ROSEM0NT, IL — The 25th Annual Food Safety Summit opted for a keynote panel presentation Wednesday instead of the more traditional keynote speaker.

But before that, the Food Safety Magazine Distinguished Service Award went to Michael R. Taylor, JD. Taylor is the retired Food and Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine. He is now serving on the Board of Directors of STOP Foodborne Illness.

Taylor has played leadership roles in public health and food safety in government, academia, and the private sector, with a major focus on modernizing the U.S. food safety system to prevent foodborne illness.

During the historic outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in 1993 in the western United States, Taylor was USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) administrator. At the American Meat Institute, Taylor outlined his reform agenda to meat industry leaders, which included overhauling the FSIS program to establish legal accountability for the industry to prevent contamination of meat and poultry with dangerous bacteria, including E. coli O157:H7.

Taylor told the industry that in the future, if FSIS found raw ground beef containing any amount of the pathogen it would be considered adulterated, unlawful for sale, and thus subject to recall. He also announced that FSIS would begin testing for E. coli O157:H7 in raw ground beef. His rulings are seen by many as “perhaps the single most important change in USDA history.”

Taylor told the Food Safety Summit audience that he is not yet used to being referred to as an “emeritus.” He is currently advocating for victims of foodborne illnesses as Co-Chair of the STOP Board.

In his final years in government at FDA, Taylor led the legislative enactment of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA) which aims to prevent foodborne illnesses.

The keynote presentation that followed the award presentation focused on how top managers approach risk management. The panel included Michael Eckhardt, senior vice president and chief legal and risk officer, and secretary for Wawa Inc.; David McDonald, president and chief executive officer for ISI Group; and from Toronto, Randy Huffman, chief food safety and sustainability officer of Maple Leaf Foods.

The panel moderator was Lone Jespersen, principal and founder of Cultivate.

Their thee companies illustrate how risk management practices are being used widely in various types of companies.

Wawa Inc. operates a chain of convenience stores and gas stations located along the East Coast of the United States, including operations in  Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C. and Florida.

OSI Group is a privately owned holding company of meat processors that service the retail and food service industries with international headquarters in Aurora, IL. It operates more than 65 facilities in 17 countries. Sheldon Lavin is the owner, CEO and chairman.

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. is the Canadian consumer packaged meats company. Its head quarters office is in Ontario.

The first two days of the Food Safety Summit focused on certified courses and half-day workshops. Food Safety Magazine and BNP Media own and produce the Food Safety Summit, which was hard hit by the pandemic years. While no figures were available, veteran attendees were sayings this year’s event is “feeling like normal.”

About 200 exhibitors fill the Food Safety Summitt trade show.

On a “Town Hall” session, top officials from FDA, CDC, AFDO and USDA will make individual presentations and take questions from the audience. And the closing session will be about “legal insights.”

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