Many of you are committed to doing everything possible to prevent people from becoming ill or dying from foodborne illness, and you whole-heartedly embrace a strong food safety culture. On November 17, 2015, STOP Foodborne Illness is pleased to be hosting Food Safety Heroes, an interactive fundraising event sponsored by Chemstar Corp. and Food Safety Tech.
We are excited that Food Safety Heroes will take place during, and in conjunction with, the Food Safety Consortium Conference, which is a summit meeting for Food Safety and Quality Assurance (FSQA) industry experts and government officials. In our eyes, every guest coming to this event is a food safety hero! Each day these people contribute to the overall health of our nation, and we couldn’t be more proud to be working alongside such outstanding men and women. To be a part of efforts to increase public awareness and collaboratively seek solutions is a great honor for us.
In addition to raising much-needed funds for the important, life-saving work of STOP Foodborne Illness, we also have the great pleasure of honoring two individuals who have seen the national conversation about safe food grow from its infancy, born from tragedy, to an increasingly aware industry of food safety professionals and consumers. Their efforts have been instrumental in cultivating the food safety culture that we see today.
The 2015 Food Safety Heroes award will honor:
Nancy Donley, former spokesperson for Safe Tables Our Priority and STOP Foodborne Illness. Donley will be presented with the 2015 Legacy Tribute in recognition of her four-year-old son Alex, who died from an E. coli infection in 1993. From the time of her son’s death until her recent retirement from STOP, Donley has worked tirelessly to raise public awareness of foodborne illnesses by providing information and support for the millions of people who get sick from eating each year.
Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart Corp. A pioneering force in advancing the concept of a strong food safety culture, Yiannas is being celebrated as our 2015 Industry Advocate Hero. Going far beyond his role in overseeing the safety of the world’s largest food retailer, Yiannas is recognized for his commitment and dedication to building unique partnerships and participating in innovative approaches to food safety.
Please join us on November 17!
Food Safety Heroes
Time: 7–9 pm
Where: Renaissance Convention Center in Schaumburg, IL
Guests will enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, lively entertainment, a silent auction and more
The end of the summer is near. Children are back in school, holiday plans are on people’s minds, and National Food Safety Month is upon us, with an abundance of ideas for helping our families and friends stay safe. Even Global Handwashing Day is October 15. Who knew? There are many tips available for consumer awareness and multiple conferences for professionals in the food safety industry. Food Safety Month provides a reality check, reminding all of us that accountability lies with everyone, from the farm to the kitchen table. I am grateful that STOP Foodborne Illness has so many amazing volunteers who generously contribute their time and passion, sharing their experience with the food industry. Everyday companies tell us that adding stories at the beginning of a presentation makes an enormous difference for employees. Starting mandatory training with a personal account of foodborne illness grabs people’s attention—they sit up and take notice. It demonstrates that risks are real and that individuals do make a difference each time they follow safety guidelines and implement critical interventions.
Your diligence and commitment make a difference every day.
Recently at the IAFP conference in Portland, Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases commented (and I am paraphrasing) that there is a challenge in measuring one’s effectiveness when it comes to food safety; how do you know when you have prevented an illness?
We are immensely proud of our work and ability to provide volunteers and staff members to speak at company events or be part of an orientation or a food safety video. We are proud to work with The Kroger Company, Wegmans, Walmart , Kwik Trip, FDA, FSIS and others who see the value in bringing the personal story forward.
That is how we make a difference.
Guidance and regulations are critically important. And individuals working in companies who get it and understand the importance and consequences of doing the right thing—regardless of requirements—those who embrace a food safety culture, these are the people who ultimately make the biggest difference.
Next month Stewart Parnell, the former CEO of Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), is scheduled to be sentenced for his role in a deadly salmonella outbreak involving shipping contaminated peanut products nationwide. Parnell, who could spend the rest of his life in jail, was found guilty on 71 counts, including conspiracy, obstruction of justice and wire fraud. This landmark case sends a strong message about accountability to both industry and consumers, said Darin Detwiler, senior policy coordinator for food safety at STOP Foodborne Illness, at the IAFP 2015 conference in July.
“His actions resulted in technically more deaths than that of Charles Manson,” said Detwiler, who indicated that Parnell is still very much in denial over his role in the salmonella outbreak. “This might be one snapshot—one look at one person in one industry, in one business—but think about how many companies are out there [and] of this mindset—the idea that they’ll never get caught.”
Food companies should be held strictly liable when it comes to consumer safety, ensuring that they take preventive measures so that illness and death never happen. The sentencing of Parnell next month could set a precedent for how future cases involving companies responsible for foodborne illnesses and outbreaks are handled.
In a meeting early this summer, I shared the story of a young girl who recently died from a foodborne illness and of the advocacy that her family has engaged in since that time. A person holding an important position in a food organization responded with assurance: “Well, we take a risk each time we walk outside.” This string of words has become a haunting refrain. The tearful words of the families with whom each of us at STOP Foodborne Illness have spoken resonate.
I wonder if the person who spoke communally understands why their position exists. Why do any of us have jobs in food safety? What happens in a food company when a senior employee subscribes to this philosophy? Maybe the belief is that it can’t happen to them? Does this organization need to experience it first-hand to understand it? Will a consumer die as result of this philosophy? Will the company suffer incredible financial losses? Will the cognitive dissonance finally dissipate? Will the company survive?
A comment like this is a reflection of a person and maybe of an organization that does not have a food safety culture. It’s a comment that is dismissive of food safety risks. When people eat food, they have a right to safe food. And companies have an obligation to manage risks—not simply be dismissive of them.
I know I am preaching to the choir to those of you reading this blog. You embrace, understand the importance of, and advocate for a food safety culture. You care deeply about your fellow human beings and about your company. But tell me, how would you respond to this comment? How do you broadcast the why behind food safety? How do you remember individuals who have been seriously ill, who live with long-term consequence, and who have died from foodborne illness? How do you help others understand that risks must be mitigated throughout the food chain?
Thanks for taking the time to think about these questions and how best to answer them. A true food safety culture understands that there are risks, and the organization adopts a mindset that most food safety risks and outbreaks can be PREVENTED.
Unfortunately, some people will only embrace food safety culture once they’ve had a catastrophic event.
Please join us at STOP Foodborne Illness as we work to help others to proactively adopt a food safety culture to prevent outbreaks—not as a response to outbreaks.
Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness
What is the Food Safety Culture Club and what does it mean? Long before it was trending, STOP Foodborne Illness was talking about and cultivating food safety culture. We intimately know and share the compelling reasons, along with the “Why” behind food safety. Statistics without stories are not compelling. By hearing the stories and seeing the faces of those who have been ill or who have lost loved ones, the reason for a food safety culture is remembered—and these memories may translate into everyday food safety practices. Everyone has a role in food safety but for some, the only role was to become ill. Think about cantaloupe, peanut butter, ice cream, pre-washed greens, candy apples and more.
Why should you care? We are all consumers; we all have children, parents, friends and loved ones who we do not want to become ill from a preventable illness. No one wants for individuals to contract a foodborne illness.
So here we are, on a journey towards creating strong food safety culture in the lives of business leaders, the food industry, employees handling food, and in our schools and homes. I recently attended several conferences that had themes and program titles related to “A Food Safety Culture”. We know it is critical for leaders to embrace the culture, model safe and best practices, and we know it is important to share the reasons why.
In this column, I will talk about summer food safety, back to school food safety, the importance of hand washing, and many other Food Safety Culture Club topics.
You are a significant contributor in keeping food safe; you make a difference.
STOP Foodborne Illness is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing illness and death from foodborne illness by advocating for sound public policy, building public awareness, and assisting those impacted by foodborne illness. Contact STOP Foodborne Illness if you are interested in having one of the staff members or board members speak at your training.
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