National Food Safety Expert Joins Milken Institute School of Public Health

Barbara Kowalcyk will direct the new Center for Food Safety & Nutrition Security

September 6, 2023

Barb Kowlacyk

WASHINGTON (September 7, 2023) — The Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University has named Barbara Kowalcyk, a nationally recognized expert in food safety with training in epidemiology, public health informatics, risk science, regulatory decision-making, and public policy, to be the inaugural director of the Center for Food Safety and Nutrition Security. The new Center will advance food systems that promote public health and prevent illness.

Kowalcyk comes to Milken Institute SPH most recently from her role as Director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI) at The Ohio State University, where she also served as faculty in the Department of Food Science and Technology and the Translational Data Analytics Institute. Since her son, Kevin, died at age 2 1/2 due to complications from an E. coli O157:H7 infection in 2001, she has devoted her career to protecting the public from contaminated food sources. In 2006, she co-founded CFI with her mother, Patricia Buck, a food safety advocate and educator and, in 2019, brought CFI to The Ohio State University.

“We are excited to have Barbara Kowalcyk join the Milken Institute School of Public Health, bringing her passion for science-based solutions to protecting our food supply,” said Lynn R. Goldman, Michael and Lori Milken Dean of Public Health at the Milken Institute SPH. “Her decades of leadership on these issues, combined with the resources and proximity to the federal government that our school provides, will position the new Center for Food Safety & Nutrition Security as a leading voice on this issue.”

Kowlacyk currently serves as Chair of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Science Board and has served on numerous other advisory committees, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Board of Scientific Counselors Food Safety Modernization Act Surveillance Working Group. She also co-authored a report by the National Academy of Sciences that became the blueprint for the Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2011, that was the first major reform of food oversight at the FDA since 1938.

 “I am thrilled to be at the helm of the new Center for Food Safety & Nutrition Security at the George Washington University,” Kowalcyk said. “For over 20 years, I have worked to put in place risk-informed, systems-based approaches to food safety. At GW, these efforts will expand to include nutrition security, which considers equitable access to safe, nutritious and affordable food that promotes health and well-being. Too often, efforts to improve food safety, nutrition and food security are siloed, leading to unintended consequences. This new Center will advance integrated approaches to addressing existing and emerging food safety and nutrition security problems in the U.S. and abroad.” 

She received a B.A. in Mathematics from University of Dayton in 1991 and an M.A. in Applied Statistics from the University of Pittsburgh in 1993. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in Environmental Health (Epidemiology/Biostatistics) from the University of Cincinnati in 2011.

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