Barbara Kowalcyk, Ph.D., M.A., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences and the Director of the Food Policy Institute at George Washington University's (GW's) Milken Institute School of Public Health. She also has an appointment in the U.S. Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and is a fellow with the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness.

Dr. Kowalcyk's research spans a range of topics related to food safety and infectious foodborne disease, and their intersection with nutrition security. She has extensively used epidemiologic methods, data analytics, and risk analysis to assess food safety risks and potential intervention strategies in both the U.S. and the Global South. Prior to joining GW in 2023, Dr. Kowalcyk was faculty at Ohio State University with appointments in the Department of Food Science and Technology and the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, and directed the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (CFI), a nonprofit organization she co-founded in 2006. Prior to joining OSU, she was a senior food safety and public health scientist at RTI International and a research assistant professor in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Science at North Carolina State University.

Dr. Kowalcyk holds a B.A. degree in mathematics from the University of Dayton, an M.A. degree in Applied Statistics from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Health from the University of Cincinnati. She has served on many national committees, including two National Academy of Sciences committees and her current appointment to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) Science Board.  

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In this episode of Food Safety Matters, we speak with Dr. Kowalcyk [39:50] about:

  • Her research and advocacy work in the food safety realm, which focuses on advancing equitable food systems that promote public health and prevent foodborne illness
  • How Dr. Kowalcyk's background and personal experiences shaped her career in food safety
  • The interconnectedness of food safety, nutrition, and food security, and the need for an integrated approach to drive improvement in these three areas
  • Dr. Kowalcyk's experience as part of the Reagan-Udall Foundation independent panel that conducted the 2022 evaluation of FDA's operations, and her impressions of the proposed reorganization plan for the agency's Human Foods Program
  • The benefits of whole genome sequencing (WGS) and other technological advancements in foodborne illness outbreak detection and monitoring, and why “boots-on-the-ground” data is still crucial
  • Current food safety challenges on Dr. Kowalcyk’s radar, like the effects of climate change on the safety of water used in food production and the need for workforce development in the food safety industry. 

News and Resources:

FDA Publishes FSMA Pre-Harvest Agricultural Water Final Rule [7:41]

USDA Testing Retail Ground Beef for HPAI H5N1; Maintains That U.S. Meat Supply is Safe [17:28]

FDA Testing Finds HPAI in Retail Milk Samples; Research Required to Determine Infectivity, Food Safety Risk

Florida Becomes First State to Ban Cell-Based Meat [23:50]

Alabama Poised to Ban Cell-Based Meat

Thanks, Sesame: U.S. Food Recalls Due to Undeclared Allergens Skyrocketed in 2023, Causing Half of All Food Recalls [32:53]

Food Safety Summit 2024 Keynote: On-Demand Replay Now Available

Food Industry Counsel—Food Recall Search

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