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Editor’s Note: Quality Assurance staff are on the ground in Pittsburgh for this year’s IAFP 2022. follow us on Twitter for live updates.

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Day 2, the first full day of sessions at IAFP 2022, kicked off with morning sessions that included one on the hygienic design of food processing facilities and equipment.

During the Food Safety by Design session, Dimitri Tavernarakis of Mondelez International spoke about the cost savings inherent in companies investing in hygienic design, including improved productivity and efficiency on the facility floor and equipment reliability.

“Complacency is not acceptable when it comes to food safety,” Gale Prince, SAGE Food Safety Consultants, told the session.

After lunch, Frank Yiannas, Assistant Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and Sanra Eskin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Food Safety, Department of Agriculture (USDA), gave participants an update on what their agencies are doing. at.

The update, an annual event, began with information from Eskin that the USDA was announcing action to declare Salmonella an adulterant in raw breaded and stuffed chicken products.

These include products typically sold in a grocery store freezer section stuffed with meat, cheese, or a vegetable component, such as frozen chicken cordon bleu.

Since 1998, FSIS and its public health partners have investigated 14 salmonella outbreaks potentially associated with these products, which Eskin says often appear to be cooked, but are actually raw.

“We have consistently failed to meet our public health goals to reduce salmonella infections, so it’s time for a change,” she said.

Eskin said FSIS is developing a comprehensive strategy that will focus on salmonella checks when chickens enter slaughter and processing establishments.

After Eskin, Yiannas used her time to talk about the future of the food industry and some of the challenges it faces.

“These are difficult times in our country and around the world, as the food system faces unprecedented challenges,” he said. “But with challenges come opportunities.”

Citing new food products and new delivery methods, Yiannas said a food revolution was underway, but food safety could be improved through things like data collection and sharing.

“Imagine a future in which all the information we need about food is at our fingertips,” Yiannas said.

In a moment that drew awkward laughter from the crowd, Yiannas somewhat rhetorically asked the audience, “Are we winning the battle against foodborne illness?

To which Eskin, who was still on stage from the Q&A session, replied, “Not really.”

During the Q&A session, an audience member asked Yiannas about a plan to provide consumers with safer and clearer food handling instructions.

“It has to be more than a label,” Yiannas said. “Consumers don’t pay too much attention to labels. We need to go much further.”

Another question, in response to Yiannas’ mention of the need for better data, someone in the crowd asked how can agencies influence tech to get involved in food security as it relates to data? »

“You name the tech company, I have conversations with them,” Yiannas said in an interesting tease.

The afternoon sessions included a discussion on the use of consumer research to inform food labeling policy. Speakers such as Aaron Lavallee, USDA – FSIS, Lisa A. Shelley, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, and Donna M. Garren, American Frozen Food Institute, Woodbridge, Va., spoke about how consumers interact with labels and how that can help industry and agencies improve them.

Lavallée, in a Do you remember when? moment, shared a photo of his pager to illustrate a larger point about effective communication.

“We just changed the way we communicate [since the time of pagers]”, he said. “There was not a time in history when we had more information at our fingertips. So how do you overcome that?”

During the session Where the Wild Things Are: Foraging for Fungi Food Safety, Laura Gieraltowski of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described recent outbreaks in several states linked to fresh or dried mushrooms, including a listeria outbreak in 2017-2018 .

Dr. Florence Wu of Aemtek discussed the popularity of foraging and the specialty mushroom industry. Mushroom poisoning causes nearly 1,400 emergency hospital visits each year in the United States, Wu said. nightmare dressed as a daydream.”

“There are old mushroom hunters and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old and bold mushroom hunters,” Wu added.

During the session Hold the phone! The Role of Celebrity Chefs and Influencers in Food Safety Messaging, a panel discussion weighed the pros and cons of food influencers going viral on platforms like TikTok and Instagram from a food safety perspective. Nicole L. Arnold, a professor of nutritional science at East Carolina University, gave the example of a concerning new trend: submerging avocados in jars of water for months in an attempt to preserve their shelf life. . Cheetie Kumar, a chef in Raleigh, North Carolina, said seeing these trends is “like watching a car accident.”

Ellen W. Evans of the ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Center said the problem with shortened reels on Instagram and TikTok is “there’s definitely no time for people to include food safety information.”

Arnold added that food safety professionals need to be prepared for the heat if they call an influencer online, both from the influencer and their dedicated fan base.

“They take advantage of misinformation and make a lot of money doing it,” Arnold said. “And we are a threat for that.”

Speaking about TikTok trends that intersect with food safety, QA Advisory Board member and frequent contributor Darin Detwiler, stopped by the QA booth in the exhibit hall to talk about the pink sauce viral trend and more. Check out the full interview!

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