CFAES food safety center to research food safety in Kenya

Writer(s): 
A young girl on a poultry farm in Busia, Kenya. Photo: courtesy of Barbara Kowalcyk

COLUMBUS, Ohio—The Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (CFI) at The Ohio State University has been awarded a $770,000 grant to improve food safety and prevent foodborne illnesses in Kenya.

The initiative is one of four new research projects announced by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development as part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

The 3.5-year project, “Chakula salama: a risk-based approach to reducing foodborne diseases and increasing production of safe foods in Kenya,” includes a team of researchers from The Ohio State University, the University of Florida, Kenya Medical Research Institute, and the University of Nairobi, who will work to develop and test food-safety interventions to support Kenya’s small-scale poultry producers.

“This project will use a systems-based approach to answer important food safety questions and build an enabling environment that fosters the implementation of risk-based approaches to food safety in Kenya and, eventually, other African countries,” said Barbara Kowalcyk, director of CFI. She is also a faculty member in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and the Translational Data Analytics Institute at Ohio State.

This work is significant considering that foodborne diseases cause an estimated 91 million illnesses and $16.7 billion in human capital losses annually in Africa, Kowalcyk said.

“Poultry is an important dietary component for households and a source of revenue for women and youth in Kenya, but is often produced and processed in informal settings that rarely include mitigation strategies, making it a high-risk product from a food-safety perspective,” she said.

With that in mind, the project will focus on reducing the risk of illnesses from Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry produced by small-scale women and youth poultry farmers, said Haley Oliver, Food Safety Innovation Lab director and professor of food science at Purdue University.

“Globally, poultry and other meats have a high probability of pathogen contamination,” Oliver said. “In Kenya, women and children are the main producers and handlers of poultry, and this project is a great opportunity to disrupt the disease transmission cycle in an important food and nutrient resource, preventing disease, malnutrition, and a host of other associated challenges.”

The Kenya project is just one of the many research efforts undertaken by CFI as part of its mission to improve food safety globally as well as locally and nationally. For example, last year, Kowalcyk received a $3.4 million, four-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.K. Department for International Development to improve food safety in Ethiopia, where illnesses from unpasteurized milk and raw meat are commonplace.

Founded as a nonprofit organization in 2006, CFI brought its 14-year record of protecting public health to CFAES in September 2019. The center, which is now housed within CFAES, has a mission to advance a more scientific, risk-based food safety system that prevents foodborne illnesses and protects public health by translating science into policy and practice.

To learn more about CFI, visit foodsafety.osu.edu.

For more information contact: 
Tracy Turner
614-688-1067
Source(s): 

Barbara Kowalcyk
614-292-6487
Kowalcyk.1@osu.edu