Centered On Safety

Centered On Safety

By Tony Phifer

For decades, Colorado has boasted that it produces the juiciest, sweetest cantaloupes in the world. They are the ultimate summertime treat and a state agricultural legend on par with peaches from Palisade and sweet corn from Olathe.

Unfortunately, events in 2011 threatened that long-standing reputation. The foodborne disease listeriosis infected nearly 150 people in 28 states, causing more than 30 deaths. The culprit: Colorado cantaloupes produced at a farm near Holly.

Suddenly, the much-anticipated melon with the delicious golden flesh was shunned as Listeria hysteria took hold.

“It was a scary time,” said Marisa Bunning, associate professor and extension specialist in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, part of Colorado State University’s College of Health and Human Sciences. “When it comes to food safety, cantaloupe is very different from tomatoes or strawberries. We needed to find a way to educate consumers and growers about cantaloupe safety.”

“Having a food safety network helped CSU assist the state department of health in their investigation of the outbreak,”

Marisa Bunning is on the executive committee for the Center for the Prevention of Foodborne Disease.
Marisa Bunning is on the executive committee for the Center for the Prevention of Foodborne Disease.

That thought process helped lead to the creation of the Center for Food Safety and Prevention of Foodborne Disease. The center – one of five integrated Food Safety Centers of Excellence in the country – is a partnership between the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado School of Public Health, and CSU. The center aims to improve food safety and prevent foodborne disease by fostering collaboration among academia, government, and industry across the region.

“The people who work in food safety need to have a network to know what’s going on in other areas and across our campus,” said Bunning, co-director of the center. “In responding to the listeriosis outbreak, we needed to own the problem, understand it, and come up with solutions. We now have a better way to do that.”

The center includes faculty from four CSU colleges: Health and Human Sciences, Agriculture, Natural Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Even before it was formally organized, the Center arranged meetings of health professionals during the outbreak.

“Having a food safety network helped CSU assist the state department of health in their investigation of the outbreak,” Bunning said. “The center really fulfills the land-grant mission of our University in that we were able to step up and help when needed.”

The Center For The Prevention Of Foodborne Disease

Established in 2012, with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado School of Public Health, CSU, CU-Denver and the University of Northern Colorado partnering on the project.

The center aims to improve food safety and prevent foodborne disease by fostering collaboration among academia, government, and industry in Colorado and the region.

Colorado is designated one of five Integrated Food Safety Centers of Excellence by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.

Four CSU colleges are represented at the center: Agriculture, Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Health and Human Sciences.

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