There wasn’t just one winner of the Food Quality Award this year, there were two, and the victors were picked by a panel of eight judges, four who picked Tyson Food Safety and Laboratory Services Network (Springdale, Ark.) and four who selected SYSCO Corp. (Houston, Texas)
“Both companies submitted outstanding entries,” says Rick Biros, president of Carpe Diem Communications Inc., which publishes Food Quality magazine. “Both were very different. In lieu of putting in a tie breaker, Mark DeSorbo, Food Quality’s editor-in-chief, and I felt that both SYSCO and Tyson deserved to win. Thus, for the first time we have two winners.”
Each member of the judging panel for The 5th Food Quality Award, which was sponsored by DuPont Qualicon and held at the DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del., last October, said making a final decision was difficult.
The evenly split outcome even caused a husband and wife team, who run two Darien, Ill.-based quality and safety consulting firms, to go their own ways.
Mary Ann Platt, president of CNS/Food Safety, selected Tyson, while her husband, Lawrence E. Platt, president of RQA Inc., voted for Sysco.
“Both companies show very strong business results on an overall basis as well as for the functional organizations represented in the entries,” Lawrence Platt writes. “Although Tyson’s management commitment and quality of laboratory operations is very impressive, SYSCO’s management structure has a direct reporting relationship from the functional group headed by the vice president of quality assurance to the chairman and CEO of the company, demonstrating participation of the QA organization at the board level.”
He added that SYSCO’s continued investment in budget and staffing for the QA organization represents a significantly higher commitment than the industry norm.
“The QA project listing provided in the appendix indicates strong management support for a wide variety of quality related projects and improvement activities,” Lawrence Platt says.
His wife, Mary Ann, agreed that both award applications were “excellent,” but says Tyson had a stronger technology position.
“Tyson has designed their FSLS Network to be both an independent function relative to operations and a service organization to assist with continuous improvement in food safety and environmental stewardship,” she writes. “Investment spending for the FSLS Network is significant. SYSCO has also demonstrated substantial on-going financial and resource investment with an impressive array of improvement initiatives.”
Other judges included Eldon Roth, founder of Beef Products Inc. (Dakota Dunes, S.D.), the winner of the 2004 Food Quality Award and Roy Costa, Public Health Sanitarian Consultant for Environ Health Associates (De Land, Fla.)
The other judges, who sit on Food Quality’s Editorial Advisory Panel, include Dr. Purnendu Vasavada, professor of Food Science, University of Wisconsin, River Falls; Ken Bookmeyer, QA manager, Taylor Farms (Tenn.); and newly appoint panel member Jesse Majowski, of Booz Allen Hamilton, a strategic management and technology consulting firm based in McLean, Va.
The award presentation wasn’t the only aspect of the ceremony that made The 5th Annual Food Quality Award a premier paradigm of food safety and quality.
In addition to the award presentations, the following speakers at the event included: Frank Yiannas, Ph.D., safety and health director for Walt Disney World Co.; Thomas J. Billy, president of International Food Safety Consultants, LLC; and Robert E. Bracket, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN).
Two DuPonters, Peter Mrozinski, business development manager for DuPont Qualicon, and Donna Visioli, Ph.D., senior technical programs manager for DuPont Packaging and Industrial Polymers.
Particularly, Mrozinski discussed emerging technologies in pathogen detection; the basis for the BAX System Q7, a DNA-based technology developed by DuPont and modified in an alliance with Applied Biosystems Group (Foster City, Calif.), a developer of real-time PCR technology.
The Q7 not only provides real-time PCR, but also multiple dye detection and quantitative species differentiation.
“The alliance is focused on developing new products together,” Mrozinski told Food Quality. “There is a need to not just detect, but to determine just how much is there and to do that with new molecular methods means developing technologies, from Applied Biosystems, for the food market.”
Aside from needed emerging technologies, food safety is only as good as one’s employees, says Disney’s Yiannas.
Yiannas is responsible for Disney’s theme parks, cruise ships, hundreds of food locations and suppliers. He and his staff altered the culture among Disney’s numerous food service organizations to embrace the food safety and quality ethics of HACCP. In fact, Disney’s 55,000 food service workers are referred to as “cast members” in the important and never-ending role of food safety.
“Culture is one of those terms that are very important to food safety,” he says, adding that, first and foremost, employees need to know exactly what food safety is and share the responsibility.
“Saying, ‘Food safety begins with me,’ doesn’t tell them what they have to do,” he says.
Employees, Yiannas explains, need to clearly know what is required for food safety. They must also be trained and educated. For example, they must understand the simple concept of regular hand-washing and how important it is to food safety. Yiannas also stressed the importance of establishing and enforcing a food safety communication plan.
“Our goal is to have zero violations and zero tolerance for food safety violations,” he adds, saying a shift from food safety accountability to responsibility will ensure greater compliance.
Billy, of International Food Safety Consultants, and Bracket, CFSAN’s director, echoed Yiannas’ sentiments.
Billy heralded the importance of Codex, an international public health and food safety coalition that he chairs. The goal of Codex, he explained, is to establish a cohesive, global approach to food safety issues of the new millennium. Likewise, Bracket spoke about evolving programs and policies for the composition, quality, safety and labeling of foods, color additive, dietary supplements and cosmetics.