The committee follows several action platforms, including:
• Pathogen controls (Dairy Plant Food Safety and Supplier Food Safety Manage-
• Artisan/farmstead cheese food safety
• Pathogen control guidance documents (comprehensive Listeria guide issued;
broader pathogen guide under development)
• Listeria research consortium
These committee members—Stubbs’s “all-stars”—are some of the dairy industry’s
leading experts who focus on food safety for their respective organizations.
“These are people at the top of their field and they work for private companies,”
Stubbs says. “The companies are fully committed to this effort and have given the
committee access, for example, to the best pathogen experts in the world. Compa-
nies happily share the best sanitation experts, microbiologists, people with 30 years’
The committee meets in-person twice a year and convenes for monthly calls.
Stubbs says they share best practices, discuss workshops, and Listeria research. At the
end of the call, they save time for open dialogue. This openness builds trust, and the
sharing of best practices and insights, plus having access to an arsenal of experts with
skill sets for any need, is what keeps the momentum going strong.
“As a company, we get to contribute, and when you give, you get to receive,”
Travis says. “I used to be surprised by the collaboration, but you soon realize that
we all live through a lot of the same things, and it’s easier to move faster when you
understand them together. The research work we’re doing as a consortium would be
a lot more expensive and complicated for us to do as individual companies.
“So, it’s really easy to align the Innovation Center work with my day job. I have
a lot of regular interaction with the committee members and it keeps Hilmar from
having to reinvent the wheel.”
Listeria in the Crosshairs
One area the committee identified as needing an industrywide focus was Listeria
monocytogenes. So, in 2015, the group created the Listeria Research Consortium that
was built with funding from core dairy companies that chose to contribute and from
another farmer-founded organization, National Dairy Council. To date, the consor-
tium has raised more than $1 million and funded nine projects aimed at:
• Listeria controls in products and in the
• Listeria virulence research
• Surface-ripened and fresh cheeses
The Listeria control guidance docu-
ment was another activity of the team. The
guide, published in 2015 and revised in
2017, offers a comprehensive approach to
controlling Listeria in the dairy industry. It
was authored by 13 industry experts and
reviewed by academic and government
experts. Last year, the materials were trans-
lated into Spanish. It is available for free
download at www.usdairy.com/foodsafety.
The Innovation Center’s ability to
leverage processors’ expertise and best
practices allows it to share broadly through
several training workshops. Two trainings
that deliver an effective impact are the
Dairy Plant Food Safety Workshop and
the Supplier Food Safety Management
The Dairy Plant Food Safety Workshops are 2-day, hands-on sessions
designed to cover best practices and uniform approaches to in-plant pathogen
control programs. Thirty-eight sessions
have taken place since 2011, and more
than 2,000 professionals have attended.
The Supplier Food Safety Management Workshops focus on how to build
a supplier quality program and mitigate
risk from materials and services. These
also are 2-day interactive workshops that
reach an audience of quality, supplier
quality, and purchasing professionals.
Thirteen sessions since 2011 have provided risk identification and mitigation
tools to more than 200 people.
While it’s dairy’s largest companies
driving commitments such as these,
Stubbs says committee members have
a collective ability to look well beyond
themselves. In fact, smaller artisan/farmstead cheesemakers also benefit from
the Innovation Center’s heavyweights.
The mindset is that companies of all
sizes suffer when consumer confidence
is lost, no matter who has an issue.
While artisanal and farmstead
cheesemakers account for only a small
percentage of U.S. production volume,
the number of companies is increasing, multiplying the potential for risk.
Resources for Artisanal and Farmstead
To support the rapidly growing artisan dairy community, the Artisan Food
Safety Advisory Team was formed to enhance food safety and pathogen control
with clear, easily accessible resources and training.
• Food Safety Basics for Artisan Cheesemakers – Online food safety course
through North Carolina State University, accessible anytime from anywhere:
• Safe Cheesemaking Hub – Centralized food safety links for cheesemakers
powered by the American Cheese Society: www.safecheesemaking.org
• Hands-on Food Safety Coaching – Work sessions to help artisan and farm-
stead producers develop/improve their food safety plan: dairyextension.
• Ice Cream – Food safety hub and online class coming soon
• Support Hotline – E-mail support for artisan and farmstead producers: