Make Our Food Safe
06/29/2011

Op-Ed: "Welcome to Armchair Epidemiology: The How-To's of Solving a Foodborne Illness Outbreak"

Huffington Post | Barbara Kowalcyk

"Like most people, I wear a lot of different hats -- mom, wife and what I am most known for -- food safety advocate. I am also wearing another hat that I am hoping to put on a shelf by the end of the summer -- graduate student. Before I was tragically thrust into the world of food safety, I was a master's level statistician and had spent my career working in clinical research finding new treatments for schizophrenia, high cholesterol and other health issues. After I became involved in food safety, I realized that if I wanted to be viewed as more than a grieving mom, I needed to take my education up another notch. So, I went back to school to get my doctorate in Environmental Health -- in Molecular Epidemiology to be exact.

'What's that?' you may ask. Well, when it comes to food safety and foodborne illness, molecular epidemiology is critically important. It is the backbone of outbreak investigations and foodborne disease surveillance. Molecular epidemiology uses molecular techniques to study the impact of genetic and environmental risk factors on the causes, trends and prevention of disease. In less scientific terms, it means using DNA to find out what causes disease and what can prevent it. Basically, epidemiologists are disease detectives, and molecular epidemiologists use genetic information to do their detective work..."

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