During Wednesday’s keynote address at the Food Safety Summit in Baltimore, MD, the CEOs of Chiquita Brands and Kwik Trip shared their views on why food safety is important to them and their companies. Chiquita’s Ed Lonergan told the hundreds of people in attendance that food safety is a responsibility to consumers and ensures longevity of brands. “We have a responsibility to our consumers that we don’t hurt them when they trust us and buy our products,” he said. Lonergan also discussed a company’s relationship with safety in terms of its entire industry. “Food safety is not a competitive advantage,” he said. “It’s a cost of entering the industry.” If there’s a major recall of a certain product, it’s not just that brand that hurts because “consumers don’t discern brands when it comes to a crisis,” Lonergan explained. This is why he considers helping others in the industry to be so important, he indicated. “Frankly, Chiquita got away from that for a while,” he said. “We stopped collaborating with industry, and we’re now back in the game.” Lonergan also said that ensuring food safety means taking relevant action – like getting farms certified in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) – and making it a priority at all levels of a company, including all the way up to the executives. “I think it’s important that food safety isn’t just done on the side,” he said. “It’s part of what we doing as a corporation – it’s got to be part of the objectives.” Don Zietlow, president and CEO of Kwik Trip, told the gathering about the convenience store chain’s shift into food production in the early 2000s. One of his major concerns about what could damage the company is that consumers or employees would be infected with a foodborne illness – to the point where it can keep him awake at night. “We spent a lot of money on food safety – with our lab and with our people,” he said. “I think it’s the greatest investment that we have.”