Food safety is increasing in global importance and complexity said David R. Lineback, senior fellow at the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the University of Maryland at College Park.

Lineback spoke at the 11th Annual Patrick Lecture Series during an evening reception and lecture program in the Energy, Coast and Environment Building on the Louisiana State University campus on Sept. 19.

“Food safety is everyone’s responsibility,” Lineback said. “We live globally, so we have to balance between local and distant foods supplied to us.”    

While discussing the importance of a safe food supply, he said we live in this global food market and most of us don’t want to go back to where we only have seasonal produce.

The movement of food over long distances does create challenges, Lineback explained. “There is the opportunity for contamination all along the route from producer to consumer.”

Safety of the food supply has been a hot topic recently with the two ground turkey recalls because of contamination. 

“In our current situation, we have these three areas – convenience, health and pleasure – which overlap,” he said.

He said it took his grandparents about three hours to prepare the evening meal, while it took his parents about an hour.

“Now it takes between 12 to15 minutes,” Lineback said. “We want it to taste just as good and we want it to be just as healthy.”

When it comes to food safety, he said risk equals magnitude plus probability.

“Perception is important with consumers,” he said. “Danger and kids can’t be used in the same sentence.”

 A recent study cited showed that about three-fourths of all Americans obtain their food safety information from a media source today, where it used to be from a doctor, he explained.

In his analysis, the whole story is not being told on many occasions. He referred to a report from Purdue University that showed how some contaminated seed can contaminate the plant that grows from it, which makes it impossible to simply wash off.

Access to clean water is one of the most important assets needed to decrease foodborne illness, according to Lineback.

“The World Health Organization estimated in 2005, the latest figures available, that about 1.8 million people die from diarrheal diseases alone. That’s attributed to food and water,” he said. “If we had potable water around the world, we could reduce foodborne illness by about 50 percent.”

“Dr. Lineback is an internationally known food safety expert,” said Ruth Patrick, one of the founders of the lecture series. “He’s had a really varied academic background.”

Lineback was department head of food science at North Carolina State and Penn State universities, dean of the College of Agriculture at the University of Idaho and director of the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the University of Maryland, where he currently serves as a senior fellow.

With more than 48 million estimated cases of foodborne illness a year, Patrick said, a little common sense could go a long way.

She explained that something as simple as regular hand washing could decrease one of the main problems – staph infection.  

Ruth Patrick was a food and nutrition specialist with the LSU AgCenter. She, along with her late husband Bill Patrick, who was director of the LSU Wetland Biogeochemistry Institute, established the Patrick Lecture Series in 1998 through an endowment to the LSU Foundation.

The endowment fund sponsors an annual lecture that alternates between the fields of Human Nutrition/Food Science and Wetlands Science/Coastal Studies, Patrick said.

“The idea for the lecture series is to bring an outstanding scientist/scholar in our discipline here every year to share the latest information and technology about our discipline,” Patrick said.

Each year a scholar is selected to spend several days on the LSU campus where a number of lectures are presented, including a general interest lecture for faculty and students and a scientific lecture for Pennington Biomedical Research Center scientists.

Lineback was selected as the featured speaker for the lecture from nominees submitted by LSU faculty members.