On November 2nd, the Wisconsin Association for Food Protection (WAFP) held their annual Fall Food Safety Workshop at the headquarters of Covance Laboratories in Madison, WI. An audience of over 50 members of industry, government and academia gathered to hear the latest developments in food regulation, microbiological safety and other food safety initiatives.

WAFP President Linda Olson (Century Foods; Sparta, WI) welcomed the attendees and introduced the first speakers of the day. Jeffrey Bernhardt, Supervisory Consumer Safety Officer for the FDA based out of Milwaukee, opened the program by providing an update on the rollout of the Food Safety Modernization Act and Preventive Controls. Jeff deftly handled numerous questions from the audience, including many on the topics of supplier verification and establishing supply chain programs to maintain product safety. Next, Rachel Klos, epidemiologist for the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, detailed how outbreak investigations proceed at both the state and federal level. This was of much interest to those industry members in the audience and a lively discussion ensued about worker health and possible transmission of disease to food commodities as well as the potential legal responsibilities if this occurred.

The 2017 Food Safety Leadership Award went to Marianne Smukowski at the recent WAFP November meeting.

Cynthia Austin, Senior Microbiologist for AFCO Zep, informed the audience of the effective ways to treat meat and cheese brines in order to inactivate microbiological pathogens, including the use of several chemical additives, filtration systems and electrolysis of water systems. This talk was incredibly informative, especially to the numerous cheese manufacturers in the room. WAFP President-elect Adam Borger (University of Wisconsin; Madison, WI) then explained the new USDA options for establishing a 5-log10 reduction of Salmonella in certain ready-to-eat meat products.

The WAFP business meeting was held over lunch where we welcomed our newly elected 2nd vice-president board member, Erin Headley (Schreiber Foods; Green Bay, WI) and our new treasurer, Adam Brock (Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board; Madison, WI). We then thanked Linda Olson for her service as WAFP president and also Bob Wills (Cedar Grove Cheese; Milwaukee, WI) for his service as treasurer.

After the business meeting, WAFP Vice President Jay Myrick (Kerry Ingredients; Beloit, WI) introduced the final three speakers of the day. Benjamin Axell, 3M Food Safety, led off the afternoon by detailing some common misunderstandings that laboratories have when conducting microbiological testing including the importance of knowing which methods have been validated for certain product matrices and the process of method validation. Marianne Smukowski from the University of Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research then discussed the enormous amount of work that she and others have been performing around the state of Wisconsin to ensure that small to medium sized cheese makers are compliant with new regulations from FDA including the pertinent FSMA rules and introducing those cheese-makers to the new FDA guidance on Listeria environmental monitoring. Finally, Julie Carver, Sargento Foods Food Safety and Quality, discussed the FDA Listeria environmental monitoring guidance in depth and how her company and other large cheese manufacturers may choose to adopt the approaches within the document.

The day closed with the awarding of the WAFP Food Safety Leadership award. This award is given yearly to those persons showing dedication to improving food safety through research, training and/or outreach. We were very pleased to present the 2017 Food Safety Leadership Award to Marianne Smukowski from the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Dairy Research in recognition of her years of service to improve food safety in the cheese and dairy industry throughout Wisconsin and around the world.

The meeting was adjourned by new WAFP president Adam Borger who thanked all in attendance for helping make this meeting, as one attendee remarked, “one of the best WAFP meetings I have ever been to.”