The Truly Global Reach of Food Safety
The middle of February took me out of Massachusetts to the 2012 Global Food Safety Conference in Orlando, FL. There were over 900 attendees from more than 45 countries
present. I sat amid participants conversing in different languages
when it struck me how truly global the issue of food safety is.
No matter a specific company’s philosophy,
no matter a country’s current social and economic
problems, no matter the product being produced,
food safety transcends all these “differences.”
Meetings like this energize participants by
immersing them in a “culture” of food safety,
On this note, a particularly interesting session was entitled
“Fresh, Healthy & All Natural—Consequences on Food Safety.” I
was, to be honest, taken aback to learn that, often in response to
consumer demand for products that are “healthier” (read as less
sugar, less salt, more “natural” ingredients), reformulated products
can be at higher risk of adverse safety events. Dr. Evangelia
Komitopoulou, head of food safety at Leatherhead Food Research
in the UK, noted that replacing sugars with different sweeteners
can sometimes cause botulism and reducing salt in meat products
can upset product stability and shelf life, cause botulism and
encourage the growth of foodborne pathogens, such as Listeria.
She emphasized that one needs to be aware of the safety limits of
reformulation as certain product modifications may not be safe.
Another reference to consumer demand was made by Jorge
A. Hernandez, senior vice president of food safety and quality
assurance for US Foods. He described the challenges in meeting
consumer demand for products that are local, fresh, all-natural,
healthy—you get the picture. He emphasized that none of these
terms are synonymous with safe. Perhaps in consumers’ minds
they are, and that is where the food industry needs to do a better
job communicating what safe food is, and what it is not. He then
gave a very striking example. He listed characteristics of a food
producer (all now in high demand by consumers): small, rural
farm; 480 acres; been in the family for four generations; grew
produce that was certified pesticide-free; considered “local.”
The name of the producer? Jensen Farms. Grew cantaloupe.
Responsible for the deadliest outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes in
more than 25 years.
I came away from this conference with a sense that we as an
industry need to do a better job educating consumers about food
safety. Look to future issues of Food Safety Magazine to guide you
in doing just that.
Barbara VanRenterghem, Ph.D.
Glendale, CA 91201
Phone (508) 210-3149
Fax (508) 210-3139
Production Office 1113 Ellis Street
Ft. Collins, CO 80524
Phone (970) 484-4488
Bobby Meeker (818) 842-2829
Adam Haas (407) 601-5440
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