ST. LOUIS — Cable news is programmed to attract only people who agree with a network’s point of view, college campuses are snuffing out debates before they begin, and many an organization wants only to dictate how their members think. Then there’s the International Association for Food Protection. IAFP first made debates a part of its annual program in 2012. debaters_406x250At its conference here this week, IAFP once again pitted debaters against each other on topics which might not represent their personal views. But every debater was seriously out to win the vote for their side of the argument nonetheless. And the votes came in quickly, texted from the smartphones of the audience at America’s Center Convention Complex located in downtown St. Louis near the world-famous Gateway Arch. The debaters had seven minutes to make their case and were then given three minutes of rebuttal time. For each question, the audience voted twice — once before any arguments were made and once afterward. IAFP 2016 logoThe questions debated concerned whether the food safety system is getting “too clean,” possibily putting us at risk for other ramifications; whether food safety risk messages should be different for millennials vs. baby boomers, and, finally, whether the use of sanitizers for food surfaces is endangering human health. On the “pro” side of the “too clean” question, Ohio State University’s Jeffrey Lejeune squared off against Commercial Food Sanitation’s Joseph Stout, representing the “con” side. The audience came down 81-18 for Stout. The Libertyville, IL, sanitation expert made the case that we are too far from perfect to be “too clean.” North Carolina State’s Benjamin Chapman, pro, and General Mills’ Kelly Stevens, con, debated the generational issue, which ended on a 50-50 split vote from the audience. While complaining loudly that his own Gen X had been left out, Chapman made the case that millennials are different. Stevens showed how the same information must be included in food safety messages for all. Finally, Katherine M.J. Swanson, pro, was sent up against Michael Holsapple from Michigan State University, con, on whether sanitizers might pose more risk to human health than they’re worth. Swanson made the point that if used as instructed on the label, sanitizers are safe. Holsapple raised the possibility that sanitizers might contribute to antibiotic resistance. The audience sided with Swanson by 78-22. All three debates were dedicated to the memory of John Gerald Cerveny, one of the country’s leading food microbiologists and a leader in IAFP, who died earlier this year at age 83. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)