It was announced earlier this week that Cornell University and the New York State Department of Health will jointly lead the nation’s newest Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence (IFSCE). This is a joint venture aimed at strengthening foodborne illness surveillance and investigations.

Cornell-New York were chosen to lead the new center after winning a competition run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The new IFSCE is the 6th one in the U.S. and will support food safety response for 11 states in the Northeast region. Other Centers of Excellence have already been established in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Oregon and Tennessee to assist local, state and federal health officials respond to foodborne outbreaks by providing training, technical assistance and collaboration.

The Cornell-New York center will be co-directed by Martin Wiedmann the Gellert Family Professor in food safety, Andie Newman and Shelley Zansky of the state health department.

“The major issue these centers try to address is making sure that, at the state level, there’s appropriate expertise to detect foodborne disease outbreaks, trace them back to the source, and then use that information to prevent future outbreaks,” says Wiedmann.

The benefit of state health departments working with large universities like Cornell is that they can take advantage of the institution’s research, educational and technical expertise.

“Together with Cornell University, the department is going to lead this regional effort to improve food safety and reduce the threat we face from foodborne illnesses,” says Howard Zucker, state health commissioner. “By pooling our resources and talents, we’ll be better equipped to take on the challenges that occur in an outbreak and be better able to prevent foodborne illnesses altogether.”

Cornell is expected to train local health officials on how to implement cutting-edge food safety tools, some of which are fairly new to the market. They will also be looking at how genome sequencing can detect a foodborne outbreak even in the smallest sample of victims.

The IFSCE is the CDC’s response to the establishment of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

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