K.S.U. named site of new food safety center

by Keith Nunes
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MANHATTAN, KAS. — Kansas State University was named as the site for the new Center for Excellence for Food Safety Research in Child Nutrition Programs by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The center will provide support to improve the safety of foods provided through the U.S.D.A. Food and Nutrition Service nutrition assistance programs.

The Center of Excellence will focus on determining how new initiatives, such as farm-to-school purchasing and school gardens, and emerging science affect food safety in F.N.S. school and child care programs. A multidisciplinary approach, including both basic and applied research, will draw expertise from fields such as food service management, food safety, food microbiology, agricultural production, education, and the social sciences, according to the U.S.D.A. The center will be funded with a two-year, $1.6 million grant and will open as soon as the grant is awarded.

“We are excited about this new opportunity to support research focused on the unique food safety aspects of our programs,” said Kevin Concannon, U.S.D.A. under secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. “Research conducted by the center will provide important information that we can use to improve programs and to develop education and training opportunities for school nutrition and child care employees. Kansas State University has a long history of research and education related to food service management, and will provide excellent leadership for school and child care food safety research.”

More than 2.2 billion meals and snacks are served annually through F.N.S.-funded programs.

"The opportunity exists for large-scale food-borne outbreaks to occur with serious complications,” said Kevin Roberts, assistant professor of hospitality management and dietetics and director for the new center. “The center’s organization will allow it to be flexible enough to react to food safety crisis and discoveries as they happen.

“K-State is the ideal spot for the center. We can draw from more than 50 nationally and internationally recognized faculty from five colleges and 13 departments involved in food safety research. These scientists and teachers will also help get results of our research to a variety of targeted groups, such as policymakers, practitioners and school food service directors.”

The center's leadership team will consist of Carol Shanklin, dean of graduate school and professor; Kevin Sauer, assistant professor of hospitality management and dietetics; and Junehee Kwon, associate professor of hospitality management and dietetics.

Kansas State University faculty who will serve on the advisory board are: Curtis Kastner, director, Food Science Institute; Dan Thomson, director, Beef Cattle Institute; Fadi Aramouni, extension specialist; Marty Vanier, director of operations, National Agriculture Biosecurity; Daniel Y.C. Fung, microbiology and rapid methods specialist; Paula Peters, assistant director, family and consumer sciences extension, department of human nutrition; Sandy Proctor, extension specialist; Laura Brannon, psychologist specializing in behavior change theories, especially in food safety research; and Candice Shoemaker, department of horticulture, forestry and recreation resources.

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