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Record attendance expected for Food Safety Summit in Chicago

CHICAGO — Organizers are expecting the 18th annual Food Safety Summit this week to be a record breaker as attendees and exhibitors focus on looming compliance dates for food companies that are subject to new rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011.

The conference and trade show at the Stephens Convention Center opened Tuesday evening with a reception on the show floor, which boasts 205 exhibitors this year. That’s an increase of almost 14% in exhibitors compared to the 2015 Summit.

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Most of the focus of the Summit seminars and other activities this year is on new federal regulations in the U.S., which ironically attracted a larger contingent of international attendees than previous years.

Janette Handley, senior product manager of molecular sciences for Thermo Fisher Scientific, said she made the trip to Chicago from the United Kingdom to learn more about how U.S. food companies are changing procedures and implementing new ones to meet the requirements of FSMA.

“It’s important for me to stay on top of what industry is doing,” Handley said Tuesday evening. “I work with pathogen testing and we are always looking for ways to jump ahead to provide the next best solutions.”

Handley said the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has generated a lot of interest in Europe among food industry insiders.

“The difference between America and Europe has been that America focused on end product testing while Europe worked more with HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points). With FSMA and the shift toward preventive controls in America, those of us in Europe are interested in how companies will meet the new requirements.”

Officials with one exhibitor at the Summit’s trade show, Biotrack Diagnostics, had similar thoughts when they decided this was the year to make their debut at the event.

James Philips, executive vice president and director of marketing for Biotrack, said new testing requirements included in the rules associated with FSMA gave the company the perfect reason to bring a new testing product to the U.S. With four years of use in Europe behind it, Biotrack promises faster results while providing companies options to expand and refine their testing programs.

The summit continues through Thursday, with the keynote session — “The New Food Safety Environment” — set for Wednesday morning. Representatives from McDonald’s Corp., Kraft Foods, Resers Fine Foods and Wegmans Food Markets scheduled to take the stage with the Food and Drug Administration’s director for retail food protection, Glenda Lewis, and FDA’s senior advisor for food safety, Kathy Gombas.

Other top government officials are schedule on the main stage Thursday for a Town Hall question-answer session with attendees. Mike Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner, Robert Taupe, director of the division of foodborne diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and David Goldman, assistant director for the USDA’s office of public health and science are among those scheduled to participate in the Town Hall.

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