Despite nightly curfews and the threat of riots, the 17th Annual Food Safety Summit went off smoothly last month at the Baltimore Convention Center. More than 1,200 food safety professionals attended the conference, including representatives of 160 exhibiting companies. As in the past, this year’s summit featured dozens of seminars and workshops on a variety of food safety topics, including recurring themes such as implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), integrating the nation’s food safety system, and detecting and preventing food fraud and intentional adulteration.
“The basic idea is that we need to build a system of prevention that goes across the food system domestically and globally and is doing the things that can be done reasonably at each stage of the process to prevent hazards from coming into the food supply and potentially making people sick,” said Michael R. Taylor, JD, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine in a presentation.
Taylor told attendees that the FDA would meet all court-imposed deadlines for issuing final FSMA regulations this year and next. The agency is also focused on planning for implementation, including “thinking outside the box” on how to achieve a culture change within the agency, focusing on outcomes as opposed to enforcement, and “how we can operate and take advantage of the fact that the vast majority of firms want to do the right thing.”
Along these lines, the Association of Food & Drug Officials presented a full-day forum on integrating the nation’s food safety system. Hosted by AFDO executive director Joe Corby, seven panels explored how federal, state, and local governments can improve coordination, discussed the physical and managerial resources that industry can bring to implement appropriate controls, the role of consumers, and FDA’s vision for implementing FSMA through an integrated food safety system approach.
Five separate panels were dedicated to FSMA, beginning with an overview session on how industry and government can collaborate to implement the new rules and potential pitfalls to avoid. This was followed by separate sessions on implementing produce safety, preventive controls for human food, foreign supplier verification and third-party accreditation of auditors, and implementing the intentional adulteration rule, including the burden of proof and due diligence required by companies throughout the entire supply chain.
Two sessions on food fraud focused apparent intentional contamination of foods. The first session featured several presentations, including by Katrina Campbell, a bioanalytical systems expert at Queen’s University Belfast, who discussed the U.K.’s horsemeat scandal investigation, and by John Spink, PhD, director, Food Fraud Initiative, Michigan State University. And in what may have been a first, a senior representative from China, Yongning Wu, chief science officer, China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment, discussed efforts to reduce the massive amount of food fraud in his country. The second session focused on the role of science and technology in detecting and preventing fraud. It featured presentations by Yves Rey, general manager for corporate quality, Danone and former Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) chair; Susan Brown, director for regulatory affairs, McCormick & Co. Inc.; and Michèle Lees, director of collaborative research, Eurofins.
Conference organizers estimated that 15 out of 175 scheduled vendors did not send their representatives due to riots the night before the conference opened. In total, about 1,600 people had registered, but around 1,200 showed up. “The people that came and stayed really wanted to be here,” said Thomas Myers, executive vice president, marketing and product development, Pure Bioscience, one of the show’s 160 exhibitors on the still-crowded exhibition floor. “The people that we are meeting are serious and are looking for solutions to their food safety issues,” added company CEO Hank Lambert. This was the first year they exhibited at the Food Safety Summit, he said, adding that many people had shown interest in their new antimicrobial disinfectant surface sanitizers.