Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

March 19, 2002

Network is Canada's official source for food safety information

The University of Guelph today formally launched the Food Safety Network, Canada's most comprehensive science-based source of information on food safety and related issues.

"Consumer concerns about food safety have increased to unprecedented levels," said Doug Powell, a plant agriculture professor and the network's scientific director. "This network is an important bridge between science and public policy for consumers and others in the farm-to-fork food safety system around the world."

The network provides the most up-to-date, international research, commentary, policy evaluation and public information on food safety and safe food handling. Its features include a food safety Web site, extensive databases, field research, a comprehensive information centre that will soon feature a national toll-free food safety hotline, daily news pages and listservs on evolving food safety issues, and a research and demonstration farm. Funding for the network also supported a Donner Foundation Fellowship that allowed Globe and Mail reporter Stephen Strauss to spend a year on campus exploring emerging issues in agriculture, food and biotechnology.

The university was able to publicly launch the network after several years and more than $570,000 in support, including $320,000 from the Donner Foundation and more than $250,000 from Guelph alumnus Dr. Ken Murray, known for his distinguished career in the Canadian meat packing industry. Such support was crucial to the establishment of the Donner Foundation Fellowship and to the development of the infrastructure necessary for the network, said University of Guelph President Mordechai Rozanski. "We are grateful to the Donner Foundation and to Ken Murray for their generous support. Guelph has a long and proud tradition of national leadership in innovative research focussed on agriculture and food," he said. "We also have a commitment to rigorous scientific inquiry and to communicating these advances to as wide an audience as possible. Shaping and evaluating public policy on the critical issue of food safety is a natural fit with our areas of strength."

The network will work closely with the Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety, also housed at Guelph, as well as other national and international collaborators. The network will develop food safety programs and identify and assess appropriate food safety interventions. It will also use survey work and media analysis to determine public perceptions and effectiveness of food safety programs. In addition, a new graduate course in food safety risk analysis will be launched in the spring semester to help produce a new generation of science-based public policy and public education leaders.

"The Food Safety Network puts science into action," said Alan Wildeman, Guelph's vice-president for research. "It will contribute to the development of scientific and credible food safety programs and supply a strong, science-based voice about emerging food safety issues."

The Food Safety Network is also beneficial to media in Canada and around the world, providing the latest news and research on food safety and agri-food risk issues via daily listservs. "Doug Powell has created an internationally-recognized resource," said Stephen Strauss, a food reporter for the Globe and Mail. "It is a very useful tool for journalists covering these issues, as well as for people working in the industry and the general public."

Powell added that the network will also help scientists and food producers understand public concerns and perceptions. "Science is not conducted in a vacuum," he said. "Researchers need to be better educated about and sensitive to public views and questions on food safety. It is a reciprocal process."

Mor information is available on the Food Safety Network website:

Prof. Doug Powell
Department of Plant Agriculture
(519) 821-1799

For media questions, contact:
Communications and Public Affairs,
519-824-4120, Ext. 3338.

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