I work as an extension associate in the Department of Food Science at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York. My primary responsibility is to support food producers in bringing safe food to the market by conducting shelf life, challenge study and more. In other words, I am a food safety expert.
During this fellowship, I hope to develop a food-safety plan for the preparation of injera. Injera is traditionally made with teff, which is a cereal that is native to Ethiopia. I will be working with the owner of an Ethiopian restaurant in Harlem, New York who has agreed to share the recipe with me. I plan to travel to her restaurant to observe how she prepares the injera. From there, I hope to help her make the process more scientific (ex: using a pH, thermometer, etc), and develop clear safety goals. Once the plan is developed, I plan to publish it on our website where hundreds of food producers visit every month. The hope is to publish it as well in the Food Protection Trends Journal, which is a peer-reviewed journal. If successful, this will be a step towards developing food safety plans for non-traditional foods sold in the US.
Challenges Faced By Entrepreneurs Introducing International Foods into the US Market
Prior to her current role, Ann Charles Vegdahl worked at the Cornell Food Venture Center (CFVC), reviewing recipes from small food processors and helping bring their new products to the market. Throughout Vegdahl’s time at CFVC, many international foods could not be approved because of lack of food safety data to be regulatory compliant.
As a Faculty Fellow in Engaged Scholarship, Vegdahl is conducting a needs assessment to close this gap and bring foods from a variety of global traditions and cultures to New York state and beyond. The project includes identifying and reaching out to community groups to determine what types of foods to include, documenting these recipes, identifying critical factors and biological hazards relevant to specific foods. This project will focus primarily on low acid fermented food and beverages. This is the first step in helping small entrepreneurs bring new foods to market.
“As an Extension Associate, I interact and engage regularly with the public. This project has been on my mind for a while. And being part of the Faculty Fellows in Engaged Scholarship is giving me the opportunity to concretize this idea. I am also excited to interact with other like-minded colleagues.” —Ann Charles Vegdahl