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Renewal of Cooperative Agreement Expands Institute’s Work to Back Up Health Policies With Science
By Erica Mudd ’07 and Mary Grimley
Photo by Edwin Remsberg
A five-year, $41 million cooperative agreement announced this week with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will expand a University of Maryland-based institute’s work to provide scientific information to fight food-related illness and enable the development of sound public health policy.
Established in 1996, the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) is an FDA Center of Excellence combining the expertise of the federal agency with UMD researchers. It promotes research, education and outreach in food safety, security and applied nutrition and has developed innovative partnerships across industry, government and other stakeholders in support of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, which focuses on preventing food safety problems before they occur by emphasizing strong surveillance systems on foodborne illnesses and outbreaks.
“This enduring partnership and funding will allow us to continue our collaborative research efforts between UMD and the FDA,” said Jianghong Meng, a professor of nutrition and food science and JIFSAN director. “We are in a new era of food safety where better protections and preventative measures are more important than ever. The last few years have shown that as a community we must all work together to eradicate illness and disease.”
The new award will help grow several programs, including a congressional mandate on imported aquacultured shrimp, which supports the FDA in regulating the sourcing and importing of shrimp to the United States.
JIFSAN will continue to provide graduate and undergraduate internship opportunities to UMD students who work with and are mentored by FDA scientists. In its first quarter century, the institute provided over 300 undergraduate internships, graduate assistantships and postdoctoral research appointments that have contributed to a variety of food safety initiatives and programs.
The institute will also conduct multi-institutional, multidisciplinary research projects and develop mechanisms for the exchange of technical information and scientific concepts. Additionally, it will continue to advance the development of innovative education and outreach programs that enhance the FDA’s efforts with other nations to improve U.S. and global health.
The renewal of funding also comes at particularly favorable time as JIFSAN prepares to move its offices and facilities this month to a new location at 5825 University Research Court in UMD’s Discovery District, a dynamic research park in Greater College Park. The new facility includes a cutting-edge microbiology laboratory to meet the needs for research and training in whole genome sequencing as well as other advanced technologies for detecting and tracing the source of foodborne pathogens.
“We’re excited to continue the important research of food safety,” Meng said. “The renewal of this award is a timely confirmation and speaks to the significance of the work our University of Maryland faculty, staff and students do in partnership with the U.S. FDA to improve and better the lives of the public.”
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