Food Safety Research Gets Boost from USDA

The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has stated that it will bestow $24 million worth of food safety research grants upon 26 schools throughout the United States. The announcement was made on Thursday, April 24th, 2014. The money will support 35 different projects as a part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Food Safety program.

The projects will analyze and explore important food safety concerns such as antimicrobial resistance, how pigs transmit toxins that create E. coli, general causes of food contamination and how to boost the overall cleanliness of produce. These food safety issues are imperative to the short and long-term health of human beings, and our need for consistently fresh and healthy sources of sustenance.

NIFA’s director, Sonny Ramaswamy, stressed the impact that the grant money can have, “Foodborne illness affects approximately one in six Americans each year…”. He described the agency’s generous funding as “a high priority that will have a direct impact on thousands of lives.” Food safety is an area that must be partially funded by public tax dollars as private corporations can’t be fully relied upon to put public health concerns ahead of profits. Yet, it will not be government intellectuals that perform the food safety research that is necessary. Barbara Kowalcyk, the CEO of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention, says, “our food safety workforce [is] researchers at academic institutionsif we’re not funding research, then the academic institutions cannot train people to replace the brain drain that we’re facing in public health and in science.”

Kowalcyk pointed to a 72 page report issued by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology from 2 years ago. The report, titled, “Report to the President on Agricultural Preparedness And The Agriculture Research Enterprise”, states that $3.8 billion of the $14 billion</a> spent on food studies in 2009 was directly from the coffers of the federal government. The food industry provided the remaining $8.7 billion. Kowalcyk insisted that private corporations will mainly perform food safety research that benefits their own interests. This means that it is essential that public tax dollars be spent on important food safety projects to ensure that there is a steady supply of food that is healthy, clean and safe.