Food Safety Initiative
For Immediate Release
Jan Williams, College of Veterinary Medicine, 612-624-6228
John Byrnes, College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences, 612-625-4743
U of M Part of New Food-Safety Initiative
MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (Mar. 15, 2005) – The University of Minnesota is a collaborating partner on a new food-safety initiative announced by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The new Food Safety Research and Response Network (FSRRN) is a multi-institutional, multidisciplinary team of more than 50 food safety experts from 18 colleges and universities who will investigate several of the most prevalent food-related illness pathogens. FSRRN is funded by a $5 million grant from the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service.
Acute gastroenteritis – commonly referred to as food poisoning – is the second most common household illness in the United States, with an estimated 76 million food-related illnesses occurring each year. The FSRRN will bring together the nation’s leading food safety experts to tackle how food-related pathogens enter the food chain in hopes of reducing those numbers by finding out more about the pathogens that cause those illnesses.
“We’re collaborators because of our unique Academic Health Center,” said Richard Isaacson, M.S., Ph.D., department chair and professor of veterinary pathobiology. “Unlike most universities, the University of Minnesota has a College of Veterinary Medicine, Medical School, and School of Public Health. This allows our researchers access to resources and scientific expertise to address the complex issues around food safety not present at other institutions.”
Demonstrating that changes in food production practices at the farm level lead to reduced food-borne illnesses is difficult. University researchers will lead the effort on trying to establish links between food safety interventions on farms and increased public health.
The FSRRN will also serve as a response team of experts. At the request of other federal and state agencies, the team would be mobilized to conduct focused research needed to control major episodes of food-related illness. This could also include the investigation of health problems associated with agricultural bioterrorism and the deliberate contamination of agricultural commodities.
The 17 other institutions in the project are Cornell University, Iowa State University, McMaster University, Mississippi State University, North Caroline State University, North Dakota State University, The Ohio State University, Tuskegee University, University of Arizona, University of California at Davis, University of California at Berkeley, University of Florida, University of Illinois, University of Kentucky, University of Montreal, Washington State University, and West Texas A&M University.
The Academic Health Center is home to the University of Minnesota’s six health professional schools and colleges as well as several health-related centers and institutes. Founded in 1851, the University is one of the oldest and largest land grant institutions in the country. The AHC prepares the new health professionals who improve the health of communities, discover and deliver new treatments and cures, and strengthen the health economy.