I just finished reading “Steve Jobs,” the biography by Walter Isaacson, on my iPad, of course! Jobs would have celebrated his 57th birthday on February 24.
Jobs did not invent many things, but he was a master at putting together ideas, art and technology in ways that invented the future. He was instrumental in changing how we interact with all sorts of content, how we listen to music, interact with our phones, read books and consume content. We still listen to music. We still talk on the phone. We still read books and we still consume content. We just do it differently now.
Think then and now. What’s the same and what’s different in your life?
Then, again, think then and now. What’s the same and what’s different in food safety? There are still food safety challenges but how are they different?
In 1993, in the Pacific Northwest part of the US, three children died from eating hamburgers contaminated with E.coli O157; one more child died from being exposed to the bacteria through cross contamination in a day care facility. Sixty people had liver failure as a result of the contaminated food.
The E. coli O104 bean sprout outbreak in Europe last summer showed us that Mother Nature continues to challenge food safety professionals with new strains of pathogens, this time even more deadly. The statistics from this outbreak are more than 10 times greater than what happened in 1993 in Seattle with more than 60 people dead and over 600 affected by liver failure.
In 1994, the World Trade Organization was established to help countries have improved access to export markets. They identified the need to ensure confidence in the safety of the food supply. “Quality assurance systems such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system will encourage the food industry and government alike to control food production by concentrating on the critical factors to ensure food quality and safety.”1
Now, we have increased world trade in the food industry, yet today, U.S. food companies tell us that one of their biggest fears is contaminants coming into their facility from foreign suppliers. We’ve got more trade but with even more food safety challenges, though the WTO had hoped to avoid such an issue.
The genesis of Food Quality
In December 1994, I launched the first trade magazine focused on food quality assurance, Food Quality. We printed 22,000 copies and dropped them in the mail, hoping people would read it. The premiere issue had Moses in a lab coat carrying two tablets with HACCP chiseled on them. I wrote a Publisher’s Column for every issue. Some were pretty good such as “Playing With Fire” which I wrote in December 2003, which warned about the potential of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow Disease coming into the North American meat supply because of the continued use of feed with ruminant additives. The column was published 10 days prior to the first case of BSE was reported in the U.S. and was later recognized by the American Business Publication Editors with an award. (Food Quality is now published by Wiley, and since 2009, I am no longer affiliated with it.)
In the 18 years since Food Quality’s premiere, pathogens and contaminants continue to rear their ugly heads with a trail of death and injury in their wake. Have things gotten any better?
Yes. I believe food safety technology has advanced significantly empowering the industry with the ability to detect contaminants, faster and more accurately. Food safety awareness in the food industry as well as education has increased. Food safety professionals have earned the respect from the C-level suite and are seeing increased support. That’s a big step forward from 1994, however, food safety is a marathon with no finish line in sight and there is still much more work to be done!
In a conversation I had with Dr. David Acheson this summer, we discussed the state of the food industry and several new food safety “game changers” that will affect the industry.
- Here in the US, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is changing the way FDA will monitor and enforce food safety standards and controls. Most of the food industry is unprepared for FSMA. FDA will no longer be an annoying gnat that a food company can just swat away.
- The bean sprout outbreak in Europe last summer was a game changer. What’s the next strain? When will it hit and how hard?
- GFSI supplier audits are all the rage but are they the foolproof tool that food companies can put blind faith into? Perhaps not. The cantaloupe incident last year showed us that. GFSI audits can be good tools when used right. But there is a lot more to supplier controls that food companies need to prepare for… trust but verify!
- HACCP is not just for meat, dairy, seafood vertical industries anymore. Thanks to FDA, it will be applicable across the food industry. Yes, many verticals have the same level of knowledge about HACCP that the meat industry had in 1998; i.e. HACCP = Have a Cup of Coffee and Pray!
- Severe drought in Texas and the Southwest and unusually wet summers in the Mid-Atlantic sections of the U.S. affects not only agriculture but also food processing. How will this affect supply and quality, and what other impact will climate change have on food safety?
The food industry certainly has its challenges ahead and there is a growing need for information, education and knowledge, on a global scale.
Food Safety Tech: A new digital platform
With that said, I am happy to premiere Food Safety Tech, a new digital platform for knowledge and information of food safety, food quality, food business and food sustainability! The goal is to not only provide you with the information you need, but to provide it in one convenient place. While the task at hand of informing the food industry is still the same as it was in 1994, the way we deliver content is more in line with the way people consume content now.
Using a core team of food industry subject matter experts, editors with both life science and journalism degrees coupled with decades of B2B publishing, events and management experience, we have built Food Safety Tech from the ground up as a new media online solution balancing both the readers’ informational needs along with advertisers marketing objectives.
When I say subject matter experts, I’m not kidding! Food Safety Tech has some the best names in the industry advising us on editorial topics and direction:
- David Acheson, MD, Managing Director – Food and Import Safety, Leavitt Partners
- Gary Ades, Ph.D., President G&L Consulting Group, LLC
- Jeff Bloom, Executive VP, The Dairy Practices Council
- Patrick Brown, Senior Director of Food Safety, Rite Aid Corporation
- Marcos Cantharino, Global Business Director, DuPont Qualicon
- Mark Carter, CEO, QC Laboratories
- Jeffery Cawley, VP Industry Leadership, Northwest Analytics
- Ben Chapman, Ph.D. Asst. Professor, Food Safety Specialist, North Carolina State University
- Larry Cohen, Food Safety Director, Saputo Cheese U.S.A.
- Philip Elliot, Ph.D, Food Safety, Global Quality Assurance, W.K. Kellogg Institute
- Larry Epling, Divisional QA/Food Safety Manager – FPP, Perdue Farms, Inc.
- Bryan Farnsworth, VP, Quality Management, Hormel Foods Corporate Services, LLC
- Jennifer McEntire, Senior Director, Leavitt Partners
- Steven Niedelman, Lead Quality System & Compliance Consultant, King & Spaulding
- Kathleen O’Donnell, Chief Scientist, Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.
- Doug Powell, Ph.D, Professor Food Safety, KSU
- Mansour Samadpour, President, IEH Laboratories
- Donald W. Schaffner, Ph.D., Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
- Jhana Senxian, President and CEO, Sustainability Guild International, LLC
- Bill Snyder, Sr. VP, Supply Chain, Hormel Foods Corporate Services, LLC
- John Surak, Ph.D., Consultant
- R. Craig Wilson, Assistant VP, GMM, Food Safety and Quality Assurance, Costco Wholesale
With a digital delivery, we are not confined to North America as we were with print. We expect to see the discussions take on a global perspective. There are several benefits of the digital platform and a key attribute is reader engagement. For example, if you agree or disagree with my opinions in my blog, or any other article on Food Safety Tech, then share them in the comments section.
You can find us (and friend us) on Facebook and Twitter, where I’ll be tweeting Food Safety Tech eNewsletters and content.
We encourage you to become an active member of the Food Safety Tech community. If you are so inclined to write and would like to contribute an article, please contact us through the links at the bottom on the page.
In order to continue to receive content for Food Safety Tech, please click on this link and become a member of the Food Safety Tech community. Forward to friends as well!
Lastly, Food Safety Tech is more than an eMagazine. We are developing educational webinars as well as conferences. Look for announcements in the next several weeks about our first conference on Supply Chain Vulnerabilities in the Food Industry.
Thank you for the time and attention. I’m looking forward to the next leg of the journey (with no finish line) and hope that our efforts educate and entertain you along the way. By doing so, Food Safety Tech can fulfill it’s mission to contribute to a safer, better and more sustainable global food supply.
All the best!