Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced it will award $24 million to research projects for improving food safety. The grants were awarded to 35 projects at 26 schools across the country through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Food Safety program. The categories of projects address critical and emerging food safety issues like the role of pigs in foodborne zoonotic transmission of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, effective mitigation strategies for antimicrobial resistance, improving the safety of fresh and fresh-cut produce, and the physical and molecular mechanisms of food contamination. NIFA director Sonny Ramaswamy called the agency’s investment in food safety science “a high priority that will have direct impact on thousands of lives.” Separate from the NIFA announcement, Barabara Kowalcyk discussed the need for publicly-funded food safety research during last week’s National Food Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. In addition to the new innovations and cost-saving measures research can lead to, “the next generation of our food safety workforce comes from dealing with researchers at academic institutions,” said Kowalcyk, CEO of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention. “If we’re not funding research, then the academic institutions can’t train people to replace the brain drain that we’re facing in public health and in science.” She cited a 2012 report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) that said of the $14 billion spent on agricultural research in 2009, $3.8 billion came from the federal government while $8.7 billion came from industry. “I’m all for private industry putting money into research, but then you get research that the private industry needs,” she said. “We do need publicly funded research in food safety and agriculture.” And of agriculture research in general, “food safety is a very, very, very tiny part,” Kowalcyk said. “Food safety, I say, is the poor stepchild of the poor stepchild.”