OHIO | Chow Line: CFAES center offers food safety resources, information

ohio food safety
CFAES Food Safety hotline offers expert opinions on food questions for consumers.

The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

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
  • Webinars
  • 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 turner.490@osu.edu.

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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