By Mitzi Baum, M.Sc., CEO, Stop Foodborne Illness (STOP)

Time and money are two finite commodities. Both are considered precious and in the world of non-profit organizations there are two steadfast rules about both: (1) it takes time to raise money and (2) don’t waste money or time on unrealistic pursuits. As the leader of a national public health non-profit, neither time nor money is wasted when attending the Food Safety Summit.

The collaborative work of the organization that I lead, Stop Foodborne Illness (STOP), will be highlighted in a variety of forums so you may believe that I have ulterior motives; however, the agenda of this year’s Food Safety Summit is not only compelling but there are many new voices included to share their perspectives on horizon scanning and old issues still in search of solutions. Here’s an overview of a handful of sessions built on the pursuit of building, maintaining, and sustaining positive internal culture and collective problem solving. 

On Wednesday, May 8 the session How to Utilize the Alliance’s Food Safety Culture Toolkit, focuses on a resource that has been created for small- and medium-sized enterprises by thought leaders from global entities who are members of the Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness. The toolkit resources are provided for free to anyone who wants to begin, improve, and evaluate their internal food safety culture. Included are videos with customized intros/outros for specific work groups to stimulate conversation and explore opportunities. Most importantly, the videos include the real stories of individuals and families that have been injured by something they ate. Developing and maintaining a positive or mature food safety culture is prevention and we are all working toward preventing illness and death due to food. The toolkit has been downloaded worldwide by over 80 countries and hundreds of individuals. Check out the session to learn more about utilizing this amazing collection of tools that are customizable regardless of the size of your company.

On Thursday, May 9 the closing session of the Food Safety Summit will be Safety Culture: The Journey Continues.  This widely popular webinar series, presented by STOP and the FDA, will conclude its 2 ½ year run and will be presented in person and online. This is the eleventh and final episode of the series in which food safety culture has been explored by industry experts. Thousands of individuals have attended the live webinars or watched the recordings of these sessions that dive into real issues of developing, sustaining and sometimes overcoming deep-rooted cultural issues within companies. The panel will be seeded with many of the previous presenters in the 2 ½ year series. There is a reason over 2,000 people have registered for each of these opportunities – everyone shares the same challenges and are seeking answers. 

A Recall Modernization Session will be held on Wednesday, May 8. Recalls are an essential prevention tool within the food system and FDA’s New Era for Smarter Food Safety Core Element 2.6 is recall modernization; this call out is recognition that recalls require attention. The industry has been grappling with how quickly the FDA classifies recalls and its lack of urgency to do so. Consumer advocates are concerned with how the agency communicates potential health hazards to the public, they question the effectiveness of recalls in their current form and want to participate in modernizing the system with new(er) technology to reduce illnesses and deaths. In September 2023, the FDA held a public meeting to gather input from stakeholders on this issue yet the solution to addressing these issues remains elusive at the federal, state, and consumer levels. 

Lastly, I encourage each of you to attend the networking reception on Wednesday May 8 from 5:30 – 7:00 pm called the Food Safety Summit Gives Back. Stop Foodborne Illness is the recipient of the generosity of the Summit and the registrants this year. The dollars raised support the work of STOP which works on behalf of everyone who eats. 

The Food Safety Summit will take place May 6 – 9, 2024 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont, IL. www.foodsafetysummit.com

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