COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio State University research team yesterday (4/25) won the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s (OARDC) Multi-disciplinary Team Research Award for its efforts to reduce foodborne illnesses caused by fresh produce.
The award, which is given every three years, honors research excellence by teams comprised of OARDC scientists from a range of fields.
OARDC is the research arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).
The team, which is called the Vegetable Safety Research and Extension Program, studies how produce gets contaminated in the first place, then uses that knowledge to develop new control methods that are science-based, affordable, socially acceptable and environmentally sustainable.
Video (1:43): Jeff LeJeune, a member of Ohio State's Vegetable Safety Research and Extension Program, talks about why food safety research needs a multi-disciplinary approach.
The team’s members include Jeff LeJeune, Gireesh Rajashekara and Linda Saif of the Food Animal Health Research Program; Sally Miller, Brian McSpadden Gardener and Feng Qu of the Department of Plant Pathology; Richard Moore and Robyn Wilson of the School of Environment and Natural Resources; Doug Doohan of the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science; Lydia Medeiros of the Department of Human Nutrition; and Rob Scharff of the Department of Consumer Sciences.
Together, the scientists form one of the most comprehensive teams at a single institution studying the overlap of vegetable production and safety, OARDC said in a statement.
Among its achievements, the team has published 30 peer-reviewed food safety-related articles in scientific journals and seven fact sheets for CFAES’s outreach arm, Ohio State University Extension; has developed and delivered a statewide series of outreach meetings on good agricultural practices for produce growers; has trained eight new food-safety-related interdisciplinary scientists; has organized meetings between Ohio produce growers and representatives of the Food and Drug Administration regarding FDA’s proposed new food safety rules, including an April 30 listening session in Wooster; and has received nearly $10 million in current and pending research contracts and grants.
The team’s work also jibes well with all three of Ohio State’s recently established Discovery Themes, or university-wide areas of focus: Health and Wellness, Energy and Environment, and Food Production and Security.
Contaminated food causes an estimated 48 million U.S. cases of foodborne illness each year, including 1.3 million hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, according to OARDC figures. In Ohio alone, the estimated annual economic burden from contaminated food ranges from $1 billion to $7 billion.
OARDC’s Multi-disciplinary Team Research Award carries with it a plaque, $1,000 to each team member and a one-time addition to the team’s operating expenses budget. OARDC Director Steve Slack presented the award during the center’s April 25 annual research conference in Columbus.
In addition to Slack, the conference’s speakers included Bruce McPheron, Ohio State’s vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES; OARDC Associate Director David Benfield; Henry Thompson, director of Colorado State University’s Cancer Prevention Laboratory; Steve Schwartz, Carl E. Haas Endowed Chair in Food Industries and director of CFAES’s Center for Advanced Functional Foods Research and Entrepreneurship (CAFFRE); and physician-scientist Dr. Steve Clinton, associate director of CAFFRE and molecular carcinogenesis and chemoprevention program leader at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The conference’s theme was “How Food Impacts Human Health.”
OARDC is the largest university agricultural bioscience research center in the U.S. The center works not just on food and farming but also, for instance, on biofuels, bioproducts, health, nutrition, sustainability and the environment.
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Steve Slack, OARDC Director