Food is usually clean but when it's not it can ruin your day...or much worse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are 48 million cases of foodborne illness and 3,000 deaths each year in the United States. In Ohio, contaminated foods cost $420 million in direct medical expenditures and $7.3 billion in lost productivity each year. The United States has a sophisticated food system. However, its citizens are harmed by a porous food safety net, allowing recent infectious outbreaks from spinach, cantaloupes, peanut butter, pistachio nuts, sprouts, and meats. The world's food supply can and should be free of harm from bacteria and viruses. Building upon Ohio State's cutting edge capabilities in agricultural and health sciences, the Food Innovation Center (FIC) connects a network of experts with innovative ways to protect the safety of foods here and abroad. The Center addresses key issues such as:
Food Pathogens While viruses are suspected to cause 70% of worldwide foodborne illnesses, no vaccines or cures exist. Ohio State is one of only a few U.S. universities with food virology expertise. Leaders such as Dr. Linda Saif, elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for her achievements in viral research, join with other collaborators to inactivate or prevent foodborne viruses through new measures such as vaccines. Dr. Saif and fellow FIC members Dr. Jianrong Li and Dr. Rich Linton are members of a team awarded a multi-state $25 million grant from USDA to reduce viral foodborne illness.
New antibiotic-resistant pathogens in food threaten public health. Dr. Hua Wang's team uncovered antibiotic-resistant organisms in the retail food chain. This discovery triggers careful consideration of how the food chain may transmit antibiotic resistance to humans.
Effective Pasteurization and Packaging The Center's collaborative teams develop and help commercialize pasteurization and packaging solutions that go beyond keeping food safe to maintain nutrients and fresh flavor. Through an FIC seed grant, Dr. V.M. Balasubramaniam is advancing a novel pressure-ohmic thermal sterilization process. Dr. Melvin Pascall designs packaging that maximizes food quality and post-manufacturing security.
Ozone Fresh Eggs The U.S. Egg Safety Action plan called for Salmonella-free eggs by 2010. When the plan was activated, the technology needed to achieve this goal was unknown. Hospitals, nursing homes, and the U.S. military stopped using fresh eggs as a result. Center collaborators invented, optimized, and patented a method to make whole-shell eggs safe without cooking. They now work with industry to commercialize this ozone-based technology by earning the first Ohio Third Frontier Award for an agricultural technology, totaling $3 million.