Food Safety Summit week begins today with sold-out certification courses and continues through Thursday, with more than 1,700 attendees expected for the annual conference and trade show.

Food Safety Summit 2017 logo datesWhile food safety is the overall theme of the week, one pathogen in particular is in the spotlight this year at the Food Safety Summit in the Donald Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL. Listeria monocytogenes — infamous for outbreaks traced to fresh cantaloupe in 2011 and ice cream in 2015 — is the daily poison de jour beginning with Tuesday’s Workshop No. 1 “The Latest in Listeria Control” right through to the final summit event Thursday, Session No. 22 “Never Say Never: Case Studies from Recent Foodborne Illness Outbreaks That Blindsided Us All.”

Just as Listeria has generated headlines in mainstream media in recent years, it had generated increased interest in the food industry. That interest at the Food Safety Summit in 2016 produces standing-room only attendance at a Listeria session, spurring summit organizers to devote a half-day workshop to the microscopic organism this year.

Among the scheduled presenters for “The Latest in Listeria Control” are Sharon Birkett, vice president for North American Quality and Food Protection at OSI Group LLC, and Gillian Kelleher, vice president of Food Safety & QA for Wegmans Food Markets.

“It is everywhere and everyone is implicated,” Kelleher said of the pathogen, adding “but I’m very encouraged by what’s going on in industry.”

Kelleher and Birkett both said a change in attitude is sweeping through those who grow, process, package, distribute and sell food. It’s a shift from the denial perspective of “don’t look, don’t tell” to the preventive view of  “seek and destroy.”

Burkett said the meat industry has shown equipment and practices can be redesigned to reduce pathogens, but it requires action, not reaction. Kelleher agreed that other food producers could learn from reviewing what the meat industry has achieved in its work to reduce E. coli contamination.

“If you highlight what can be done, you can get beyond the fear of looking,” Kelleher said.

In addition to Kelleher and Birkett, the Listeria workshop will include:

  • Doug Craven, Corporate Manager of Sanitation, Hormel Foods
  • Joe Stout, Founder, Commercial Food Sanitation
  • Ozgur Koc, Senior Director of Supply Chain Food Safety, Quality and Research, Crunch Pak
  • Steve Tsuyuki, Senior Director, Corporate Sanitation and Sanitary Design, Maple Leaf Foods
  • Matt Henderson, Director of Food Safety, Land O’Frost
  • Natalie Dyenson, MPH, Vice President, Food Safety & Quality, Dole Food Company Inc.
  • Matthew Wise, MPH, Ph.D., Outbreak Response Team Lead, CDC

The full agenda for Tuesday, including the Listeria workshop is:

  • Workshop 1: The Latest in Listeria Control
  • Workshop 2: Preventive Controls & Sanitary Food Transportation Act (SFTA): The Basics and Sustainment
  • Workshop 3: A Guide to Success as a Food Safety Professional
  • Workshop 4: Integrated Food Safety System Update
  • Exhibit Hall opens for Welcome Reception: More than 185 booths are scheduled for the trade show floor.


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