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By Amanda Garris
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  • Food Safety Laboratory and Milk Quality Improvement Program
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The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety, co-located at Cornell and Purdue University, has announced $2.9 million in grants for research projects to improve food safety and prevent foodborne illness in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Kenya and Senegal.

The competitively funded, 3 ½-year projects will focus on identifying knowledge gaps, enhancing local capacity for food safety research, and translating research into improved food-handling policies and practices.

“These projects represent a diverse portfolio of research and outreach with great potential to enhance not only food safety in the target countries, but also to promote resilient local and regional food systems,” said Randy Worobo, associate director of the Food Safety Innovation Lab (FSIL) and professor of food science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).

“You can’t achieve food security without food safety.”

“Bacterial pathogens are responsible for most of the burden of foodborne disease worldwide, yet work on bacterial food safety is underfunded, understudied and undersupported,” said Haley Oliver, Ph.D. ’09, FSIL director and professor of food science at Purdue University. “Our team of FSIL technical experts and researchers is well suited to address this issue and support this work.”

Each project is led by collaborative teams of researchers from U.S.-based universities and in-country institutions, and will target foods that are nutritionally important to local diets. The new projects are: 

  • Food safety in fish and chicken value chains in Bangladesh:  A team led by Texas State University and Bangladesh Agricultural University will target the most effective methods, key actors and processing steps to reduce food safety hazards associated with fish and chicken in Bangladesh’s informal markets.
  • Foodborne pathogen contamination of vegetables in Cambodia: Led by Kansas State University, Purdue University and Cambodia’s Royal University of Agriculture, this project will identify high-risk bacterial pathogens and assess food handling and consumer awareness practices to reduce contamination and transmission.
  • Foodborne disease in Kenyan poultry: A team led by researchers from Ohio State University and the Kenya Medical Research Institute will develop and test food-safety interventions to support Kenya’s small-scale poultry producers.
  • Resilience in Senegal’s dairy value chain: A team led by the University of Georgia and the Institut de Technologie Alimentaire will raise awareness of food safety issues, create training programs for dairy operators and coordinate comprehensive food safety regulations for Senegal’s rapidly growing dairy industry.

“In selecting proposals,” Oliver said, “we had specific food sector priorities for each country and a focus on bacterial – rather than chemical – hazards to food safety.”

She also noted that the projects prioritize helping women overcome barriers to safer foods and creating partnerships with Minority Serving Institutions.

Cornell and Purdue announced FSIL’s launch in August 2019, and their work aims to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges in agriculture and food insecurity. FSIL is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development as part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

Of the initiative’s 21 innovation labs, the FSIL is the first to exclusively focus on the role of food safety in breaking cycles of foodborne illnesses, malnutrition and food insecurity.

The four new projects are the largest funded by FSIL to date, joining five short-term food safety projects in Bangladesh, Cambodia, East Africa and Senegal, as well as a multi-country, COVID-19 rapid-response project led by Martin Wiedmann, the Gellert Family Professor in Food Safety at CALS and a FSIL technical adviser.

Amanda Garris is the communications specialist for the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

Header image: Researchers will be promoting practices and policies to improve the food safety of key commodities in four countries, including dairy in Senegal. Photo by Karen Marshall/International Livestock Research Institute

 

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