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Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center

Proposed OSU food-safety program will benefit both students and food industry

With a growing demand for safe quality food products, the need for food industry companies to engage in food-safety programs is more important than ever.

By Mandy Gross, FAPC Communications Services Manager

(Stillwater, Okla. – Oct. 30, 2014) With a growing demand for safe quality food products, the need for food industry companies to engage in food-safety programs is more important than ever.

An advisory board of OSU’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center recognized this need and provided more than $1 million as a lead gift toward a $3.4 million fundraising goal to create an OSU food-safety program, which includes a curriculum proposal for a food-safety option and a food-safety faculty position in the department of animal science.

Food safety is not just the responsibility of the processor, said John Griffin, president and CEO of Griffin Foods in Muskogee, Okla., and spokesperson for FAPC’s advisory board.

“It starts with the farmer through to the manufacturer, then to the distributor who delivers the product to the stores,” Griffin said. “All aspects of the supply chain are monitored and inspected for the safety of the consumer.”

The goal of the proposed academic program is to prepare students for food-safety jobs for which they will be well trained to obtain in the food-manufacturing industry after graduation, said Chuck Willoughby, FAPC manager of business and marketing relations.

“This is a win-win situation,” Willoughby said. “Graduating students with food-safety credentials not only provides industry with a prepared workforce, but it also provides numerous opportunities for the graduates.”

Customer requirements and the new Food Safety Modernization Act are driving the need for improved, tighter food-safety systems. The demand for qualified individuals is great and will continue to grow.

“Oklahoma State University will set the standard that many universities will realize the need to follow,” Griffin said. “We truly appreciate President Burns Hargis and the Division of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources for supporting the vision for this new food-safety program and option.”

The immediate focus is establishing the food-safety option under the current food-science degree and hiring the right faculty member to manage and grow the program.

It is expected that the future program will grow to provide scholarships, internships, undergraduate research opportunities, career development and a full complement of activities to enhance each student’s learning experience.

The program will serve beyond food manufacturing and will include all sectors of the food industry from production agriculture to wholesale and retail distribution channels. Ingredient, packaging and equipment suppliers also are affected by food-safety issues, as are regulatory entities.

This program will encompass all food-safety needs, domestically and globally, once fully implemented.

“What is the future; what is our vision?” Griffin asked. “It’s constantly evolving as OSU’s commitment moves forward in opportunities to be world-renowned in food safety.”

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Oklahoma State University is a modern land-grant system of interdisciplinary programs that prepares students for success. OSU is America’s Brightest Orange. Through leadership and service, OSU is preparing students for a bright future and building a brighter world for all. As Oklahoma’s only university with a statewide presence, OSU improves the lives of people in Oklahoma, the nation and the world through integrated, high-quality teaching, research and outreach. OSU has more than 36,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 24,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, with students from all 50 states and around 120 nations. Established in 1890, OSU has graduated more than 245,000 students to serve Oklahoma, the nation and the world.