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The Annual Food Safety News Christmas Day ‘Nice List’

Editor’s note: We continue with our Food Safety News holiday tradition by publishing our fifth annual Christmas Day “nice” list, calling out a few folks we think are worthy of some positive mention based on their contributions to food safety during the past year. This year, we separated the “naughty,” published yesterday, from today’s “nice.” If you missed the first one, just scroll down. Now, we give you the “nice:”

Dr. William Keene, who was Oregon’s senior state epidemiologist, died Dec. 1 at the far-too-early age of 56. He left behind a reputation as one of the nation’s best food detectives and one of the most dedicated investigators of foodborne illness. His passing is a big loss for the Oregon Public Health Division, which he helped build into one of the best in the nation. His passion for providing closure to victims of foodborne illnesses will be missed by all.

Deirdre Schlunegger and Nancy Donley, CEO and top spokesperson, respectively, of Chicago-based STOP Foodborne Illness, for the group’s 20 years of dedication serving victims of foodborne illness. The group formerly known as Safe Tables Our Priority (S.T.O.P.) fulfills a unique role in the food safety community by providing advocacy, victim support, outreach and education.

Sandra Eskin, food safety director for The Pew Charitable Trusts, whose leadership of this non-governmental organization, along with her Food Safety Project team (Juliana Ruzante, Colin Finan, Ben Kessler and Sarah Branzelle), contributes much that advances the cause of food safety with sound research, comment and constructive criticism of both regulatory agencies and the food industry.

Dr. Elisabeth A. Hagen, USDA’s recently departed under secretary for food safety, left government in mid-December after serving 1,211 days as the nation’s highest U.S. Senate-confirmed food safety official. She left behind a zero-tolerance policy for six strains of pathogenic E. coli in raw beef, new “test and hold” requirements and tougher standards for controlling both Salmonella and Campylobacter. Prior to her appointment as under secretary by President Obama, she was USDA’s chief medical officer. The Harvard-trained medical doctor will now join the Deloitte business consultancy.

Sarah Schacht, a two-time victim of E. coli outbreaks that were 20 years apart, wants to improve restaurant grading in Seattle. Schacht was first sickened in the 1993 Jack-in-the-Box outbreak when she was 13, and then had her second encounter with E. coli O157:H7 from dining at a Seattle Ethiopian restaurant this past February. During her latest recovery, she decided to work on improving the grading system used by the King County Health Department, which inspects Seattle restaurants. Schacht finds the system confusing and difficult to use for spotting restaurants with declining scores.

Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for food and veterinary medicine, spent much of 2013 talking to produce farmers and processors about the rules required to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). His road show took him to 20 states, Canada and Mexico. As questions about the regulations mounted, he remained available to the media and politicians of all stripes. And, in the end, he agreed to a do-over to make the process work better. A careful regulator is pretty nice to have, don’t you think?

J. Patrick Boyle, who, at the close of 2013, steps down as the longest-serving president in the 107-year history of the American Meat Institute (AMI), will be remembered as the beef industry general who fought the war against the deadly E. coli O157:H7. Early on, Boyle reacted like most others in the industry, denying that O157 should be designated as an adulterant in meat. But, once it was, Boyle was among those who kept the research dollars coming to control the E. coli threat. In his 5,000th personal blog post, food safety attorney Bill Marler (whose Marler Clark law firm underwrites Food Safety News) wrote that his E. coli in hamburger cases once represented 95 percent of his client base. Today, he stated, it is close to zero. “To the beef industry – thank you for meeting the challenge,” Marler wrote. “The millions spent on interventions, and the countless hours of food safety professionals, made the difference.” Boyle can take a victory lap on that statement alone.

Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and a professor of sociology at New York University, ended her Food Matters column in the San Francisco Chronicle after five-and-a-half years. Luckily, Food Safety News continues to link to her Food Politics blog. As we’ve said before, you do not always have to agree with Professor Nestle to benefit from taking her classes. Few people as educated as she is can still speak and write with such clarity. The Chronicle, meanwhile, is apparently axing its much-read Food and Wine section for something having to do with lifestyle. Go figure.

© Food Safety News
  • scrambo

    I wish servsafe would spend more time on operational safety issues and less time trying to turn restaurant managers into diagnosticians….

  • JuliCanIEatHere

    Food allergy and gluten free are also part of Food Safety…the problem with your list is that most of these people are bureaucrats or involved with public departments that can be questionable in and of themselves. I think you should spread your horizons a bit higher to inlcude food allergies, gluten free needs and other special dietary requirements to help patrons maintain health. I would love to have an open disucssion with you. Please contact me to discuss.

    • full k you

      Really, get a real life, people like you created this crap. Gluten free b.s. spread your horizons more and stop being a Whinney ass

  • Jennifer Berman Diaz

    Michael Taylor is a former Monsanto exec which automatically puts him on the naughty list…if he cared about food safety, he’d label GMOs.