The annual Poultry Federation Food Safety Conference continues to be one of the best food safety conferences in the United States. In it's fourth year, the FSC invites leaders from the academic, regulatory, live production, processing, foodservice, and retail communities to share the latest in food safety research and best practices.
With the new USDA Performance Standards on the horizon, much of the discussion revolved how processors can comply with the regulations. Dr. Dan Englejohn kicked the conference off by going into detail on the implementation of the new standards which go into effect May 11, 2016. He reminded attendees that even though the emphasis is shifting toward parts and comminuted poultry, whole birds aren't going away. In fact, one plant could conceivably be placed in up to 10 different Categories depending on their product mix. Dr. Englejohn also highlighted the new sampling methodology, including sample frequency and sample size (325g instead of 25g). Finally, he outlined the potential consequences of a plant dropping into Category 3 for a certain product type, including increased sampling, CDC and state government notification, and the implementation of a 90-day correction window.
Presenters from industry-leading companies like Keystone Foods, Pilgrim's Pride, Cargill, and Tyson, discussed the specifics of their food safety plans. Kendra Waldbusser (Pilgrim's Pride) was exceptionally transparent. Her presentation included an indicator organism biomap that showed EB counts on product as it moved through each production zone. As she walked the audience through each plant's biomap, she shared success stories as well as challenges that Pilgrim's has faced in implementing various intervention strategies. She recommended looking at the microbial load going into the chiller as an indicator of what the final parts numbers will be.
If there was a refrain throughout the whole conference, it was "total process control". The value of a conference like the Poultry Federation's Food Safety Conference is that it is designed around total process control, with speakers from each stage in the process represented. These experts each gave insight into what their organization is doing to promote food safety in their segment of the value chain. Many of the presenters emphatically talked about the importance of sharing data throughout the entire production chain: from live production all the way to the restaurant/retailer. Since the poultry industry has a high degree of vertical integration, there is no reason to hoard data in silos within a company, whether it be between live production and the processing plant or even different business units in the same company.
By fostering better food safety collaboration within an organization (and even between organizations), the safer the food we work to produce can be. In the end, companies must embrace the oft-repeated mantra: "food safety is not a competitive advantage."
To view speaker presentations from the 2016 Poultry Federation Food Safety Conference, click here.
For a implications of the new USDA Performance Standards and a downloadable quick reference guide, click here.