperature abuse during transit, and 

4. Food is not damaged during transit. 

  • Provide your employees with proper food handling techniques through some sort of training program. 

  • Training should be reassessed on a regular basis. 

Food Business pic

  • Delivery Drivers are individuals who transport food items from a food business to a consumer whether through a third-party company or directly through a food business. 
    • StateFoodSafety encourages delivery drivers to:
      • Practice good personal hygiene.  
      • Avoid cross-contamination of delivery orders by keeping foods separate and in safe places. 
      • Identify ways to keep the food order at the proper temperature to ensure quality and safety. 

Delivery Driver pic

Everyone has a responsibility when it comes to the safety of food delivery orders, no matter what role an individual has in the food chain. Enjoy safe and delicious food using these tips! 


Ahuja, K., Chandra, V., Lord, V., & Peens, C. (2022, February 18). Ordering in: The rapid evolution of Food Delivery. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from  

Clark, C. (n.d.). How to Handle Food Delivery and To-Go Orders Safely. . Retrieved February 21, 2022, from  

Conference for Food Protection. (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2022, from  

Dimensions. (2021, April 27). Close up of woman packing food for delivery stock photo. iStock. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from  

Guidance document for direct-to-consumer and third-Party Delivery Service Food delivery: Conference-developed guides and documents. Conference for Food Protection. (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2022, from  

Partnership & history. Partnership for Food Safety Education. (2021, September 20). Retrieved February 21, 2022, from  

PeopleImages. (2020, November 26). We've got you covered during lockdown stock photo. iStock. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from  

Prep yourself. Partnership for Food Safety Education. (2022, February 16). Retrieved February 21, 2022, from  

Rez-Art. (2020). African american couple sitting at table looking at food delivery stock photo. iStock. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from  

StateFoodSafety. (n.d.). About us: Company. About Us | Company | Retrieved February 21, 2022, from 

Michala KrakowskiMichala Krakowski 

Undergraduate Intern



Your Most Important Kitchen Appliance: Your Refrigerator

March 11, 2022 - 3:52am --

By: Chloe McGovern

A Fridge Cleaningnew year brings a fresh start to a lot of aspects of our lives; it is a great time to reset and rejuvenate. A fresh start can be symbolic with a good cleaning, so why not start with your refrigerator? Your refrigerator is an essential part of keeping your food safe, and it does not get cleaned often enough as a thank you for all the work it does. Left unclean, your fridge could become the perfect incubator for pathogens to survive and contaminate other food. So now is the perfect time to clean it in preparation for another year of feeding your loved ones.   

So... How do you clean it?   

The first step is to take all your food out of the fridge and place it in an ice chest. This is a fantastic opportunity to throw out expired food or month-old leftovers that have been pushed to the back. Once you take the food out of the refrigerator it is recommended that it stays out of the refrigerator for at most 2 hours. Cleaning your fridge should not take 2 hours but set a timer so you do not forget about the food!  

The second step is to remove all the detachable parts like shelves or drawers. Wash these removable parts with hot, soapy water and a sponge. Be careful with cold glass and hot water. As the water warms up, warm up the glass so the temperature difference does not break the glass. Next, you are going to dry these parts with a clean towel.   

The third step is to wipe the inside of the empty refrigerator with hot, soapy water. Follow this with clean water and a towel to wipe the soap off and dry the inside. The inside includes the door and any non-removable parts.   

For an additional step, you can mix 1 tablespoon of liquid bleach and a gallon of water to create a sanitizing solution. With a clean sponge, wipe down just the removable parts. Let these parts dry outside of the fridge. Bleach solution should not be applied directly to the inside of the fridge.   

Fridge CleaningThe last step in your refrigerator cleaning is putting the shelves and drawers back into your nice and clean refrigerator and placing your food back in its home!  

Weekly or monthly wipe downs with disinfecting wipes, or right after a spill, prevents these deep cleanings and the upkeeping of your appliances from being a drag. Your refrigerator deserves a deep cleaning every 3-4 months, so show your most important appliance the love it deserves. 

The recommendations made in this blog are from the U.S. Center for Disease Control. More information from them can be found here: 

 CDC Clean Your Fridge Flyer  

CDC Clean Your Fridge Because of a Food Recall 

Chloe McGovernChloe McGovern

Graduate Research Assistant at the Master’s Level





Eating Safe and Healthy in the New Year

January 27, 2022 - 11:47am --

By: Ariel Garsow

It is common in the New Year to make a resolution to eat healthier. This may include incorporating foods into your diet that you have not cooked with or eaten before. Maybe you want to meal prep the night before for the next day.

Improper handling of food can lead to an increased risk of foodborne illness. There are four steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting sick from the healthy food you are preparing this New Year: clean, separate, cook, and chill.

4 Steps to Food Safety: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill

Clean: wash your hands and the counter

Hand washing may seem monotonous, but it is important. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before you start cooking, after handling potentially contaminated food as well as before eating. Clean your countertop after use as well.

Separate: keep raw meat, eggs, poultry, and seafood far away from produce

Cross-contamination can occur if the same cutting boards and utensils are used simultaneously for raw products that are commonly contaminated (raw meat, eggs, poultry, and seafood) and produce. To prevent the spread of foodborne pathogens, use different cutting boards and utensils or wash them with hot, soapy water between uses.

Cook: use your food thermometer

A visual test may not be sufficient to ensure meat, fish, and seafood are fully cooked. If you are unsure of what temperature to cook an item to, here is a link to a chart with safe internal cooking temperatures for various types of foods. There are also some minimum internal cooking temperatures on the figure below.

Chill: refrigerate food after preperation

After you have finished preparing your healthy meal, remember to keep hot food hot (at or above 140°F) and cold food cold (at or below 40°F). Between 40°F - 140°F is the “danger zone.” Avoid foodborne illness by cooling leftovers quickly in shallow containers and placing them in the refrigerator within two hours of preperation.

Danger Zone Thermometer Photo


Hope these tips help to keep the food you prepare safe and healthy. Wish you all the best with your New Year’s resolutions!


1.     Bin, Qi. 2019. Photo by qi bin on Unsplash. Unsplash. Available at: Accessed 21 December 2021.

2.     Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Four Simple Steps to Food Safety. Food Safety. Available at: Accessed 21 December 2021.

3.     U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. ‘Danger Zone’ (40 °F - 140 °F). Available at: Accessed 21 December 2021.

Ariel GarsowAriel Garsow

Graduate Research Associate




food in container

My Practicum Experience with CFI and Stepping into the World of Data Science

January 13, 2022 - 1:45am --

By: Jack Palillo

I started my Masters of Public Health in September 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing. There was a lot of uncertainty in my program, especially being in the first cohort of MPH students to begin fully in the middle of the pandemic. One of the most pressing issues was finding an applied practicum experience that would allow me to display the skills I had gained during the first year of my MPH. I saw a listing online for a “Foodborne Disease Epidemiology Practicum Opportunity”, applied and hoped for the best. Little did I know that this experience would be crucial to my development as a graduate student and ultimately change my professional career path.Computer Coding

After interviewing with Dr. Kowalcyk and various CFI students, I was invited to join the SHARE project (Developing Methods for Assessing the Public Health Impact of Foodborne Illness Using Electronic Medical Records). While CFI traditionally operates in-person, COVID-19 required them to transition to virtual meetings with limited time in the lab within the Parker Food Science and Technology Building. SHARE was a great fit for me as it allowed me the opportunity to finetune the biostatistical analytical skills I had gained from my graduate program as well as learn how to code. Coding had been something I wanted to learn for a long time, but my educational path had never allowed me to explore it. During my interviews when I had mentioned it as a goal of mine, I realized I had come to the right place as this was something that was heavily taught and utilized at CFI.

Under Drew Barkley, I was tasked with characterizing patients who had stool samples submitted within OSU’s healthcare system from 2011-2019. It is critical to investigating foodborne illnesses due to the underdiagnosing and underreporting associated with them. There are many reasons why there is an underrepresentation of foodborne illnesses, but it can be best understood by looking at the events required for an illness to be properly reported/diagnosed. “First, the ill person must seek medical care. Second, a specimen must be submitted for testing. Lastly, the illness must be reported to public health officials”.1 Any break in this chain can cause underreporting or misdiagnosis. Characterizing this break in the chain was exactly what one aspect of SHARE was looking to investigate as it could provide a better picture of the impact that foodborne illness may be causing at the local level here in Columbus. By writing my code I was able to analyze data by selecting the correct collection methods and then interpret those results into an effective PowerPoint presentation. I was able to investigate foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli, and Campylobacter. After much trial and error, I sorted through a data set with over 500,000 observations and presented demographic and diagnostic trends in patients to CFI during our weekly meeting.

Dr. Kowalcyk emphasized that working with her team would teach you professional skills that would go beyond the classroom. While the skills as a newfound data scientist I had learned were very useful, I also developed two very important professional skills. The first was learning to integrate myself into a well-developed team. For the first time in my professional career, I had to be the chair and take minutes for weekly meetings, schedule one-on-one meetings with various team members and even be willing to help out on others’ projects when they had deadlines to meet. The second skill I learned was how to effectively translate research to others. At the end of my practicum, I was required to present my results to both CFI and other MPH students doing their practicums. While CFI was an audience with background knowledge in food safety, many of the other MPH students had focused on other areas of public health. Being able to translate my findings to an audience with minimal knowledge was a challenge, but CFI had prepared me well. 

Skills Picture

The skills I’ve gained while at CFI have allowed me to successfully defend my master’s thesis and graduate a semester early, submit two abstracts to the International Association for Food Protection 2022 conference, and prepare a manuscript for submission to the Journal of Food Protection. CFI is passionate about mentoring students as this was one of the most rewarding experiences during my graduate education. I will be forever grateful for the skills that CFI has taught me and hope to make a lasting impact in the world of public health research.

Upon graduation, I have accepted a position as a Clinical Data Manager at Massachusetts General Hospital.


1. Scallan, E., et al. “Hospitalisations Due to Bacterial Gastroenteritis: A Comparison of Surveillance and Hospital Discharge Data.” Epidemiology and Infection, vol. 146, no. 8, June 2018, pp. 954–60. PubMed, doi:10.1017/S0950268818000882.

Jack Palillo

Jack Palillo




Influence of Climate Change on Food Safety

December 15, 2021 - 3:51pm --

By: Devin LaPolt

Climate change and food safety are two issues that affect all of us.  We rely on our food to be nutritious and free from anything that could cause harm, such as pathogens. One factor that can influence food safety is climate change which causes long-term changes in weather patterns. As temperatures increase, pathogens like bacteria, fungi, and protozoa are more likely to cause contamination due to more favorable growth conditions, leading to illness. Increased frequency of heat waves will also affect food safety, as it will become more difficult to keep foods like meat and dairy cold throughout the transportation process as refrigerated trucks must be modified to account for increased length of travel, increased temperature, and increased microbial control measures (USDA, 2015). Food prices will also continue to increase as it becomes more difficult to protect food and prevent spoilage. Food protection involves reducing exposure to the sun, heat, contaminated water, and other sources of pathogens to prevent foodborne illness due to eating unsafe food.

What does this mean for us? As food safety becomes more challenging, there will be an increase in many negative health outcomes related to food consumption. Rates of undernutrition, which is insufficient consumption of food and other nutrients needed to maintain good health, will increase. Undernutrition is associated with climate change effects such as frequent, intense storm events, temperature changes, and flooding. Existing issues of undernutrition or malnutrition will be intensified. Water contamination will persist as a health concern and impact food and agricultural production since contaminated water can lead to contaminated fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products. This contamination of fruits and vegetables with continue to increase as chemicals are transported from industrial sites due to flooding and increased severe weather events. Another source of environmental contamination that increases risk to food safety is heavy metal uptake from soil. As temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, uptake of heavy metals into plants will increase (Whitworth, 2020). This poses threats to human health as toxic metals like lead can be ingested through the consumption of contaminated produce. Ultimately, the risk factors associated with climate change will continue to pose a significant health risk for people both locally and globally if action is not taken to mitigate risk.  

As food and food-related products become more difficult to protect, there are a variety of actions that can be taken to reduce risk of foodborne illness. Some of these include raising awareness of safe food production, additional water quality monitoring, and implementation of new strategies to prevent contamination of food products with pathogens. This could include new monitoring techniques, new policies for agriculture, meat, poultry, and seafood production, or changes to irrigation systems to prevent contamination of agricultural fields.

Strawberries in hand - image from


Brown, M.E., J.M. Antle, P. Backlund, E.R. Carr, W.E. Easterling, M.K. Walsh, C. Ammann, W. Attavanich, C.B. Barrett, M.F. Bellemare, V. Dancheck, C. Funk, K. Grace, J.S.I. Ingram, H. Jiang, H. Maletta, T. Mata, A. Murray, M. Ngugi, D. Ojima, B. O’Neill, and C. Tebaldi. 2015. Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System. 146 pages. Available online at

Whitworth, Joe (2020, April 22). “FAO: Climate change is changing food safety landscape. Food Safety News”,

World Health Organization. (2019, July 31). Food Safety, climate change, and the role of WHO. World Health Organization. Retrieved October 15, 2021, from

Devin LaPoltDevin LaPolt

Graduate Research Associate




World Map Made of Grains

North Market Outreach

November 2, 2021 - 2:54pm --

By: Allison Howell

I joined CFI as a graduate student in the Department of Food Science and Technology in May 2020. While the rest of the world was in a state of chaos, I settled right into my new home at OSU with the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Over a year later, I am currently in the process of transitioning to a dual-degree program, where I will complete both my PhD in Food Science and Technology and my MPH in Epidemiology with Dr. Kowalcyk as my advisor. In the past year, I have worked on several of CFI’s projects, such as FAIRETARTARE, and Chakula Salama, and I have had the chance to work with students from a diverse mix of educational backgrounds. Throughout all my interactions with CFI, one thing has stood out to me: a passion for translating science and reducing the burden of foodborne illness. My past academic and research experiences were not as focused on translational work, which has the potential for impact at the individual, community, and global levels. Getting to work with this group of passionate researchers and scholars in the food safety field has led me to believe that science does not belong behind the locked doors of a research lab or hidden among stacks of books in a library, but it belongs in our communities and everyday conversations.  

When the North Market reached out to CFI looking for educational groups to host booths at their summer markets, I jumped at the chance to lead CFI’s efforts. As an undergraduate student, participating in outreach and engagement was one of my favorite activities, so I was excited to continue this with CFI.  I connected with Gina Nicholson Kramer, Director of Partnerships and Learning, to learn more about CFI’s brand and how we wanted to present our group at events. Gina offered me support and guidance as I worked through iterations of what our booth at the market would include. I adapted materials from the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and created a trifold display board with interactive components and succinct food safety messages. Gina also connected me with Food Safety Dietitian Mary Angela Miller at KeepSafeFood , who was kind enough to donate a “Basic 4 Food Safety Kit” and several “Food Safety Chopping Mats” to be raffled off and given away at our booth. 

During the event, I was joined by CFI alumni, Devon Mendez, MPH, who now works for Columbus Public Health as a STI epidemiologist. We engaged with market-goers and invited them to test their food safety knowledge with our interactive display or to ask any food safety question they wanted answered. Most shoppers would stop and review our display with inquisitive looks and occasionally ask a question or make a comment about how they didn’t realize there were quite so many things to consider about food safety. We were even visited by one guest who wanted to take our picture, so she could share it with her sister who worked in food safety extension in Indiana. Reflecting on the experience, I realize that most people don’t actively think about the safety of their food. It is often assumed that the people who have handled that food before its purchased have kept it safe, and as long as consumers don’t make some egregious mistake in preparing the food, they will be okay. I think getting people to take a proactive role in acknowledging that all food has risk and the safety is not guaranteed is an important first step to making food safer for everyone. 

I really enjoyed my time at the Farmers' Market. It was great to take what I have been learning during my time with CFI and apply it to a setting outside of the classroom or academic context. Outreach and education is an important part of promoting safe food handling behaviors, and I look forward to continuing to share this message at additional CFI outreach events in the future! 

Allison Howell

Allison Howell

Graduate Research Associate




Allison Howell and Devon Mendez at North Market Booth

My Practicum Experience with CFI

October 19, 2021 - 11:00am --


By: Hannah Weiss-Sherman

I was accepted to Capella University's Master of Public Health program in the spring of 2020 – it was the final day of classes before Covid-19 would shut down the Ohio State campus for the remainder of the semester. It felt like a sigh of relief to know that my next step was in place and was already designed to be completed entirely online. There wouldn't be any on-the-fly adaptation to the new virtual way of academia; this is exactly how the course was built to function. What I wasn't prepared for was the most nerve-wracking portion of my entire degree – securing a practicum in the middle of a pandemic. There was no guidance offered from my university. It was entirely up to the learners to secure a practicum site to successfully graduate. I sent off a dozen applications and emails. I applied to local health departments, the state health department, organizations around Columbus that I had any type of professional interest or alignment with. It seemed like everyone responded with the same message: "We are not currently accepting practicum students due to the pandemic. Please check back later."

In the midst of my discouragement, I received a response from Dr. Kara Morgan that was different from all the responses that came before it. She invited me in for an interview to work on a project looking at seafood consumption during pregnancy and the neurocognitive effects on the child. I spent the two weeks between scheduling my interview and attending my interview studying up on the subject. I wanted to be knowledgeable and prepared when I sat down to talk to her. We discussed my interests in the field and what I hoped to achieve during my practicum. My interests included maternal and fetal health, followed by food safety and security. The project could not have been a better professional fit! I told her that my biggest goal was to gain experience and exposure in the field. Funnily enough, the most significant public health crisis in my lifetime was gatekeeping my ability to gain the two things that I needed the most. Dr. Morgan had never worked with a student that wasn't an Ohio State student, especially not one with the strange practicum schedule that I was requesting. But despite all of that, she offered me a role on a project with CFI, and I was ecstatic to accept.

During my first week at my practicum, Dr. Morgan introduced me to a partner on the project, and together they explained my role to me.  I was the second reviewer on a meta-analysis. I would spend four hours every Monday in the CFI office completing a meta-analysis of 64 journal articles. I had never conducted a meta-analysis before. But it sounded like something I could do - read through the journal articles, collect the data we were interested in. Easy enough.

So, for eight weeks, that is exactly what I did. I came in every Monday; I scrolled through the journal articles. I collected the data of interest: year of publication, number of participants, outcomes being measured, study limitations. Looking at all the research studies was beneficial to me in one of my Research Methods course this semester. The time that I spent shuffling through the articles during my practicum gave a big boost in my ability to decipher through the entire article to find the important pieces. It also helped me feel not so overwhelmed by massive journal articles that felt indigestible, because now I know exactly where to find the information I’m seeking. It saved a lot of time and anxiety when completing assignments. But more importantly, I met an incredible group of intellectuals. I met other MPH and Ph.D. students. I got to discuss their education and career paths with them. We got to reflect on our goals and establish networks with one another. They offered me encouragement that I didn't know I needed at the time. On the ninth week, I collaborated with my partner on the project. We compared our analyses and had constructive conversations about the differences we noticed and how to correct them. I got to meet a variety of professionals in the department. While I continued chipping away at my beast of a meta-analysis, I listened in to several meetings that I wasn't necessarily invited to and gained a world of exposure to different sectors in the field and different issues and topics that CFI and its staff play a role in. I got to absorb a seemingly whole new world of knowledge while I watched the entire department work as a well-oiled machine.

However, I underestimated the absolute confidence that I would have gained from this practicum experience. I think back to sitting in my interview with Dr. Morgan, where I had no experience in the field. My only goal was to get my foot in the door. I think back to my first day of the practicum experience, staring at my blank, daunting spreadsheet, unsure of where to begin. The growth that this practicum experience has offered to me has been unmatched. I have another 10 weeks of my practicum to complete with CFI. Dr. Morgan and I have discussed moving to a new project when I return for the second portion. But I feel more confident than I ever have to step into a new project, and brand-new professional world. My practicum project with Dr. Morgan and CFI has helped equip me with skills and tools that I'll need to be successful, and for that, I will forever be grateful.

Hannah Weiss-Sherman

Hannah Weiss-Sherman

Graduate Intern



Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash


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