I am proud to say that I am a card-carrying member of the International Association for Food Protection.

I am a member because last summer the publisher sent me at the last possible minute to the IAFP annual meeting in Anaheim.   

With no one around to plead to for press credentials, and without being a member or being pre-registered, the amount I was being asked to contribute for attending was, as they say, a bit much.

While I was standing there speechless, a nice lady came across from another registration booth, and said “But if you became a member of IAFP, it would be much less!”  

Needless to say, I took the deal. But that was not the best part of the IAFP annual meeting.   

The best part was this organization knows how to jam pack its meetings with newsy content.   I am normally not a note taker, but I found myself scribbling about 100 pages of notes over the multiple days of the annual meeting.  And I wrote a dozen stories for Food Safety News.

This summer, the IAFP annual meeting is in Milwaukee.

Given the knee-jerk decisions being made these days by financially distressed state and local governments, including edicts like “no out-of-state travel” or “no travel budgets period,” some attendees might need help getting to Wisconsin.

We are pleased that the sponsor of Food Safety News, the food safety law firm Marler Clark, is making four professional scholarships available for attendees to IAFP in Milwaukee.

The scholarships will fully support travel, hotel, and registration expenses for up to four state or local health or state agricultural employees to attend IAFP 2011.  Applicants will need to download the awards criteria and application form.  The deadline to apply is April 5.

Scholarships are just one of the ways that Marler Clark tries to promote worthy events and help students achieve academic goals that will contribute to food safety.

In the last few months, Marler Clark has also made these scholarships possible:

— The $10,000 Samantha Safranek Scholarship Fund, West Broward High School, Pembroke Pines, FL.

— The $25,000 Science Scholarship, Rock Island Milan Education Foundation, Rock Island High School, Rock Island, IA.

— The $25,000 Science Scholarship, Heritage High School, Lynchburg, VA.

Each supports communities that have suffered from foodborne illnesses.  Topps Meat (E. coli O157:H7); Milan McDonalds (hepatitis A); and Peanut Corporation of America (Salmonella), respectively, negatively impacted the residents of Pembroke Pines, Rock Island, and Lynchburg.   

“When communities have been hit by a foodborne illness outbreak, it is not unusual for us to donate something to one of the high schools,” says Bill Marler, Marler Clark’s managing partner.