SALT LAKE CITY — A college student went to the microphone after Target Corp.’s Ann Marie McNamara finished the John H. Silliker Lecture on “Heros Past and Future” with a suggestion.

“We should make a movie!” said the student who got away before we could get her name.

She was an example of just how inspired those attending the final day of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) in Salt Lake City. McNamara’s remarks along with the IAFP Awards Banquet closed the proceedings.

Twenty-five years ago, McNamara was the director of microbiology at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) when E. coli O157: H7 contaminated Jack-in-the-Box hamburgers. More than 700, mostly children, were infected in several Western states. And four children died.

McNamara said the Jack-in-the-Box outbreak was the event that “changed the world as we knew it.” She used her Silliker Lecture to recognize the heroes from that time to inspire the IAFP audience, including its many students, to become heroes in solving food safety problems that remain and “help save lives”

After the outbreak, McNamara was among those responsible for declaring E. coli O157: H7 an adulterant in beef. The meat industry tried to stop the declaration in federal court, but USDA prevailed. Other changes were also profound. USDA meat inspectors no longer practice “poke and sniff” as they did before Jack-in-Box. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point or HACCP analysis now rule the day. Pathogens in meat are now recognized as reality.   Before the 1993 tragedy, the reality was a lot different.

IAFP 2019 will be at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville from July 21 to 24.   The next large IAFP event is the 6th Latin American Symposium on Food Safety, which will be held on Sept. 25 to 27 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.   Food safety attorney Bill Marler, who is also the publisher of Food Safety News, will be among the symposium speakers.

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