CFI’s Leadership is composed of food safety and consumer experts who are dedicated to protecting the food supply and preventing foodborne illnesses, both locally and globally.


CFI provides leadership by developing and maintaining diverse, collaborative and results-driven partnerships that advance food safety.



Barbara Kowalcyk, Ph.D.  Epidemiology and Biostatistics   CFI Founder


An internationally respected expert in food safety and foodborne illness, Dr. Barbara Kowalcyk is co-founder and former CEO of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Currently, Barb serves as a CFI Board Director.


Barb has a strong analytical background with an undergraduate degree from the University of Dayton in Mathematics and a master’s degree in applied statistics from the University of Pittsburgh. In 2011, she earned her Doctorate in Environmental Health with a focus in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from the University of Cincinnati.


Barb spent the first 10 years of her career in the pharmaceutical industry as a biostatistician conducting clinical research. In 2001, her focus shifted to food safety when her 2 ½ year old son Kevin died from complications due to an E. coli O157:H7 infection. Her family’s story was featured in the 2009 Academy Award nominated documentary Food, Inc. (Read Kevin's Story here)


Since 2001, Barb has worked to improve food safety by bridging the gap between research and policy. She has served on numerous government committees and co-authored the 2010 NAS report, Enhancing Safe Food: The Role of the Food and Drug Administration, which served as a blueprint for the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010.  Barb’s efforts to improve food safety have been recognized by Yoko Ono, who awarded her the 2010 Lennon Ono Grant for Peace, and by readers of the Huffington Post, who voted her the 2010 Ultimate Game Changer in Food.


Since 2011, Barb has been employed as a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition at North Carolina State University and as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. In 2014, she accepted a position as a Senior Food Safety Analyst at Research Triangle Institute. Currently, Barb is employed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at Ohio State University. Barb currently resides in Columbus Ohio.



Patricia Buck, M.S. Education and M.A. English  CFI Founder


Food safety advocate and educator Patricia currently serves as CFI’s Executive Director.  She became involved in foodborne illness prevention in 2001 following the death of her 2-½ year old grandson, Kevin Kowalcyk. After Kevin’s death from complications of an E. coli O157:H7 infection, both Patricia and Barbara (her daughter) discovered that America’s food safety systems are seriously compromised. In response, Patricia co-founded the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention with Barbara Kowalcyk, Kevin’s mother, in 2006.


In addition to her work at CFI, Patricia serves on the Board for the Partnership for Food Safety Education. In the past, she has also served on USDA’s National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection, National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments and on the President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group.


Patricia actively represents CFI at USDA, FDA and CDC public meetings, as well as at the monthly Safe Food Coalition (SFC) and the Make Our Food Safe (MOFS) coalition meetings. She championed the SFC’s efforts to label mechanically tenderized meat and worked diligently with the MOFS to pass and fund the Food Safety Modernization Act.


Patricia has presented on a variety of food safety topics at local and national food safety events and conferences.  In 2004, she was awarded the “Outstanding Woman of the Year” by Pennsylvania’s Mercer County Commission of Women. In 2011, she received a National Rotary Award from Rotary International and was honored as a Food Safety Champion for Extraordinary Advocacy Leadership by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Patricia currently resides in Grove City, PA.



CFI Board of Directors, 2017


CFI Board, Officers


Tanya Roberts, Ph.D. Economics, Chair

Tanya Roberts spent 30 years at the Economic Research Service, USDA before retiring as a senior economist in March 2008. Her research has focused on estimating the societal costs of foodborne illness, the public/private interface of food safety regulations, risk assessment, and the critical role of food safety information in both public and private decision making. Other research areas have included economic incentives for food safety and rapid pathogen testing. Dr. Roberts has numerous publications. She earned her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Washington in Seattle. She has been a member of the American Agricultural Economics Association, the American Society of Microbiologists, and the International Association of Food Protection and organized sessions for these associations as well as other conferences and professional meetings. Tanya currently resides in Vashon, WA.


Teresa Schwartz, J.D. Secretary

Teresa Schwartz is the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor Emeritus of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, Washington, D. C., and specializes in consumer law and products liability. In addition, Teresa served as the Deputy Director of the Federal Trade Commissions’ Bureau of Consumer Protection from 1995-2001, and for nearly two decades, she has served on the Board of Directors for Consumer Reports. Teresa is a member of the Bar of the District of Columbia where she currently resides.


Ken Costello, MBA, Treasurer

Ken Costello served in the United States Air Force from 1975 to 1995. At USAF, he served as an Air Force Advance Officer in support of Air Force One and earned a MBA at Embry-Riddle University. After retiring from USAF, he worked as a flight instructor, as well as a corporate and airline pilot until 1998. In 1999, he became the Vice-President of Compliance for Conley Investment Counsel and served in that capacity until 2008. Currently, Ken volunteers for numerous community organizations. In 2006, Ken’s mother-in-law, Ruby Trautz, was sickened in the E. coli O157:H7-spinach outbreak and died. Ken was also sickened with the same strain of E. coli, but he recovered. Ken currently resides in Centennial WY.



CFI Board, Directors


Mary Ahearn, Ph.D.  Economics   CFI Board Director

Mary Ahearn has spent 36 years at USDA’s Economic Research Service where she conducted research and held various management positions before retiring in 2014.  Her research included the economic analysis of U.S. farm production techniques, farm costs and returns, and national farm and rural development policies.  Since 2014, she has served as Editor of Choices, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association’s (AAEA) policy outreach magazine to communicate social science research regarding agricultural and food issues to nontechnical audiences.  She also served as Vice-Chair of the Council on Food, Agriculture and Resource Economics, an outreach organization that promotes dialog between social scientists and U.S. policy makers and their staff.  Mary’s 9-year old daughter was seriously sickened in 1997 by E. coli O157:H7 and survived.  Mary currently resides in Florida and Maryland.


Walter Armbruster, Ph.D. CFI Board Director

Walter Armbruster is the President Emeritus of the Farm Foundation and has had a long career in agricultural marketing. He has served in numerous officer roles and/or as a committee member for professional associations and land-grant universities, as well as national advisory boards. He has been an author or editor for marketing research, education and agricultural policy publications and provides leadership to institutions that stimulate work in these areas. Walt currently resides in Darien, IL.


Carl Custer, Ph.D.  Microbiology   CFI Board Director

Carl Custer retired from USDA-FSIS in 2007 after 34+ years. During that time, Carl developed the scientific background for regulatory policy and served as a trainer for various FSIS programs and outreach. He is a member of the International Food Protection Association, the American Society for Microbiology, and was a Board member for the Food Microbiology Research Conference. Carl's interests in food safety have generally focused on these areas: microbiology and safety of various foods, including thermal and non-thermal inactivation of bacterial pathogens, and the development of PR/HACCP.  Carl currently resides in Bethesda, MD.


Barbara Kowalcyk, Ph.D.  Epidemiology and Biostatistics, CFI Board Director

See Barbara Kowalcyk, Founder (above) for biographical information


Kathy Norback-Ley, B.S. CFI Board Director

Kathy Ley has worked for the past 18 years as a co-owner of Norback, Ley and Associates LLC providing software and services to the food industry with an emphasis on food safety applications. Kathy and her husband, John Norback PhD, have developed software packages that provide fundamental information on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) planning, hazard identification, sanitation procedures, record keeping and preventive strategies. Kathy graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point with a B.S. in mathematics and computer science. Kathy currently resides in Middleton, Wisconsin.


Clare Narrod, Ph.D. CFI Board Director

Clare Narrod currently works for the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN). She previously worked at USDA in the Office of Risk Assessment and Cost-Benefit. She has a keen interest in food and water safety, along the value chains of poor producers, and in understanding the role of public-private partnerships to improve markets. Clare currently resides in Kensington, MD.


Laura Trivers, M.A. Communications   CFI Board Director

For two decades, strategic communicator Laura Trivers has helped organizations strengthen their communications efforts to impact federal policies and raise awareness. Laura served for more than four years as a spokesperson for Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. As a communications consultant, she helped a variety of nonprofit and private sector clients, including CFI as the Director of Communications from 2010-2014. A presidential campaign veteran, she served earlier in her career in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Laura currently resides in Bethesda, MD.


Caren Wilcox, Former USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety   CFI Board Director

Caren Wilcox began her career in food science as the head of Government Relations at Hershey Foods, a job that she held for 18 years. During the Clinton Administration, Caren served as FSIS’ first Deputy Under-Secretary for Food Safety and helped to develop policies to implement the new Pathogen Reduction; Hazard Analysis at Critical Control Points system. Next, Caren served as the Senior Adviser on Agriculture and Food Safety to Congresswoman DeLauro (D CT) and helped develop food safety policies and initiatives, such as forums for the Food Safety Caucus. In 2006, Caren became the Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association.  In 2011, she rejoined USDA as the Special Assistant for Policy & Program Strategy at USDA's Research, Education and Economics (REE) where a portion of her work focused on antimicrobial resistance and a unified research plan for agriculture. Caren is now retired and currently resides in Washington, D.C.


Honorary Board Member - Yoko Ono.

Yoko Ono is a multi-media artist who constantly challenges the traditional boundaries of sculpture, painting, theatre and music. Her groundbreaking conceptual and performance pieces in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, experimental films, solo music, and music done in association with John Cage and Ornette Coleman, among others, and then a remarkable collaboration with John Lennon from the time they met until his death, and international one-woman shows and retrospectives during the 1980’s and 1990’s illustrate her varied career. Into the 21st Century, Yoko’s creative influence and prolific artistic output continues to inspire new generations.