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Catherine Woteki, Agriculture, (515) 294-2518
Melinda Wittstock, Resources for the Future, (202) 328-5019
Brian Meyer, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-5616
Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778


AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University and five other institutions have joined forces in a national effort to develop new, science-driven strategies to improve food safety.

The new Food Safety Research Consortium was announced today (Thursday) in Washington, D.C.

"Setting priorities for reducing foodborne illness will require the best efforts of experts from many disciplines and institutions," said Catherine Woteki, dean of Iowa State's College of Agriculture and interim director of ISU's Institute for Food Safety and Security.

"The Food Safety Research Consortium provides a vehicle for researchers to work with government, industry and consumers to improve food safety in the United States," said Woteki.

The consortium's founding institutions are: Iowa State's Institute for Food Safety and Security
  • Resources for the Future, research center, Washington, D.C.
  • Center for Food Safety, University of Georgia, Griffin
  • Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore
  • Food Marketing Policy Center, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, University of California at Davis Foodborne illness kills an estimated 5,000 Americans each year and accounts for as many as 325,000 hospitalizations. The risk-analysis and priority-setting tools needed to combat this public health problem don't exist, say consortium organizers.

    "In today's dynamic and global food system, foodborne illness persists as a complicated and rapidly evolving public health problem," said Michael Taylor, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future. "We understand the challenge our public health officials face and want to develop practical tools they can use to help meet that challenge."

    The consortium's first project will be to develop a model for comparing and ranking the public health impacts of specific foodborne hazards. The project will produce an interactive software package that government managers, food producers and others interested in food safety can use to assess the relative importance of specific hazards.

    The risk-ranking project, which is funded by a grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will be the first systematic effort to determine which pathogens in combination with what foods pose the greatest threat to public health.

    "We know vastly more about the incidence and causes of foodborne illness than we did just a few years ago," said J. Glenn Morris of the University of Maryland Medical School, principal investigator on the risk-ranking project. "We can now put this knowledge to use in determining where best to focus research, regulation and education to reduce the risk of illness."

    A long-term goal of the consortium is to improve decision-making tools that help take advantage of opportunities to reduce food-safety risks.

    The Food Safety Research Consortium will be administered by Resources for the Future. Development of the consortium has been supported by the Milbank Memorial Fund, a national foundation that works on health-policy issues.

    The Institute for Food Safety and Security at Iowa State is dedicated to protecting Iowa's and the nation's investment in agriculture. Researchers in agriculture, family and consumer sciences, liberal arts and sciences, and veterinary medicine are affiliated with the institute. The institute will work to control foodborne infectious diseases, to prevent contamination of food and water by toxins, and to protect plants and animals from major disease threats.


    Editor's Note: Catherine Woteki can be reached by phone after 2 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 6, by calling the Resources for the Future contact number listed above. On Friday, Feb. 7, she can be reached in Washington, D.C. -- please contact Brian Meyer, listed above, for contact information. A downloadable photo of Catherine Woteki may be found at For more information about the photo, contact Linda Charles, (515)294-3129.

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