Recalls: Trends & Analysis, presented by Shawn Stevens, Food Industry Counsel, LLC
How to Respond to Recalls, presented by Roberto Bellavia, KTL (Kestrel Tellevate)
Recall Modernization Working Group, a panel discussion moderated by Mitzi Baum, STOP Foodborne Illness, with insights from Hilary Thesmar, Ph.D., FMI and Jennifer Pierquet, AFDO
Tech Talks presented by Millipore, Hardy Diagnostics and Columbia Labs
The Fall program runs every Thursday from October 7 through November 4. Haven’t registered? Follow this link to the 2021 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series, which provides access to all the episodes featuring critical industry insights from leading subject matter experts!
Each year the CDC estimates that more than 3000 people die as a result of contracting a foodborne illness. This month—National Food Safety Education Month—STOP Foodborne Illness is launching a fundraising campaign to educate the broader community about the issue, by encouraging participants to take 3000 steps per day.
STOP3000 begins today and runs through the entire month of September. This fundraiser will help STOP Foodborne Illness in its continued efforts to push food safety initiatives forward while engaging with key industry stakeholders, including federal regulatory agencies, food manufacturers, food retailers and the food service community.
“This is a way for everyone to participate in raising awareness about food safety,” Mitzi Baum, CEO of STOP told Food Safety Tech. “It’s about how you can make small changes in your daily habits to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness. People can sign up to walk, ask friends and family to post on their social media, or you can make a donation. Each day we’ll push out food safety facts and information, so you’re getting a little bit of knowledge every day during National Food Safety Education Month.”
If you’re interested in participating in the campaign, you can sign up on the JustGiving website. You can also search for and donate to current participants by typing “STOP3000” into the Search box on the JustGiving site.
This month’s interview focuses on an area of food safety leadership we haven’t yet covered in our Women in Food Safety column: The non-profit sector. There are career paths in food safety in the non-profit sector and this month we’ve asked Mitzi Baum, CEO of Stop Foodborne Illness, to share her story of how she began her career and what wisdom she can offer those seeking roles in leadership or the non-profit sector.
When I met with Mitzi, I realized immediately she was a very down-to-earth leader who had a contagious energy to anyone that might cross paths with her. We started our conversation learning a bit about each other; she talked about her path from majoring in hospitality and restaurant management to working at Feeding America and to now heading up Stop Foodborne Illness. We chatted about some of the challenges we see for women in the food safety sector, and exchanged some stories and thoughts on why women face these challenges.
One story in particular that Mitzi shared was when she first realized the lack of female leadership in food safety. This story went back early in her career, more than 20 years ago, when she was asked to start engaging at industry conferences. When she arrived in the room at her first conference, she thought she stuck out like a sore thumb. There she was, dressed in a brightly colored outfit, entering a room that could best be described as “a sea of middle-aged men in gray suits”. Although this could have been intimidating for a young female at the time, Mitzi made the best of it and forced herself to introduce herself, talk to strangers, and sign up for every session and networking dinner possible. By the end of the conference, she had made lasting contacts, and her initial feels of intimidation were washed away.
Mitzi and I talked a bit about how the non-profit sector works, and how far some have come, especially food banks. She has watched food banks evolve from small- and less-organized operations into major operations that are being run more efficiently and offering more food options because they’ve been able to raise substantial amounts of money to improve the operational capabilities and infrastructure. food banks went from dealing with dented cans and shelf-stable products to now offering fresh produce and frozen items simply because funding allowed improvements such as freezers and refrigerators to be added to food bank locations. She credits female leadership in making this change in the food bank system.
There is an emotional component to Mitzi’s job at Stop Foodborne Illness. She frequently engages with the families of victims of foodborne illness. Each of the stories that are shared is personal, and an element of empathy is critical as she works with them to share their story.
I really enjoyed getting to know Mitzi and I’m sure you will too as the following Q&A features some of her insights and experiences as being a female leader in the food safety world.
Jill Hoffman: Could you please tell us how you started your career and how you made it to where you are today?
Mitzi Baum: My career began in restaurants. My first job was at 15 years of age in a chili parlor in Cincinnati, OH. I went to college and earned a degree in restaurant/hospitality management and liked learning about food science and the micro aspects of food. I graduated and became a kitchen manager for the Peasant Restaurant Group in Atlanta, front-of-the-house manager for the Funky’s Restaurant Group in Cincinnati; and manager for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises in Chicago. I did not find the lifestyle rewarding and looked to other opportunities to apply my degree and developed skills. I was fortunate to find Feeding America (then called Second Harvest) to apply my knowledge of inventory management, food safety, operational standards and other aspects of management to the distribution of food to those in need of food assistance.
I conducted compliance audits for the food bank network for more than 13 years—traveling across the country assisting and learning from those working on the front lines. I moved into program management and then into the role of director of food safety to institute a compulsory third-party food safety audit for the network of food banks. There was a big learning curve at the food bank level to overcome, so we began to socialize the food safety audit, provided food safety improvement grants, walked individual food bank staff through the process, and we were able to successfully achieve our goal.
During my 23 years of experience at Feeding America, I developed many management and leadership skills that I wanted to flex and make a transition. The opportunity to step beyond food safety presented itself in the form of the CEO of Stop Foodborne Illness (STOP). I have been at STOP for a little more than two years and I have learned so much about leadership, management and myself.
Mitzi Baum will lead a panel discussion, “Get with the Program: Modernization of Poultry Inspections in the United States”, during the Salmonella: Detection, Mitigation, Control & Regulation virtual event on July 15 | Register nowHoffman: You have a background in the non-profit sector. What are some of the differences in working in the non-profit vs. the for-profit sector?
Baum: Non-profit work is focused on a mission or what an organization is trying to achieve. All work and work activities are focused on accomplishing the stated mission. Fundraising is also an integral part of the non-profit sector. While for-profits earn income by selling a tangible asset, the non-profit sector must work to identify individuals, foundations and other grant-making institutions that have an interest in their mission, engage and court them, and ask them for funding to support their stated activities to attain the mission. It takes time to increase awareness of a mission/organization and build a strong fundraising foundation to grow the organization.
Hoffman: You’ve also been teaching a course in the food safety master’s program at Michigan State University (MSU). How did you get into the role, what are you teaching, and what do you enjoy the most about the opportunity?
Baum: The current course I created for the Online Food Safety Program at MSU is called The Role of Food Safety in Food Waste Reduction. During my time at Feeding America, I worked in the area of food waste reduction and focused on the application of the same food safety standards that apply to retailers to donated foods. Realizing that food donation and food banks are part of our society and need was growing, it occurred to me to capitalize on the opportunity to expand the knowledge of students in the food safety program about food waste reduction. I enjoy knowing that the students taking the course have a better understanding of what happens to foods that are unsold and donated. It is an essential part of our societal infrastructure to focus on providing food to those in need and reducing food waste. My hope is for food safety professionals who take the course to be exposed to more information about the “last mile” that donated food travels.
Jaime Ragos, STOP’s 2020 Dave Theno Fellow, and I have been creating a new course for the Online Food Safety Program called Food Safety Failures. Jaime identified an opportunity to utilize case studies of outbreaks to provide a different perspective to the epidemiological investigation. The course will go live in the fall of 2021.
Hoffman: What would be your number one piece of advice to young women, students and professionals who are planning to have lead roles in food safety?
Baum: My motto is “you can’t get what you want unless you ask for it”. You must be your own advocate and ask for what you want. Communicating what you want or see as your career path as a professional is essential to achieving your goal.
Hoffman: What are the significant advantages and/or disadvantages of being a female CEO?
Baum: I never look at being a woman as a disadvantage. Women are resilient and consistently persevere. If we can’t get over an obstacle, we find a way to go around it and continue on the path or create a new one. I consider that grit and determination to be the ultimate advantage.
Hoffman: What are the significant strengths of being a female executive?
Baum: Be decisive, be direct, be transparent, be inclusive and most of all, be you.
Hoffman: What do you hope to see in the next three to five years in terms of development and mentoring women in the industry? Do you see any gaps that need to be filled?
Baum: I would like to see more women in roles of authority in the industry. Women have many lived experiences that uniquely qualify them for executive-level positions.
There have been many groups created to support women in food safety which builds community. Individually, it is imperative that each of us is proactive and mentor each other. Mentoring works in both directions; those of us that have been in the work force for a longer period of time can learn a lot from those who just landed their first job. Conversely, we can share our experiences with the younger work force to provide guidance to navigate the current work environment and manage the challenges of being a younger person beginning their career path.
Hoffman: What would you advise females who are working towards a position on an executive or leadership team?
Baum: Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Admittedly, it was very scary to leave a career I cultivated over 23 years – it was comfortable, and I knew what to expect; I did not know what I was capable of until I took a leap of faith. I have many motivational quotes on my desk but my favorite, and the one that consistently urges me to embrace change and take risk, is from Pablo Picasso, “Action is the foundational key to all success.”
FSMA-Based & Technology-Enabled: FDA Advances into New Era of Smarter Food Safety, a special keynote with Frank Yiannas, FDA
Digital Transformation in Food Safety, with Natasa Matyasova and Matt Dofoo, Nestlé
Consumer-focused Food Safety, with Mitzi Baum, STOP Foodborne Illness
TechTalks from Controlant, Veeva and Primority
This year’s event occurs as a Spring program and a Fall program. Haven’t registered? Follow this link to the 2021 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series, which provides access to all the episodes featuring critical industry insights from leading subject matter experts! Registration includes access to both the Spring and the Fall events. We look forward to your joining us virtually.
On January 25, 2021 Stop Foodborne Illness (STOP), in collaboration with Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Reports, Consumer Federation of America and five STOP constituent advocates filed a petition with USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to reform and modernize poultry inspections. The goal of these reforms is to reduce the incidence of Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination in raw poultry thus drastically decreasing foodborne illnesses due to these pathogens.
According to the CDC, in 2019, these two pathogens combined were responsible for more than 70% of foodborne illnesses in the United States. As Mike Taylor, former FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, shares in his
Op-Ed, the time for change is now as the current regulatory framework is inadequate and has not delivered the desired results of reducing Salmonella and Campylobacter outbreaks.
Today, the USDA’s mark of inspection is stamped on poultry, although birds may exceed the performance standards; there are no clear consequences for establishments that do not meet the current guidelines. Without science-based standards or penalties for non-compliance, the burden of this problem falls upon consumers.
At STOP, we share the voices of consumers whose lives have been altered due to preventable problems such as this. Our constituent advocates share their journeys through severe foodborne illness to share the WHY of food safety. Real people, real lives are impacted when we do not demand action. STOP board member, Amanda Craten, shares her son Noah’s story:
“My toddler suddenly came down with a fever and diarrhea, but it wasn’t until weeks later that I learned that his symptoms, which nearly killed him, were caused by a multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella.
After being admitted to the hospital, his doctors found abscesses in the front of his brain caused by infection and they were creating pressure on his brain. He underwent surgery and weeks of antibiotic treatments.
My 18-month son was seriously injured and permanently disabled as a result of Salmonella-contaminated chicken.” – Amanda Craten.
Because there are too many stories like Noah’s, STOP and its partner consumer advocacy organizations want to work with FSIS and industry to:
Develop real benchmarks that focus on reduction of known, harmful pathogens in poultry
Modernize standards to reflect current science
Implement on-farm control measures
Re-envision the standards to focus on the risk to public health
As a new administration begins, capitalizing on this opportunity to modernize poultry inspection that can benefit consumers and the food industry makes sense. STOP and its partners are hopeful that leadership at USDA/FSIS will take this opportunity to create consequential and relevant change. Ultimately, this transformation will reduce the incidence of foodborne illness due to contamination of poultry and increase consumer confidence in the USDA’s mark of inspection. Please comment on this petition.
At Stop Foodborne Illness, or STOP, we know about collaborative partnerships. For more than 26 years, affiliating with like-minded organizations to prevent foodborne disease is the mainstay of our success and continues to provide beneficial results today.
The mission to prevent illness and death due to contaminated food resonates with our allies and aligns with their goals to coordinate and expand efforts. At any given moment, STOP is working with a diverse spectrum of individuals and industries to move the needle on foodborne illness prevention. Today, STOP’s work is focused on constituent services and food safety policy with the overarching goal of public health. Below are examples of current collaborative projects that are uniquely effective.
Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness
The Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness (Alliance) is an initiative of STOP, leading food companies, and other organizations committed to the goal of preventing foodborne illness. For 25 years, Stop Foodborne Illness has communicated the compelling personal stories of people and families who have experienced serious foodborne illness or the death of loved ones. The goals of communicating these personal stories are to make clear why food safety must be a central value of the food system and to help motivate people in both the food industry and government to do their best every day to reduce hazards and prevent illness. Through the Alliance, STOP and leading food companies are collaborating to expand the reach and impact of personal stories to strengthen food safety cultures and prevent foodborne illness.
The Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness has a mission to:
Forge partnerships between STOP and leading food companies to build trust and support strong food safety cultures.
Collaboratively design and implement innovative, well-tailored programs that make compelling personal stories an integral motivational element of food safety culture and training programs.
Expand the reach and impact of personal stories through outreach to the small- and medium-size companies that are key contributors to modern supply chains.
Current Alliance members: Costco, Cargill, Conagra Brands, Coca-Cola, Yum! Brands, Nestle USA, LGMA, Empirical Foods, Maple Leaf Foods, Mars, Walmart, Wegmans, and Amazon.
Working with those who have been impacted by severe foodborne illness is base to our prevention work. We engage our constituent/advocates in many projects and continually seek additional opportunities.
STOP’s new website houses a navigational map for anyone who is in crisis, post-crisis or managing the long-term consequences of surviving severe foodborne disease. This structured, informational composition was created by constituent/advocates that are sharing their lived experiences. This incisive work provides incredible insight into the journey that may lie ahead and how to manage the potential labyrinth.
With our partner, Center for Science in the Public Interest, we have created a national platform for survivors of salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis to speak about their experiences surviving these diseases.
The Alliance has created multiple working partnerships with individual constituent/advocates.
STOP’s speaker’s bureau provides opportunities for our constituent/advocates to share their personal stories with large groups in person or virtually.
A recent college graduate who is a constituent/advocate is leading the creation of a new program for the organization.
Dave Theno Fellowship
Dave Theno Fellowship is a partnership with Michigan State University (MSU) that provides a recent public health, food science, animal science or political science graduate (undergraduate or graduate degree) the opportunity to conduct two distinct research projects, engage in STOP programming, participate on coalition calls and earn a certificate in food safety from MSU.
STOP is working with MSU to create a new course for its Online Food Safety Program that focuses on food safety failures and the impact of those system breakdowns on consumers.
Early Detection of Foodborne Illness Research
In conjunction with North Carolina State University, Michigan State University, Eastern Carolina University and University of Michigan, STOP is engaging in research to identify gaps in knowledge and application of the 2017 Infectious Disease Society of America Clinical Practice Guidelines of the Diagnosis and Management of Infectious Diarrhea (IDSA) for healthcare workers. Our early findings have identified that most healthcare workers do not know about nor follow the IDSA guidelines, which include reporting of cases of infectious diarrhea and identification of the pathogen for identification and prevention of potential widespread outbreaks.
To support this research, STOP is completing a systematic literature review with the intent to publish.
Recall Modernization Working Group
STOP has been convening a group of experts comprised of individuals from academia, Alliance members, external industry partners, food industry associations, public health organizations, and industry consultants to deep dive into food recalls to define the current landscape, discuss systemic changes necessary for expedient and efficient execution of recalls for both industry and consumers and develop recommendations on how to accomplish those changes.
Everyone is susceptible to foodborne illness; thus, we need a varied, coordinated approach. Each of these partnerships helps our colleagues meet their goals while promoting prevention of foodborne illness by straddling both industry and consumer focused work. Executing our mission takes many forms and that requires diversity in partnerships, a shared vision and tangible, sustainable results.
Stop Foodborne Illness announced the new 2019–2020 Dave Theno Food Safety Fellow at the IAFP annual meeting last week. Jamie L. Ragos, a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee, takes the reins from Emily Forauer, the inaugural Theno fellow. Stop Foodborne Illness established the fellowship program in memory of food safety expert David Theno who died in a swimming accident in 2017. Theno’s dedication to keeping people safe extended back to the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak at Jack-in-the-Box in 1993.
The Theno Food Safety Fellowship is a full-time paying job at Stop Foodborne Illness and the fellow also completes a 12-credit online food safety certificate with Michigan State University. Along with housing and benefits, the position gives a young food safety scientist real-world experience with Stop Foodborne Illness’ greater community in learning about the detrimental effects of “failures in food safety”.
“Jaime’s credentials make her a stand-out in any crowd. Her impressive resume illustrates her commitment not only to studying food science but also to sharing that knowledge to create safer, healthier communities,” said Stop Foodborne Illness CEO Mitzi Baum in a press release. “We’re thrilled to have her on board.”
Ragos has worked in research programs at the University of Tennessee’s Department of Nutrition; the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications; the Department of Food Science and Technology; and the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. In addition, she has participated on research teams at the Smith International Center in Guatemala and at North Carolina State University in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences.
Last week Stop Foodborne Illness announced who would be filling the role of its retiring CEO Deirdre Schlunegger: Mitzi Baum. Previously managing director of food safety at Feeding America, Baum has extensive experience in the non-profit space as well as the realm of retail management. In a Q&A with Food Safety Tech, Baum discusses where she sees Stop Foodborne Illness moving forward in its advocacy role and how the organization will work with both industry as well as consumers in the future.
“I am excited to assume the role of CEO at Stop Foodborne Illness. We are at a point in our evolution to identify new opportunities to expand awareness, create a strategy to pursue those new opportunities and implement and execute our plan,” says Baum. “You will be hearing a lot from Stop in the near future.”
Food Safety Tech: You bring a tremendous amount of experience to your new role at Stop Foodborne Illness. How will the organization work with industry to advocate for food safety moving forward?
Mitzi Baum: In my previous position, I had the opportunity to build relationships, network with food safety peers in food manufacturing and retail and work on food safety issues. I would like to use that experience to our advantage as we identify new ways to work cooperatively with industry to move toward a safer supply chain and expand foodborne illness education and awareness throughout the food system. Stop has also fostered many relationships over the years; now we would like to translate those relationships into partnerships to affect greater impact and reduce the incidence of foodborne illnesses.
FST: Where are the key areas in which Stop will be focusing in its continued effort to both promote awareness of foodborne illness as well as prevention?
Baum: Moving forward, we will build upon relationships to promote awareness of foodborne illness prevention. Currently, we have 10 industry partners working with Stop to identify new training techniques to increase awareness of the impact of foodborne illnesses. In the next few months, we will run pilots to test the techniques, gather data, make adjustments and reassess. After the pilot phase, we will work with an expanding number of companies to implement an appropriate model that will result in measurable improvements for internal foodborne illness awareness.
FST: Given your experience in food insecurity, where do you see the most progress in addressing sustainability? Where is there work do be done?
Baum: There has been a lot of progress regarding increased awareness of sustainability and reduction of wasted food. Sustainability is an essential part of the food industry and there has been little to no discussion about the topic until the past few years. Thankfully, it has become a badge of honor for companies to include sustainability into their organizational culture. With a pivot to focus on sustainability, topics such as utilization of natural resources, types of packaging materials and long-term environmental impact have become the focus for an industry that can be a model for other industries.
With regard to food waste, the new cooperative initiative between USDA, EPA and FDA can certainly help to accelerate impact. It is my hope that the regulatory agencies can work to modify regulations that prohibit the donation of safe, wholesome foods that end up in landfill rather than on the dinner table. The amount of wasted food in this country is shameful.
FST: As FDA steps into its “New Era of Smarter Food Safety”, will Stop Foodborne Illness be collaborating with the agency on any new/current initiatives?
Baum: Absolutely. We want to participate and represent our constituents in this important work. Stop’s expertise and consumer-focused perspective is essential to have at the table. As the FDA plan rolls out, Stop will be identify the appropriate opportunities to assert its influence and continue to advocate for sound food safety policy.
I was putting the finishing touches on this month’s blog post when word came of the tragic and untimely death of Dave Theno, a man whose legacy looms large in the world of food safety.
Just last week I was corresponding with Dave about an honor that STOP Foodborne Illness wanted to bestow upon him at our annual December event that honors our Food Safety Heroes. He had enthusiastically accepted and we were excited to start planning.
Stop Foodborne Illness has a history that is inextricably woven with many of the threads from which Dave’s life was made. In 1993, Dave was called in to help the fast food restaurant Jack in the Box manage the crisis that was the result of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, which eventually killed four children and sickened hundreds of others.
At a time when most everyone working in food hadn’t yet realized that food safety was not just another facet of their operation, Dave Theno stood in the gap and helped usher in what has become the modern age of food safety. As he helped industry get on the right track, he also dedicated his life to learning the stories and sharing the pain of families affected by foodborne illness, foremost among them being Roni Rudolph, whose daughter Lauren Beth was the first to die. Together with other hurting parents, Roni founded what would become Stop Foodborne Illness; and in the words of our good friend Mary Heersink, “transformed isolated losses into something bigger than individual tragedy.”
Dave loved his job and did it well. With compassionate integrity and the heart of an advocate, Dave’s strong leadership was proof that he understood the seriousness of the tasks before him. His clear vision for a safer world where food was concerned was a testament to his calling. If there is anything we can learn from Dave Theno’s life, it is that the story is about people. The bottom line is about people. Dave’s compass was considering all the other “Lauren Beths” in the world, and keeping people safe.
STOP Foodborne Illness receives many requests to speak at conferences, trainings and meetings. I recently spoke at the Harris County Food Safety Summit in Houston, along with David, one of our Texas volunteers. David became ill from Salmonella after eating at a hospital. The event’s audience consisted of health inspectors, and restaurant owners and managers. It was a great crowd.
At this year’s Food Safety Consortium, STOP Foodborne Illness is holding a fundraiser and honoring heroes in food safety. LEARN MOREAt the United Fresh meeting, I participated on a panel with Rylee, a STOP Nevada volunteer, who spoke about her experiences as a victim of a foodborne illness. Also include on the panel were folks from The California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement to talk about our collaborative training video project. STOP Board Member Jorge Hernandez, also the Chief Food Safety Officer for Wholesome International, moderated the discussion. The video was played (available on STOP’s website). I was asked what I thought about competitive marketing advantage as it relates to food safety. To be honest, I don’t really think about that: STOP Foodborne Illness has an obligation to do what we can to prevent illness and death that stems from foodborne illness. We know that sharing personal stories makes a difference in training.
Now that I’m back in the office, our team has three requests, one for speaking and two requests from media to talk about food safety. We hear a lot about food safety culture these days, but actually taking the steps to facilitate, implement and monitor that change can be more of a challenge. We are reading about so many new technologies and practices related to food safety, which is great, but they must be accompanied by a company’s knowledge and commitment in order to be successful.
We will continue to contribute to the conversation. We are most interested in prevention and in solutions and like you, want to make a difference. We want to have fewer and fewer conversations with devastated family members about their experience with foodborne illness. Thanks again for all you do to create a strong food safety culture. How is your organization instilling a strong culture? Let us know how we can help.
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