New York State Department of Health Named National Center of Excellence In Food Safety

Enhanced collaborations will allow New York and other State Health Departments to investigate foodborne outbreaks more efficiently, stopping the spread of disease faster

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 25, 2016) - The New York State Department of Health, in partnership with Cornell University, has been designated as an Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence (CoE) by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Each year, roughly 1 in 6 Americans are sickened by foodborne diseases; 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. The New York CoE pairs the state health department and Cornell University in an effort to protect New Yorkers and save lives by preventing and controlling foodborne diseases across New York State and the Northeast.

The State Health Department and Cornell University will engage 11 states from Maryland to Maine as well as local public health partners to create a regional model for food safety improvement. The effort will also regionalize performance management, competency-based training, and program evaluation activities.

"Together with Cornell University, the Department is going to lead this regional effort to improve food safety and reduce the threat we face from foodborne illnesses," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. "By pooling our resources and talents, we'll be better equipped to take on the challenges that occur in an outbreak and be better able to prevent foodborne illnesses altogether."

New York State Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "Food safety and protecting our consumers is a top priority for New York State and for the Department.New York has some of the best research facilities in the country, such as Cornell University, and a state-of-the-art food laboratory and staff that are on the cutting-edge of critical work to keep our food safe. I'm excited that our partners at the Department of Health have been recognized with the designation as the newest Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence, which will build on its existing efforts in prevention and control of foodborne diseases and know their work will put New York State on the map when it comes to food safety and security."

As nationally recognized leaders in epidemiology, environmental health, laboratory science, information technology, public health quality improvement and food safety science, DOH and Cornell University will lead collaborative approaches to respond to and solve outbreaks of foodborne illness.

Cornell University Professor Martin Wiedmann, PhD. said "By sharing food safety data information, we can build capacity throughout the food safety system, investigate outbreaks, quickly stop disease spread and learn how to prevent the next one."

The science of food safety is rapidly changing as a result of new technologies involving the molecular testing of foodborne pathogens. In the coming months, DOH will work with Cornell University to conduct a needs assessment of food safety professionals in the region. The assessment will help inform the development of a food safety symposium at Cornell University planned for 2016, where public health professionals will learn new methods for enhancing food safety. New York State is one of six CDC-funded Centers of Excellence. Others are located in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Oregon, and Tennessee. The states were selected by the CDC as part of a competitive application process.

CoEs were created under the authority of the federal Food Safety Modernization Act.

Notable NYS Foodborne Outbreaks/Investigations:

2010: Six NYS residents were part of a multi-state outbreak of E. coli O145. Epidemiologic investigations associated illness with consuming bagged, shredded romaine lettuce. Environmental health investigations conducted in NYS resulted in unopened bags of lettuce being sent to Wadsworth Center Laboratories for testing. Wadsworth Center identified the same strain of E. coli O145 in the lettuce that was causing illness in individuals.

2011: Thirty-two NYS residents were part of a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis. State and local epidemiology, environmental health and laboratory investigators worked together to determine that pine nuts purchased from a single grocery chain was associated with illness. Pine nuts were tested at Wadsworth Center Laboratories and found to be the same strain of Salmonella Enteritidis that was causing illness in individuals.

2012: Forty-five NYS residents were part of a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Bareilly and Nchanga.Epidemiologic and traceback information obtained by State and local investigators and epidemiologic studies of food service establishments where cases ate were instrumental in identifying the source of the outbreak, a frozen raw yellowfin tuna product.

For additional information on CDC's Integrated Food Safety Centers of Excellence, visit:

For details about Cornell University's food safety programs and research, visit