Tag Archives: Frank Yiannas

FDA

FDA Receives Record Turnout As Industry Eager to Discuss New Era of Smarter Food Safety

By Maria Fontanazza
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FDA

Industry from the public and private sector joined for a record turnout during the FDA public meeting yesterday to discuss the agency’s initiative, a new era of smarter food safety. The meeting, which was at maximum capacity for both in-person as well as webcast attendance, began with a call to action from FDA Deputy Commissioner, Office of Food Policy and Response, Frank Yiannas on the importance of all stakeholders in the industry to work together to drive the change. As Yiannas has previously commented, the food industry is in the midst of a revolution. The world is changing faster than ever, and the FDA is challenged with not just creating a safer, more technology-centric and traceable food system, but also getting there faster and more effectively. “I’ve always believed that words we use are important,” he said. As the day’s various discussions would be around the new era of smarter food safety, Yiannas gave the audience a definition to consider: “A new era is a memorable or important date or event, especially one that begins with a new period in our history.”

FDA held breakout sessions centered on areas critical to the initiative:

  • Tech-enabled traceability and outbreak response
  • Smarter tools and approaches for prevention
  • Adapting to new business models and retail modernization
  • Food safety culture

During each session, FDA facilitators asked the audience questions. The following are some key points brought out during the breakouts.

Tech-Enabled Traceability and Outbreak Response

  • FDA should consider all parts of the supply chain when thinking about traceability
  • Take into account considerations for sharing sensitive data along the supply chain
  • Speaking a common language and creating data standards, along with necessary minimum data elements for traceability is critical
  • Better communication related to data sharing as well as more meetings with FDA and stakeholders, especially during outbreaks
  • Show industry the ROI of the data
  • Provide a roadmap or recommendation for companies on where they can begin on their traceability journey
  • Request for unity across government agencies (i.e., FDA, USDA), as it would provide more clarity during an outbreak

Smarter Tools and Approaches for Prevention

  • Trust and transparency are key
  • Safeguards that address privacy concerns and liability
  • Data
    • Data sharing: Concern about retroactive investigations
    • Types of data: With the “treasure trove” of existing data out there, which is the most important and helpful in improving food safety?
  • Environmental assessments and root cause analysis—more dialogue between FDA and industry

Adapting to New Business Models and Retail Food Safety Modernization

  • More need for collaboration
  • Globalization and use of best practices
  • Establishing a common standard to level the playing field
  • Establish best practices for tamper resistance
  • The last mile: Food safety training for food delivery personnel as well as harmonization for last mile delivery
  • More consumer education

Food Safety Culture

  • Emphasis on behavior and humanizing the work: Focusing on what happens within organizations at all levels
  • Clarity and communication are important
  • Leveraging current food safety culture best practices as well as any relevant existing standards (i.e., ISO, Codex)
  • Partnerships are critical, finding the balance between compliance and collaboration

Other Factors FDA Must Consider

The FDA meeting also included panel discussions that drew out the realities FDA must consider in this rapidly changing environment. “These are exciting times and this initiative is recasting our thinking in a whole new light,” said CFSAN Director Susan Mayne, adding, “We need to get ahead of these challenges and not be in reactive mode.”

Consumer awareness and demands for healthy, locally sourced and minimally processed food, for example, are creating increased pressures on food companies and retailers. In addition, the digital savvy and diverse Generation Z (the population born between 1990 and 2010, which will comprise nearly 40% of the U.S. population by 2020) has buying habits and a strong desire for transparency that is shifting how food companies will need to do business, according to Mary Wagner, president of MX Wagner & Associates.

“Trust represents safety, quality and commitment on a much more personal level to our consumers,” said Dirk Herdes, senior vice president at the Nielsen Company, emphasizing the need to communicate with authenticity. “Consumers have never been more informed, but never have been more overwhelmed with information. It’s not data—it’s trust. Trust is the new currency with which we’ll operate.”

FDA and USDA also remain committed to building a stronger relationship between the agencies, said Mindy Brashears, Ph.D., deputy undersecretary for food safety at USDA. “As science moves forward, we have to allow our policies to move forward to keep consumers safe,” she added.

The comments shared during yesterday’s meeting, along with written and electronic comments (with a deadline of November 20), will be considered as FDA puts together its blueprint document for a new era of smarter food safety. More information about providing comments can be found on the Federal Register page.

Food Safety Consortium, Frank Yiannas, FDA

Industry in Midst of a Revolution, Tech Must Help Advance Food Safety, Says FDA

By Maria Fontanazza
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Food Safety Consortium, Frank Yiannas, FDA

The industry has evolved quite a bit since FSMA was passed eight years ago, and there’s been an overarching recognition that more modern methods to addressing food safety challenges—especially traceability—are essential. “The agency is at the threshold of a sea change in how we’re going to oversee food safety in the nation’s food supply,” said Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy & response at FDA at the 2019 Food Safety Consortium. The first driver is the FDA’s new initiative announced earlier this year, coined the “New Era of Smarter Food Safety”. The agency will be looking at how new and emerging technologies can help advance food safety.

“I believe that we’re in the midst of a food revolution,” said Yiannas, pointing to the level of investment in food globally. “Products will be reformulated… new food sources and production approaches will be realized, and the food system will become increasingly digitized.” It will be the job of food safety professionals to adapt to this changing landscape and to ensure that innovation does in fact happen (and safely) in order to feed the growing population.

FDA is taking a new mindset that builds on the success of FSMA but also leverages a people-led, technology enabled method to get there. Just a few days ago the agency launched FDA-TRACK, a new food safety dashboard through which FDA intends to track and measure the performance of the seven FSMA rules—and these measurements will be publicized and available for all stakeholders. Initial available metrics will be tracking outcomes for the FSMA Preventive Controls and the Foreign Supplier Verification Program related to inspections and recalls.

The second driver of this sea change at the FDA involves a shift in its current approach to FSMA and the evolution of the regulation. While the agency continues to educate while it regulates, this past summer FDA took actions that are indicating a shift in its approach to FSMA compliance. On July 30, FDA issued its first warning letter using FSVP authorities to a tahini importer for lack of FSVP compliance. This was followed a month later by actions surrounding the most recent Salmonella outbreak linked to imported papaya. “If you pause and look back, there have been eight outbreaks in eight years,” said Yiannas. The outbreak involved 500 documented cases, 100 hospitalizations and two deaths. “I thought, enough is enough,” he added, and this prompted Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D. and Yiannas to issue a statement asking the papaya industry to do more—and urged them to work together to review their practices and make necessary changes to ensure that the papayas they’re offering to the public are safe. The FDA also issued a warning letter to the papaya importer, with the possibility of barring the company for the next five years. “When there’s a public health hazard, FDA will act decisively,” said Yiannas, stating that parity and oversight is important, and domestic and imported food must be safe. “We regulators, we’re going to strike the right balance, and are committed and as passionate as ever in trying to bend the foodborne illness curve.”

Yiannas added that over the next eight years, the trajectory of papaya-related illness will look very different from the last eight years, thanks to the adoption of better technologies—and that’s part of what the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety is about. “The food system today, while it’s still impressive, it still has one Achilles heel—lack of traceability and transparency,” said Yiannas. There’s a lack of knowledge in where food comes from, where it’s produced, and the fact that many companies simply don’t know as much about their supply chains as they think. With FSMA, Congress anticipated the need to track and trace food, and now the agency is exploring how new technology can enhance tracking and tracing. With regards to tracking foodborne illnesses, the food industry has been in a race between detection and prevention. “We’re getting so good at finding the needle in the haystack, but we can’t find the haystack,” said Yiannas. “We have to provide the same level of investment for technologies for trace backs….we will do that together.”

Food Safety Consortium, Frank Yiannas, FDA
Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy commissioner for food policy & response, addresses the ways that the public and private sector must work together as part of the agency’s initiative, the New Era of Smarter Food Safety during the 2019 Food Safety Consortium (Image Credit: amybcreative)

When looking at implementing smarter tools and approaches for prevention, the industry needs to work together at not just collecting the data but also converting this data into actionable information. Yiannas emphasized that the agency is not chasing the shiny object—new technology will not be a distraction; it will help solve industry problems and address the new issues that arise with the evolving food system (i.e., cell-cultured meat, plant-based meat, etc.). The agency is also holding a public meeting on October 21 to encourage discussion between the public and private sector, all surrounding this new initiative on smarter food safety.

“What’s become clear to me is [that] there’s so much we an do working together—the public and private sector… Think. Think about how you can do your work differently,” said Yiannas. “We’re all working for the same boss, the consumer. [We have the] same mission and they’re counting on us.”

Food Safety Consortium - October 1-3, 2019 - Schaumburg, IL

Food Safety Consortium Early Bird Discount Expires This Week

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Food Safety Consortium - October 1-3, 2019 - Schaumburg, IL

View the range of content associated with the Food Safety ConsortiumThe 2019 Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo attracts some of the most influential stakeholders in the industry. This year’s event, which runs October 1–3, will not disappoint, with several features that provide a maximum networking and educational benefit to attendees.

The following is a snapshot of just a few of the benefits of attending this year’s Food Safety Consortium:

  • The Food Defense Consortium Meeting. This pre-conference workshop is open to all participants of the Food Safety Consortium
  • FSSC 22000 North American Information Day. This pre-conference workshop takes place on the morning of Tuesday, October 1 and is open to all Food Safety Consortium participants
  • A complimentary Sanitation Pre-conference Workshop (Tuesday, October 1)
  • Keynote Plenary Session by Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy commissioner for food policy and response
  • Recalls panel led by Rob Mommsen, director of global quality & food safety, Sabra Dipping Company
  • Food defense panel led by Steven Sklare, president of The Food Safety Academy; participants include Jason Bashura, senior manager of global food defense at PepsiCo
  • Focused breakout tracks on food safety leadership, food testing & analysis, and sanitation and operations

Don’t miss the opportunity to have access to the premier industry event at a significant value. The super early bird discount expires this Friday, June 28.

Frank Yiannas, FDA, Food Safety Summit, Food Safety Tech

Can We Make Progress Before the Next Food Safety Crisis?

By Maria Fontanazza
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Frank Yiannas, FDA, Food Safety Summit, Food Safety Tech

A recall or outbreak occurs. Consumers stop buying the food. Industry responds with product innovation. Government enters the picture by establishing standards, initiatives, etc. “That’s my thesis about how changes happen,” said Michael Taylor, board co-chair of Stop Foodborne Illness during a keynote presentation at last week’s Food Safety Summit. Industry has seen a positive evolution over the past 25-plus years, but in order to continue to move forward in a productive direction of prevention, progress must be made without waiting for the next crisis, urged the former FDA commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

The strong foundation is there, Taylor added, but challenges persist, including:

  • FSMA. There’s still much work to be done in establishing accountability across the board, including throughout supplier networks.
  • Lack of technology adoption. The failure to use already available tools that can help achieve real-time traceability.
  • Geographic hazards. This is a reference to the contamination that occurred in the cattle feedlot associated with the romaine lettuce outbreak in Yuma, Arizona. “We’re dealing with a massive hazard…and trying to manage the scientific ignorance about the risk that exists,” said Taylor. In addition, in February FDA released its report on the November 2018 E.coli O157:H7 outbreak originating from the Central Coast growing region in California, also implicating contaminated water as a potential source. “There are still unresolved issues around leafy greens,” Taylor said. “What are we going to learn from this outbreak?”

Taylor went on to emphasize the main drivers of industry progress: Consumers and the government. Consumer expectations for transparency is rising, as is the level of awareness related to supply chain issues. Social media also plays a large role in bringing consumers closer to the food supply. And the government is finding more outbreaks then ever, thanks to tools such as whole genome sequencing. So how can food companies and their suppliers keep up with the pace? A focus on building a strong food safety culture remains a core foundation, as does technological innovation—especially in the area of software. Taylor believes one of the keys to staying ahead of the curve is aggregating analytics and successfully turning them into actionable insights.

Frank Yiannas, FDA, Food Safety Summit, Food Safety Tech
Frank Yiannas is the keynote speaker at the 2019 Food Safety Consortium | October 1, 2019 | Schaumburg, IL | He is pictured here during at town hall with Steven Mandernach (AFDO), Robert Tauxe (CDC), and Paul Kiecker (USDA)

FDA recently announced its intent to put technology innovation front and center as a priority with its New Era of Food Safety initiative. “This isn’t a tagline. It’s a pause and the need for us to once again to look to the future,” said Frank Yiannas, FDA’s deputy commissioner for food and policy response during an town hall at the Food Safety Summit. “The food system is changing around us dramatically. Everything is happening at an accelerated pace. The changes that are happening in the next 10 years will be so much more than [what happened] in the past 20 or 30 years…We have to try to keep up with the changes.” As part of this “new era”, the agency will focus on working with industry in the areas of digital technology in food traceability (“A lack of traceability is the Achilles heel of food,” said Yiannas), emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, and e-commerce. Yiannas said that FDA will be publishing a blueprint very soon to provide an idea of what areas will be the main focus of this initiative.

Ned Sharpless, Frank Yiannas, FDA

FDA’s ‘New Era of Smarter Food Safety’ to Focus on Traceability, Digital Technology and E-Commerce

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Ned Sharpless, Frank Yiannas, FDA

“It’s time to look to the future of food safety once again,” declared Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D. and Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas in a press statement released yesterday. Although progress has been made in implementing FSMA and with the development of the GenomeTrakr Network, the agency wants to move forward in taking advantage of the innovative technologies that will help make the food supply more digital, traceable and safer. With that effort comes the creation of a “Blueprint for a New Era of Smarter Food Safety”, which will speak to “traceability, digital technologies and evolving food business models”. Sharpless and Yiannas outlined the significant role that these components will play.

Digital technology in food traceability. Digital technologies could play a crucial part in rapidly identifying and tracing contaminated food back to its origin—changing the timespan from days or weeks to minutes or seconds. FDA intends to look at new ways that it can evaluate new technologies and improve its ability to quickly track and trace food throughout the supply chain. “Access to information during an outbreak about the origin of contaminated food will help us conduct more timely root cause analysis and apply these learnings to prevent future incidents from happening in the first place,” stated Sharpless and Yiannas. This means a shift away from paper-based systems.

Ned Sharpless, Frank Yiannas, FDA
(left to right) Ned Sharpless, M.D., FDA acting commissioner and Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner of food policy and response. Image courtesy of FDA

Emerging technologies. Artificial intelligence (AI), distributed ledgers (no, they didn’t directly say “blockchain”), the Internet of Things, sensors and other emerging technologies could enable more transparency within the supply chain as well as consumer side of things. The FDA leaders announced a pilot program that will use AI and machine learning to assess food imports at the U.S. point of entry.

E-Commerce. “Evolving food business models”, also known as e-commerce, is growing fast and changing how consumers get their food. With food delivery introduces food safety issues such as those related to packaging and temperature control. FDA is exploring how it can collaborate with federal, state and local stakeholders to figure out ways to address these potential problems.

Sharpless and Yiannas emphasized the end-goal in keeping the food of American consumers safe. “So, welcome to the new era of smarter food safety that is people-led, FSMA-based and technology-enabled!”

Melody Ge, Corvium
FST Soapbox

Changes in the Food Safety Industry: Face Them or Ignore Them?

By Melody Ge
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Melody Ge, Corvium

“A new era of smarter food safety is coming,” said Frank Yiannas, FDA’s deputy commissioner of food policy and response, at the GFSI Conference 2019 in Nice, France. He went on to explain, “a smarter food safety is people-led, FSMA-based and technology-enabled.” Afterwards, Yiannas announced the need for a greater budget for the FDA to invest in modern food safety for 2020 and beyond.

Now the question is, when this new era comes, are you ready?

The food industry is relatively behind on technology compared to other industries, or even within our daily lives. Take a look at the cell phone you have now compared to what you had 10 years ago; it has come a long way with all of its handy and useful features. Why can’t the food industry also benefit from technology? Of course, every coin has two sides, but no one would deny that technology played a significant role in bringing the world closer and making it more efficient nowadays.

The scary part of change is that it’s hard to predict what and when they will come to us, however, they also force us think outside of the box. Instead of debating whether incorporating advanced technology into our daily operations makes sense, why don’t we take a look at our current processes in place and see where technology can truly help us? We now have the opportunity to take advantage of technology to enhance our food safety and quality culture at our own facility. Here are some thoughts to share.

1. Identify what can be automated in your current process with technology

Certain things just can’t be replaced by technology, such as risk assessment or hazard identification (at least for now). However, inventory, temperature checking, testing results recording, or anything executing a command from you or implementing a part of your SOPs can potentially be automated. Execution is also the part where the most error could occur, and technology can help improve accuracy and consistency. Identify those steps systematically and understand what data needs to be captured to help your food safety management system.

2. Work with your technology developer to build technical requirements

Explain to the technology developer exactly how you want the program to operate daily. List the operating steps along with responsibilities step-by-step, and identify what requirements are needed for each step. Translating the paper SOP to a computer program plays an important role in this transition. Not only does it set the foundation for your future daily operation, but it also ensures that the control parameter is not lost during the transition.

3. Keep the integrity of the food safety management system through verification and validation

Once processing steps are done by technology, it doesn’t mean that we no longer have to do anything. We need to verify and validate the technology with certain frequency to ensure the steps are controlled as intended. Confirming that the software or system is capturing the right data at the right time becomes key to ensure the integrity of control risks is not compromised.

4. Utilize “preventative maintenance” on all technology used on site

Just like all equipment, food safety technology needs a preventive maintenance schedule. Check whether it is properly functioning on a certain frequency based on the safety impact in your process flow and take actions proactively.

5. Learn from your own records

The time saved from traditional ways allows us to have more time for looking at control points and records received to identify areas for continuous improvement. There are many ways of studying the data with modeling and trend analysis based on your own facility situation. Either way, those records are your own supporting documents of any changes or modifications to your food safety management system, as well as strong support to your risk assessment for justifications.

Just like Yiannas said, a smarter food safety system is still FSMA based. The goal has never changed; we want to produce sustainable, safe and high-quality products to our consumers, whether we use traditional or advanced approaches. After all, we are utilizing technology as a modern way to help us enhance and simplify our food safety management system; the outcome from the automated technology is still controlled by us.

So when the era comes, we all want to be ready for it.

Frank Yiannas, FDA, food safety

Frank Yiannas, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, to Speak at the 2019 Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Frank Yiannas, FDA, food safety

EDGARTOWN, MA, Feb. 8, 2019 – Innovative Publishing Co., publisher of Food Safety Tech, has announced that Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response at FDA, will serve as the keynote speaker to kick off the 2019 Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo on October 1. The Consortium is the industry’s leading food safety event for networking and educational opportunities, and takes place October 1–3 in Schaumburg, IL (just outside Chicago).

What’s all the buzz about food safety culture? Watch the videoYiannas recently took the reins in FDA’s lead food safety role following the retirement of Stephen Ostroff, M.D. He was previously the vice president of food safety at Walmart and has been a strong proponent of elevating food safety standards within organizations and implementing a food safety culture.

This year’s Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo features three breakout tracks: Cleaning & Sanitation, Food Safety Testing, and Food Safety Management. The call for abstracts is open until May 16.

About Food Safety Tech

Food Safety Tech publishes news, technology, trends, regulations, and expert opinions on food safety, food quality, food business and food sustainability. We also offer educational, career advancement and networking opportunities to the global food industry. This information exchange is facilitated through ePublishing, digital and live events.

About the Food Safety Consortium Conference and Expo

The Food Safety Consortium Conference and Expo is a premier educational and networking event for food safety solutions. Attracting the most influential minds in food safety, the Consortium enables attendees to engage conversations that are critical for advancing careers and organizations alike. Visit with exhibitors to learn about cutting edge solutions, explore diverse educational tracks for learning valuable industry trends, and network with industry executives to find solutions to improve quality, efficiency and cost effectiveness in an ever-changing, global food safety market. This year’s event takes place October 1–3 in Schaumburg, IL.

Food Safety Tech, Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo Announce Partnership with Alliance for Advanced Sanitation

2018

The Future of Food Safety: A Year in Review

By Mahni Ghorashi
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2018

We started this Q&A series earlier this year with a clear vision—to gather the success stories, best practices, hurdles and achievements from the best in our industry. Our hope is that as the series expands and evolves, food safety professionals everywhere will be informed and inspired by what the future holds.

Over the course of the year, I had the pleasure of interviewing three such experts: Bob Baker, corporate food safety science and capability director at Mars, Inc, Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart, and Mike Robach, vice president, corporate food safety, quality & regulatory for Cargill.

I encourage you to read the interviews for their unique perspectives, but here are a few of the biggest insights that we can all take with us into 2019.

The Continued Rise of New Technologies

Mike Robach: I am very excited about the application of new technology to our food safety programs. In-line, real-time testing gives an opportunity to manage our processes and make immediate adjustments to assure process control. This allows us to prevent product that is out of control from reaching the marketplace.

Frank Yiannas: The emergence of blockchain technology has also enabled food system stakeholders to imagine being able to have full end-to-end traceability at the speed of thought. The ongoing U.S.-wide romaine lettuce E.coli outbreak showed us, once again, that our traditional paper-based food tracking system is no longer adequate for the 21st century. An ability to deliver accurate, real-time information about food, how it’s produced, and how it flows from farm to table is a game-changer for food safety.

Blockchain has the potential to shine a light on all actors in the food system. This enhanced transparency will result in greater accountability, and greater accountability will cause the food system to self-regulate and comply with the safe and sustainable practices that we all desire.

The Most Exciting Shifts

Baker: What’s encouraging is we’re seeing is a willingness to share information. At Mars we often bring together world experts from across the globe to focus on food safety challenges. We continue to see great levels of knowledge sharing and collaboration.

There are also new tools and new technologies being developed and applied. Something we’re excited about is a trial of portable ‘in-field’ DNA sequencing technology on one of our production lines in China. This is an approach that could, with automated sampling, reduce test times.

Yiannas: While there is no doubt that there are numerous new and emerging challenges in food safety, the many advancements being made should give us hope that we can create a safer, more efficient and sustainable food system.

There is progress being made on many fronts: Whole genome sequencing is becoming more accessible; new tools are being developed for fraud detection; and FSMA is introducing stringent public-health surveillance measures that have dramatic implications for U.S. retailers and suppliers and our import partners.

Most importantly, consumers are now overwhelmingly interested in transparency. People today are further removed from how food is grown, produced and transported than at any other time in human history. Plus, they increasingly mistrust food and food companies due to the food outbreaks and scares we have faced in recent years.

Recalls and the Role of Regulation

Robach: I think FSMA implementation is going okay right now. There’s still a long way to go, and I am always concerned about making sure investigators are applying the rules and regulations in a consistent manner. I see the intentional adulteration rule as an upcoming challenge. It is one thing to conduct a vulnerability assessment and adjust your programs based on the results. It’s another to develop and implement a program that will prevent intentional adulteration as you would to reduce or prevent microbiological contamination.

I believe that food safety management programs are constantly improving and that our food is as safe as it has ever been. However, we still have a lot of work to do. At GFSI, we are continually improving our benchmarking requirements and increasing transparency in the process. We have better public health reporting and our ever-improving analytical technology allows us to detect contaminants at lower and lower levels. The industry is working collaboratively to share best practices and promote harmonized food safety management systems throughout the supply chain.

Baker: At Mars, quality is our first principle and we take it seriously—if we believe that a recall needs to be made in order to ensure the safety of our consumers, then we will do it. We also share lessons from recalls across our business to ensure that we learn from every experience.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a safe place for businesses to share such insights with each other. So although we are seeing more collaboration in the field of food safety generally, critical knowledge and experience from recalls is not being shared more broadly, which may be having an impact.

Looking Ahead

Baker: The food safety challenges facing us all are complex and evolving. Water and environmental contaminants are areas that industry and regulators are also looking at, but all of these challenges will take time to address. It’s about capturing and ensuring visibility to the right insights and prioritizing key challenges that we can tackle together through collaboration and knowledge sharing.

We’re looking forward to continuing our quest in the new year and already have a few exciting experts lined up. Stay tuned!

Frank Yiannas, Walmart

The Future of Food Safety: A Q&A with Walmart’s Frank Yiannas

By Mahni Ghorashi
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Frank Yiannas, Walmart

Continuing on our journey to bring you the successes, best practices, challenges and accomplishments from the very best in this industry, this month I had the pleasure of interviewing Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart. In his role, Frank oversees all food safety, as well as other public health functions, for the world’s largest food retailer, serving more than 200 million customers around the world on a weekly basis.

Frank is a past president of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) and a past vice-chair of GFSI. He is also an adjunct professor in the Food Safety Program at Michigan State University, and in 2017 was awarded the MSU Outstanding Faculty Award. He’s also the author of two books, Food Safety Culture, Creating a Behavior-based Food Safety Management System, and Food Safety = Behavior, 30 Proven Techniques to Enhance Employee Compliance.

Mahni Ghorashi: What are you most excited about in our industry? What’s changing in a good way in the food safety sector?

Frank Yiannas, Walmart
Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety, Walmart

Frank Yiannas: While there is no doubt that there are numerous new and emerging challenges in food safety, the many advancements being made should give us hope that we can create a safer, more efficient, and sustainable food system.

There is progress being made on many fronts: Whole genome sequencing is becoming more accessible; new tools are being developed for fraud detection; and FSMA is introducing stringent public-health surveillance measures that have dramatic implications for U.S. retailers and suppliers and our import partners.

Most importantly, consumers are now overwhelmingly interested in transparency. People today are further removed from how food is grown, produced and transported than at any other time in human history. Plus, they increasingly mistrust food and food companies due to the food outbreaks and scares we have faced in recent years.

Over the near-term, as we get better at detecting foodborne outbreaks, consumer mistrust will likely intensify; however, it’s clear to me that heightened consumer interest is hugely positive because it adds weight to our industry’s call for more accurate food labeling, more wholesome ingredients and enhanced food traceability. Ultimately, these are the kinds of measures that will improve the food system and enhance consumer trust.

Ghorashi: As you know, food shopping is moving online. It’s happening across the world, and at breakneck speed. What are retailers like Walmart doing to keep up?

Yiannas: That’s a great question. Walmart and other retailers are now developing new packaging materials and temperature control approaches, as well as new ordering methods, high-tech stocking systems and delivery modes.

Food shopping is moving online so quickly that regulatory requirements have not been able to keep up. That means it’s up to us, the retailers and food companies, to work with regulators to create and promote the necessary industry standards, best practices and logistical solutions.

I firmly believe that it is our responsibility as food retailers to advocate for consumers and strive to create a safer and more affordable and sustainable food system. With many more players across the global food chain now shouldering this duty of care, I am very optimistic that our industry is truly improving the lives of people around the world.

Ghorashi: What role is blockchain technology playing in food safety? What are the prospects for the future?

Yiannas: The emergence of blockchain technology and the successful completion of several pilots using it to enhance food traceability has resulted in a larger conversation about the importance of creating a more transparent digital food system.

It has also enabled food system stakeholders to imagine being able to have full end-to-end traceability at the speed of thought. The ongoing U.S.-wide romaine lettuce E.coli outbreak showed us, once again, that our traditional paper-based food tracking system is no longer adequate for the 21st century. An ability to deliver accurate, real-time information about food, how it’s produced, and how it flows from farm to table is a game-changer for food safety.

Blockchain has the potential to shine a light on all actors in the food system. This enhanced transparency will result in greater accountability, and greater accountability will cause the food system to self-regulate and comply with the safe and sustainable practices that we all desire.

Frank Yiannas, Walmart, 2016 Food Safety Consortium

Moving Food Safety Culture Beyond Slogans

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Frank Yiannas, Walmart, 2016 Food Safety Consortium

“If you think about evolution and continuous improvement in food safety, it’s nothing new,” said Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart at the 2016 Food Safety Consortium. In the following video, Yiannas introduces his perspective on how food safety culture has evolved and moved beyond a slogan or buzzword.

Stay tuned for more video clips from Yiannas’ presentation at the Food Safety Consortium.