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On December 10th, Kevin Kowalcyk should be celebrating his 22nd birthday but he isn't. In 2001, at age 2 1/2, Kevin became one of the estimated 3,000 people to die each year in the United States from foodborne illness. Fueled by his passing, his mother, Barbara Kowalcyk and grandmother, Patricia Buck devoted their careers to preventing others from getting sick or dying from contaminated food and promoting stronger food safety policies and practices that protect public health. Nineteen years later, they are still fighting to prevent illnesses like Kevin's.
The Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (CFI) was founded as a non-profit organization by Kowalcyk and Buck in 2006 to facilitate, encourage and promote research on food safety; translate and communicate science and its implications for food safety to stakeholders; and work on behalf of consumers to implement a stronger, more science-based food system that prevents foodborne diseases. Over the years, CFI has earned a reputation as a leader in improving food safety policies and practices through science-based approaches. Among its many contributions, CFI collaborated with other groups to develop, pass and implement the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 (FSMA), which was the first major overhaul of food safety oversight at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in more than 70 years. The center also joined multiple efforts to strengthen government resources for national and state food safety programs, and it led an effort to require mandatory labeling of mechanically tenderized beef products, which have been associated with foodborne illnesses. In 2017, Kowalcyk joined the faculty at Ohio State and brought CFI to the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Foodborne illness is a serious public health issue that causes an estimated 600 million illnesses and 420,000 deaths - mostly in children - globally each year. CFI’s mission is to advance a more scientific, risk-based food safety system that prevents these illnesses and protects public health by translating science into policy and practice. For example, CFI faculty, staff and students are currently working to develop a risk-based approach to food safety (Chakula Salama) that reduces the risk foodborne disease, increases production of safe food and improves economic outcomes in Kenya. A team of researchers from The Ohio State University, University of Florida, Kenya Medical Research Institute and University of Nairobi are collaborating to improve the safety of poultry produced by small-scale women and youth farmers in peri-urban areas of Kenya. Closer to home, CFI is partnering with a local health department to study how certified kitchen managers may impact compliance with food safety standards in retail food establishments such as restaurants, grocery stores and food trucks. To learn more about CFI's work, please visit foodsafety.osu.edu.
The goal of this campaign is to celebrate Kevin Kowalcyk's 22nd birthday by supporting CFI's efforts to prevent foodborne disease. Funds will be used to support student experiential learning opportunities, on-campus events, research supplies, statistical software subscriptions, travel to domestic and international food safety meetings and much more. For example, CFI recently published a paper on the long-term health outcomes associated with hemolytic uremic syndrome. This project was not grant funded but was made possible through various donations to CFI. Reaching our goal of $5,000 would support similar work, such as an ongoing project to evaluate the food safety knowledge, attitudes and practices of workers in food banks. Every little bit helps so please consider giving today.
Happy Birthday, Kevin!