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Practical solutions to food safety problems take center stage

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No matter how advanced mapping apps become, they can’t tell you where to go unless you know where you are to begin with, just as those in the food supply chain must assess their operations before they can plan a route to a new food safety environment.

That new environment, mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and described in new rules from the Food and Drug Administration, is one of prevention rather than penalization. It promises reduced risks to consumers and business, according to the moderators of the keynote presentation at the upcoming 18th annual Food Safety Summit Conference & Expo.

“The new rules require people to evaluate their systems and establish control measures,” said Faye Feldstein, consultant and former director of the Office of Food Defense, Communication and Emergency Response for the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN).

She said the switch to a preventive approach means government inspectors will no longer solely focus on what’s wrong at a food operation during the snapshot in time when they visit a facility.

“They have switched from a ‘gotcha’ mentality to a ‘we’re all in this together to get it right’ mentality,” Feldstein said. “The relationship between regulators and industry is morphing to more supportive than adversarial.”

Feldstein’s co-moderator for the keynote event, Craig Henry of Decernis LLC, agreed. He also said documentation will be a huge part of reaching compliance under the new rules.

“One of the key factors in the preventive controls rule is that the documentation now required is much more substantial than anything the food industry has had to face,” said Henry, who is vice president of global business development in the Americas for Decernis.

“Inspectors will likely spend 50 percent of their time on documentation showing that (a facility’s) plan has been implemented and is being carried out. That should mean fewer recalls and foodborne outbreaks.”

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Henry and Feldstein will discuss the new normal with a panel of experts representing government, food manufacturing companies, grocery retailers and the restaurant industry during the keynote presentation May 11 at the Food Safety Summit in Chicago. Discounted early registration and hotel rates expire Friday.

With the largest food companies required to comply with some of the new rules by this fall, Henry said the FDA is expected to begin reporting findings early in 2017. Many of those food producers, handlers, shippers, wholesalers and retailers have already assessed their operations and implemented tougher food safety protocols in anticipation of the new regulations.

Feldstein said firms that are ahead of the curve will share their insights during the keynote presentation and through out the three-day summit.

“We will be discussing really tangible, specific information about approaches, tools, solutions that these companies have tried,” Feldstein said. “They will share success stories and ambiguities they discovered while reviewing their operations and developing plans.”

As with other sessions at this year’s summit, attendees can help determine the content of the keynote presentation by visiting the Food Safety Summit website and submitting questions for the panel of industry and government experts.

The scheduled panelists for the keynote presentation are:

  • Glenda Lewis, FDA director of retail food protection staff at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition;
  • Scott Brooks, DVM, formerly Kraft Foods senior vice president of quality, food safety, scientific and regulatory affairs;
  • Kathy Gombas, FDA senior advisor at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition;
  • Joan Menke-Schaenzer, McDonald’s Corp. vice president of Safety & Compliance, Global Supply Chain & Sustainability;
  • Jay T. Mayr, Reser’s Fine Foods vice president of food safety and quality;
  • Gillian Kelleher, Wegmans Food Markets vice president of food safety and quality assurance.

Food Safety News subscribers who attend the summit can receive 15 percent off registration costs by using the discount code FSNReader16 when they sign up to attend.

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