Auburn’s Curtis heads initiative to help keep nation’s food supply safe

Pat CurtisAUBURN – Patricia Curtis has been named director of the Auburn University Food Systems Initiative, an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional program that integrates research, outreach and academic efforts to enhance the safety of the nation’s food supply from producer to consumer.

The initiative is a collaborative effort between the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. Curtis officially assumed the position Feb. 1.

The Food Systems Initiative began with a focus on food safety but has expanded to include all aspects of the food system, from production to development of new food products to protecting the quality and quantity of the world’s food supply. As director of the initiative, Curtis will coordinate projects among faculty across the Auburn campus and at other partner institutions across the U.S.

“The international food system is a complex global structure that moves locally produced food around the world every day and is comprised of many companies who purchase, process, package, market, distribute and sell food and food products around the world,” said Bill Batchelor, director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station and dean of the College of Agriculture at Auburn. “Through the Food Systems Initiative, Dr. Curtis will develop projects to solve major problems related to the food system that are important to Alabama, the nation and world, and will educate our students and the public on food systems issues.”

Faculty members from colleges and schools across the Auburn campus have worked with the Food Safety Initiative, and Curtis, a professor in Auburn’s Department of Poultry Science, said she hopes to advance that collaborative effort among scientists at Auburn as well as at other groups and institutions.

“I am excited about the opportunity that the Food Systems Initiative provides to expand our work on a wide range of food-related issues,” Curtis said. “Everyone has to eat, and we want to help provide a safe, secure, diverse and affordable food supply for people worldwide.”

In addition to research, the initiative also includes an outreach component that will offer educational programs for consumers, producers, processors and food handlers. John Mason, Auburn’s associate provost and vice president for research, said extending the initiative to encompass the entire food system will further strengthen the university’s land-grant mission to improve the quality of life for people in Alabama and beyond.

“As a land-grant institution, Auburn University has a long-standing tradition of excellent research in areas related to food safety,” Mason said. “The Food Systems Initiative, under the leadership of Dr. Curtis, will serve as a mechanism to integrate and advance this critical research activity at all levels.”

Curtis came to Auburn from North Carolina State University in 2002. A native Texan, she received her bachelor’s degree from Texas Women’s University and her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in food science and technology from Texas A&M University.

(Contributed by Jamie Creamer.)

Contact: Jamie Creamer, (334) 844-2783 (creamjs@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)