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Vikan.com
Amit M. Kheradia
Amit M. Kheradia
Environmental Health and Sanitation Manager

Key Proceedings of IAFP 2023 – Hot Topics in Global Food Safety


The International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Annual Conference held July 16-19th in Toronto, had a record attendance thanks, in part, to the official end of Covid-19 pandemic and its restrictions. Attendees in the regulatory, academic, industry, and advocacy fields gathered to discuss important topics like industry innovations, Food Safety Culture, and sustainability. They also honored Vikan’s Global Hygiene Specialist Deb Smith as Sanitarian of the Year.

Over 3,500 food safety professionals from about 58 countries came together to advance the best-in-class science, technology, and policy developments on food safety and sanitation through their participation in professional development groups, exhibitions, presentations, and networking sessions at IAFP 2023.

Food Safety Culture as an insightful session topic certainly stood out. One of the key presenters, Lone Jespersen, Principal for Cultivate SA, aptly explained that when it comes to sustaining positive food safety behaviors, the transition from a mere “compliance culture” of meeting regulations and minimal standards to creating a fully internalized food-safety-focused culture among employees should be the aim of a multidisciplinary food safety team.

To hear more from Jesperson about food safety culture, sign up for Remco’s free webinar, “Food Safety Culture and Color-Coding: How to exceed compliance and simplify complexity”, on Oct. 26th, 2023 at 9 a.m. EST. She’ll be presenting along with Amit M. Kheradia, Remco’s Environmental Health and Sanitation Manager. If the webinar has already passed, you can still sign up to have a recording delivered to your email.

Other selected key sessions related to food safety, hygiene and sanitation issues were on:

  • Dry surface biofilm control strategies
  • Food safety concerns for sustainable products, such as organic, clean label brands
  • Allergen management in retail and foodservice sectors
  • Control of Salmonella and Cronobacter in low-moisture ready-to-eat dairy foods
  • Common prevention strategies used in improving food safety systems
  • Relevance of hygienically designed equipment in the produce sector
  • Updates on Canadian food safety regulations and standards

Sustainability trends and eco-friendly initiatives regarding plastics recycling and reuse were also explored by speakers from the food retail and laboratory testing institutions. Statistics from PlantSwitch reveal that about 80% of plastic waste ends up in a landfill. Current FDA and EU regulations require the use of food contact compliant plastics. However, there is a significant push among industry and regulators to change these requirements in the near future, to allow great use of recycled materials.

For more information about minimizing plastic waste, click here.

Pathogen environmental monitoring and investigation updates also took center stage. After the 2022 US outbreak linked to powdered infant formula, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists voted to include Cronobacter sakazakii on the CDC’s notifiable diseases surveillance system by 2024.

Some other foodborne pathogens on the current list of nationally notifiable diseases include Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Listeria monocytogenes.

Additionally, Remco proudly presented a poster (downloadable here) on trending FDA inspectional observations, spanning from fiscal years 2006 to 2022, that can be used to assess the common weak points in food safety and sanitation plans. This, along with the coordinating Professional Development Group presentation (delivered by Amit M. Kheradia, Environmental Health and Sanitation Manager for Remco), were well-received, thanks to its ability to assist with identifying the key equipment and sanitation issues to focus on and prioritize resources and programs:

 

To crown it all, there was a reason for our companywide celebration: Deb Smith, Vikan’s global hygiene specialist, received the prestigious IAFP Sanitarian of the Year award, sponsored by EcoLab. Group CEO Carsten Pedersen said, “This is a testament to Deb’s dedication, work, knowledge, and communication skills.” We couldn’t agree more, and congratulations, Deb, we are proud of your achievements.

Deb was also one of the instructors of a successful pre-conference workshop on dry sanitation strategies, and one of the panelists for a roundtable session that discussed the availability and improvement of sanitation tools and strategies for small-to-medium produce enterprises.

The closing remarks at the John H. Silliker Lecture were given by Randy Huffman, Chief Food Safety & Sustainability Officer for Maple Leaf Foods. Reminiscing on the 2008 Canadian Listeriosis outbreak that led to 57 confirmed illnesses and 22 deaths, he said there is a great need to set the right food safety culture in our factories and supply chains through implementing and sustaining a proactive, behavior-based food safety system. In his view, this requires “thoughtful reflection, collaborative execution, and strategic foresight” of the challenges and opportunities ahead of us.

The 2024 IAFP Conference will be held at the Long Beach Convention Center in California, from July 14-17th.