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Hot topics front and centre at Food Safety Summit 2017

From: Food Safety News

The largest Food Safety Summit in the events history was the 18th annual summit in 2016, but attendee registrations and show floor booth reservations are on track for year 19 to set new records.

Scheduled for May 8-11 at the Stephens Convention Center near O’Hare International Airport in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, IL, the Food Safety Summit this year is offering twice the number of certification courses.

“There has been huge interest in the certification courses,” said Adriene Cooper, senior event manager at BNP Media, which stages the Food Safety Summit. “We think it’s likely because of the FSMA rules (Food Safety Modernization Act).”

The three new certification courses this year are FSPCA (Food Safety Preventative Controls Alliance) courses on three of the most sweeping preventative rules mandated by Congress when it approved the FSMA in 2010.

The new FSPCA courses are for the FSMA rules on:

  • Preventative Controls for Human Foods;
  • Preventative Controls for Animal Food; and
  • Foreign Supplier Verification Programs

Other certification courses available on the first day of the summit are:

  • Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training;
  • Seafood HACCP – Segment 2; and
  • Professional Food Safety Auditor Training

In a break with recent tradition, the Hot Topics session at the Food Safety Summit is set as the Keynote Presentation instead of being held for the final session of the four-day event. Cooper said the change in the administration in Washington D.C. provided part of the rationale for bumping the Hot Topics session to Wednesday morning.

“We anticipate a lot of discussion about how it may impact rules and regulations that are coming online,” Cooper said. “We’ve left ourselves open to have the panel talk about the very latest information, which may be developing between now and the summit.”

A handful of heavy hitters are on deck for the Keynote Hot Topics session. Food industry’s Dane Bernard, who is managing director of Bold Bear Food Safety, will moderate the session. Panelists are as follows:

  • Kathy Gombas, former senior advisor for food safety at the Food and Drug Administration and a member of the FSMA Steering Committee, co-lead for the FSMA Training Workgroup, and advisor to the Preventative Controls Implementation workgroup that is focusing on inspection approaches;
  • Dave Gombas, former vice-president of technical services for Unite Fresh Produce Association who retired in June 2016 after 11 years leading the United Fresh Food Safety program;
  • Jeffrey Steger, assistant director in the Consumer Protection Branch of the U.S. Department of Justice with over 22 years of service since joining the department in 1994;
  • Shawn Stevens, the founding member of Food Industry Counsel LLC, which exclusively represents food industry clients; and
  • Craig Wilson, vice president and general merchandising manager of quality assurance/food safety for Costco Wholesale Corp.

Another change on tap this year at the Food Safety Summit is an expanded focus on Listeria monocytogenes, the pathogen that has been in the spotlight increasingly since the 2011 cantaloupe outbreak and was thrust into the realm of common knowledge with the Blue Bell Creameries ice cream outbreak that was discovered in 2015.

“The Listeria session was standing room only last year,” Cooper said. “This year we’ve expanded it into a four-hour workshop on Tuesday. An extensive sampling demonstration is included in the session at the request of summit attendees.”

Other unique workshops added for this year’s event include:

Preventative Controls and Sanitary Food Transportation Act (SFTA): The Basics and Sustainment

This workshop will focus specifically on preventative control vs. prerequisite programs for warehouse and transportation, food defense, sanitation as a preventative control for warehouse and transportation and cold chain management in an interactive format for learning.

A guide to success as a Food Safety Professional

Based on the recently published book, “Food Safety – A Road Map to Success,” this workshop will teach attendees how to get the resources needed to protect the brand, customers, consumers and share holder values.

Integrated Food Safety System Update

Join the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) for discussions and testimony for establishing a fully integrated food safety system from leading federal, state and local agencies who will provide an update on the public health goal of a safer food supply.

Of course the educational sessions that the Food Safety Summit is so well known for are a key element of the event again this year. There are 22 sessions scheduled covering topics including FSMA, food defense, the food code, foodborne outbreak investigations, menu labeling and supply chain management.

For those who want to hear it straight from the source, the Town Hall session is back by popular demand. It has been one of the best-attended sessions of recent Food Safety Summits and provides attendees with the opportunity to ask government officials about current regulations and enforcement. This year the Town Hall panel is scheduled to include:

  • Al V. Almanza from the U.S. Department of Agriculture;
  • Joseph Corby from the Association of Food and Drug Officials;
  • Robert Tauxe from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and
  • Stephen Ostroff from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

In addition to the educational sessions and opportunities to hear from government officials in person, the Food Safety Summit trade show floor offers more than 200 booths with representatives from businesses, government agencies, publications and academic institutions available to interact with summit attendees.