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K-State Today

June 6, 2011

On a mission: Workshop for science teachers highlights K-State Olathe's outreach in food safety

Submitted by Julie Fosberg

Since its grand opening in late April, Kansas State University Olathe -- the Kansas City area's newest campus -- has been focused on its mission of research and outreach in food safety and animal health.

With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reporting that about a third of the U.S. population has mild to severe illnesses caused by pathogens in food each year, food safety is an increasingly important topic. More than 5,000 people in the U.S. die from food poisoning annually.

A workshop to update science teachers on the latest food safety information will be June 13-16 at K-State Olathe. Registration for the event is filled, an indication the K-State graduate campus is offering the type of educational programs wanted in the Kansas City area.

Teaching Food Safety Through Food Science is an interactive hands-on in-service program to prepare 20 teachers to educate middle and high school students about food safety through existing food science units and/or courses in the family and consumer sciences, agriculture or science curriculum. The intended outcome is high school students knowledgeable about food safety, food science and career opportunities related to public health, according to Beth Montelone, professor of biology and program director for One Health Kansas.

One Health Kansas, a sponsor of the workshop, was developed by K-State and is funded by the Kansas Health Foundation. Its mission is to promote awareness and understanding of the interconnections among human, animal and environmental health. K-State Olathe is the other core sponsor.

"The teaching workshop fits perfectly with our research and outreach mission in food safety," said John Pascarella, associate dean of academic and research programs at K-State Olathe. "Many of the teachers participating in the workshop are from Johnson County and will receive stipends through support from the Johnson County Education and Research Triangle -- JCERT -- funding that supports K-State Olathe. We are proud to be hosting what we hope will be the first of many teachers workshops in the areas of food safety, animal health and biotechnology."

Other partners in the workshop include Sysco Kansas City Inc., the Kansas Department of Education and Danisco Ingredients.

As part of the training, teachers will participate in classroom, laboratory and industry instruction focusing on food science, food microbiology fundamentals, microbes and food spoilage, prevention of food-borne illnesses, and food science-related careers, Montelone said. The program will integrate current K-State research and industry best practices, guided by national standards related to science and career and technical education.

Participants will tour Danisco and Sysco to learn about food-handling practices the two companies have in place.

Workshop presentations will be on a variety of topics surrounding food, from microbiology and safe food handling to food-borne illness case studies.

Instructors for the workshop include food scientists and food safety specialists from Sysco, Danisco and K-State, including experts from the Food Science Institute, K-State Research and Extension and K-State Sensory Analysis Center.