By Amy Riemer

Drawing on lessons learned from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Food Safety Summit continues its 23-year commitment to deliver mission-critical technology and methods to food safety professionals throughout the supply chain. As the industry prepares to move forward in the wake of the global pandemic, keeping the food supply safe for consumers remains a top priority. The unique challenges of the times will certainly call for new innovations and require the industry to come together to collectively solve complex problems. 

In the continued commitment to prioritize the health and safety of the attendees, exhibitors, speakers, and staff, the Food Safety Summit will be presented as a virtual event this May 11–13. With the enthusiasm that BNP Media, producers of the event, received from the food safety community after the October 2020 virtual Summit, we are excited to improve on the success of the robust virtual platform to deliver the most effective food safety solutions in a safe and engaging format!

“We look forward to providing the same quality content, exhibitors and networking you expect from the Summit in our ‘best in class’ virtual environment. Food safety professionals will be able to attend sessions live and on demand, interact and ask questions with speakers, visit with top solutions providers in the virtual exhibit hall, and network with exhibitors and attendees using a new video chat feature,” said Scott Wolters, chief events officer of BNP Media, producer of the Food Safety Summit.

The education sessions will focus on the unique challenges of the “new normal” in four topic areas: COVID-19 and Beyond; Regulatory and Legal Issues; Tools and Technology; and Support for Food Safety Professionals. The summit offers a stellar line up of experienced speakers including food safety professionals from Costco, The Wendy’s Co. The Cheesecake Factory, FDA, CDC, USDA, AFDO, Sysco Corp., as well as academicians from North Carolina State, Illinois Institute of Technology, Rutgers University, and Michigan State, to name a few.

As chairman of the Food Safety Summit Educational Advisory Board, Gary Ades had a chance to ask several icons of the food safety community to discuss the importance of the summit and the value of participating in the upcoming event. In the following exchange, hear from Donna Schaffner, M.Sc., Associate Director Food Safety, QA & Training at the Rutgers University Food Innovation Center, and Joan Menke-Schaenzer, Chief Quality Office for Van Drunen Farms/FutureCeuticals:

Gary Ades:  Why do you think it is important to bring the food safety community together during the ongoing global pandemic?

Donna Schaffner: Food safety is an on-going priority and should not be overlooked while public focus is on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joan Menke-Schaenzer: The pandemic brings increased complexity and pressure for the food safety professional. Bringing the food safety community together will enable: Care and comradery…being together with others who speak the same language and have similar challenges. Designated time to learn and think outside your zoom calls and/or onsite pressures of the day. The opportunity to meet new people and expand your network. 

Gary: What food safety lessons have you learned from the global pandemic and what new innovations do you think will stick around even after the pandemic?

Donna: While government inspections of food production facilities were less frequent due to the pandemic, some companies prioritized worker safety over food safety and left gaps that need to be addressed ASAP.  Virtual training is here to stay; in-person inspections and in-person consulting visits will seem to be more “expensive” to companies that have gotten used to “virtual” services.

Joan: The top food safety lessons learned from the global pandemic that will look to stay around post pandemic are: 1) Remote audits: they can work effectively: customer, organic, Kosher, GFSI, etc. 2) Wellness screening and increased hygiene: help build a food safety culture and improve GMP’s. 3) Remote QA work can be done effectively and with enhanced customer support; there is no reason to be in the office. (Note: QC work does still need to be done on site.)

Gary: Why do you think the Food Safety Summit is an important event for you to share your knowledge?

Donna: The Food Safety Summit is a premier event that attracts participants with a focused interest, so it is certainly the place I want to be!

Joan: The Food Safety Summit is a terrific event that focuses on bringing solutions to the food safety professional. I prefer to share my knowledge at the FSS because it delivers value to each attendee by making one’s job (including my own) a little easier.  

Gary: What sessions will you be presenting at during the upcoming Summit in May?

Donna: I will be leading a session on “Pivoting the Message to Fit Today’s Concerns.” Basic food safety concerns in the food processing industry don’t change based on whether they are top-of-mind for the public. During the initial months of the pandemic, a number of major public policy decisions were made that greatly impacted the ability of food processing facilities to continue producing food. Learn how food safety training had to pivot its message to address the unintended consequences of COVID-related decisions that had the potential to increase food safety issues.

Joan: I will lead a panel on “Managing COVID-19 across the Food Industry: We Can’t Mandate until We Educate.” This session will offer an honest dialogue of what worked and what didn’t work to manage COVID-19 across the food system. History has shown that educating workers about the “why” is far more effective in driving change than issuing mandates. Looking at what worked and did not work also facilitates deep learnings. Come hear lessons learned from industry experts who are fighting the COVID-19 battle and managing its effects on their businesses each and every day.

To download the full digital brochure and register for the Food Safety Summit, visit www.foodsafetysummit.com. 

Editor’s note: The author, Amy Riemer, is the education director for the Food Safety Summit.

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