The Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station has appointed Kristen Gibson, professor of food safety and microbiology, director of the Center for Food Safety.
“The Center for Food Safety coordinates food safety research that is relevant to the state of Arkansas across the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. It is committed to disseminating research findings to Arkansas families and food industries,” said Jean-François Meullenet, senior associate vice president for agriculture-research and director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the Division of Agriculture.
“Dr. Gibson’s body of work over more than a decade at the experiment station has earned her a reputation as one of the nation’s foremost experts in microbiology and food safety,” Meullenet said. “Her expertise is widely sought, and she is a proven research leader with a successful track record of acquiring research grants to further this essential work.”
Gibson joined the Agricultural Experiment Station in 2010 as a postdoctoral research associate. She was promoted to assistant professor in 2012, to associate professor in 2017 and to professor in 2022.
Her research focuses on the fate and transport of pathogens within food systems, including food handling and processing. She specializes in investigating human noroviruses and food safety related to fresh produce and retail outlets. She is also the lead investigator in a USDA-funded, multi-institutional project to study how safe it is to eat out during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I can think of no one better qualified to lead this important center to benefit all Arkansans,” Meullenet said.
“I’m excited to see what we can do going forward,” Gibson said. “We have new scientists working alongside veteran researchers to focus on critical food safety issues. I think it’s exciting to be part of that.
“I’ve been here long enough to see the center’s successes and understand our challenges,” Gibson said. “Food safety is a constantly evolving issue in agriculture and food industries. As soon as you solve one problem, another crops up. Food safety is never not going to be a challenge.”
The center’s scientists include experts in produce safety, virology, low-moisture food safety, novel processing technologies, mycotoxins in grains, and meat and poultry safety. “We can leverage that collective expertise to respond rapidly to the food safety challenges that arise,” Gibson said.
The Center for Food Safety’s mission includes public education and awareness of food and consumer safety through workshops and training, and collaborating with the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service to disseminate information, Gibson said.
“People need to have a place they know and trust to find answers to their questions about food safety,” Gibson said.