GENEVA — Nearly 48 million cases of food-borne illness occur every year in the United States, affecting one in six Americans.
Thanks to a $2 million state grant to Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station will soon be working to put a dent in numbers like that.
The Station will use the money to establish the Institute for Food Safety, which will focus on helping the state’s food industry comply with new regulations and will support food safety research, education, training and innovation. State Sen. Mike Nozzolio and Kathryn Boor, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, announced the funding for the Institute Tuesday.
“The long-term vision is for the Institute for Food Safety at Cornell to become a pre-eminent source of scientific research, training and outreach in dairy and produce safety in the U.S. and beyond,” Boor said in a press release. “Accomplishing this goal will not only support economic growth of the produce and dairy industry in New York, but it will also help increase exports for dairy and produce products.”
Boor joined other Cornell and Station officials in thanking Nozzolio for his efforts to secure the funding.
Nozzolio, R-54 of Fayette, said the Institute will help local growers and businesses comply with the new Food Safety Modernization Act, which mandates more-stringent testing methods and quality controls. But he believes it will do far more.
“This funding builds on the momentum created earlier this fall with the announcement of $600,000 to secure a state-of-the-art Hiperbaric High Pressure Processing machine for the Experiment Station,” Nozzolio said in a press release. “This combined funding is a game changer for Geneva and the central Finger Lakes region, and it helps to position the Experiment Station at the forefront of food safety. The Institute will become a magnet for job growth in our region.”
The Institute will help develop research and field projects to provide the scientific data needed to implement the FSMA, Nozzolio’s office said.
It will also serve as a resource for the food industry in preventing and containing the spread of foodborne illness. It will analyze and share information about events like the recent hepatitis A outbreak in Seneca County.
“The issue of food safety has never been more important,” Susan Brown, the Station’s director, said in a press release. “While we have the technology to trace back to sources of contamination in our food supply, the Institute for Food Safety at Cornell will proactively help prevent such contamination from the start by providing training and the knowledge base to conduct state-of-the-art agricultural practices. Sen. Nozzolio’s foresight in providing funding for this endeavor will advance our impact in ensuring the safety of the food supply, both fresh and processed.”
Betsy Bihn, director of the Product Safety Alliance, will be involved in the Institute’s leadership. She called it a great opportunity to better serve New Yorkers who need food safety training and resources.
“There are very few places that can truly provide food safety expertise farm to fork, but this Institute will provide the framework to assemble all the key pieces that are already here to build a unique, valuable and much-needed resource in light of new regulations associated with the Food Safety Modernization Act.”