Why did you choose a career in food safety?
I have always been involved with food production in some way, being raised on a farm. I have always liked the sciences and received my degree in biochemistry from Purdue University. I will admit that I originally thought that I would end up in the pharmaceutical industry or in a career as a veterinarian or doctor, but when I sought a job upon graduation, found that the food industry and Quality Assurance presented me with an opportunity to continue my lifelong relationship with food production, while applying my learnings in science. As my career progressed, I continued to develop more understanding of HACCP and the science behind preventative controls. This has led to a lifelong process of learning and re-learning that locked me into a very satisfying career.
What are the main responsibilities in your role?
As Senior Vice President - Technical Services and Corporate Quality for Bumble Bee Foods, I am a member of the company's senior leadership team. I advise our senior leadership team and lead the company's efforts in the areas of Quality, Regulatory Affairs, Consumer Response and Research & Development programs. In addition to leading these internal efforts, I am active in various technical groups within Grocery Manufacture’s Association and National Fisheries Institute and have focused upon HACCP, traceability and food defense initiatives. To give you idea of some of the things I have done outside of Bumble Bee, which have allowed me to develop networks, learn and keep abreast of changes in science and regulations, I offer the following. I chaired the GMA Food Defense Committee for two years and currently chair the FSMA Intentional Adulteration Working Group, am a member of the Science & Regulatory Affairs Committee and Science & Regulatory Affairs Executive Committee, as well as, several GMA committees and working groups. I led NFI’s development & launch of a canned Tuna HACCP manual & the US Seafood Traceability Implementation Guide in 2010 and 2011 and currently am a member of the GS1 Retail Grocery Initiative Executive Leadership Committee. I’m also a member of the Institute of Food Technologists and have participated in IFT’s traceability initiatives as a member of its 2011 Traceability Advisory Board and as a member of the 2012 IFT/FDA Processed Food Traceability Pilot Oversight Panel providing guidance and comment to IFT on the development, execution and reporting of this important project mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act for FDA. I have participated on IFT’s Advisory Council for the Global Food Traceability Center. I am also a member of Momentum’s Food and Beverage Exchange Advisory Board.
What do you see as being the key changes in the industry in the next 5 years?
Consumer transparency will drive much of what we do as an industry to build upon an excellent food safety base. Consumers are demanding more and more information on the source of the ingredients and packaging of their food. They want to know who made their food and where. They want to know why certain ingredients are used. In the event of a recall, they want immediate information on whether they might have the problem product and what to do if they do. Additionally, we will continue to see the further globalization of our supply chains as consumers worldwide demand access to products from diverse markets.
We will also need to ensure that unique food safety challenges are anticipated and dealt with prior to them presenting themselves in outbreaks of illnesses. Focus upon prevention and alignment of worldwide food safety regulations will continue to be the rallying cry for food safety professionals into the foreseeable future.
This ever-increasing amount of information sharing among all parties to accomplish these things will require us to have technology platforms in place to deal with these needs in real time.
What are the three biggest challenges you face on a daily basis?
The pace of change, the amount of transparency demanded by the consumer and the constantly changing supply chain are probably the biggest challenges we face daily and I suspect that many in the industry also face. While these are challenges, they are also great opportunities for anyone that embraces them. Let me expand a bit.
Although the pace of change is ever increasing, this is forcing us to rethink and replace the food safety systems and the technology needed to deliver increasing levels of food safety performance. While this continues to drive work, constant invention and reinvention done right drives effectiveness and efficiency.
The amount of transparency demanded by the consumer is challenging us to re-think past paradigms of not trusting the consumer and to work to gather, store and share a vast amount of information with them. Companies that embrace this challenge are more likely to develop brand loyalty over the long term. While this presents work for us, it is a necessary part of continuing to evolve our business.
The food industry continues to evolve and global supply chains work to chase the sources of foods demanded by their consumers. This requires us to develop new relationships and establish new supporting infrastructure for these relationships. Make no mistake, this is work and there is much work yet to do. However, we are seeing ever-increasing coordination and cooperation between regulators in different countries and overall enhancement of food safety systems as this global supply chain continues to develop.
What advice can you give manufactures in order to prepare for the FSMA Intentional Adulteration Rule?
As I continue to interact with various people and organizations, it is surprising how many have not yet read the rule or guidance and how many feel that since they have passed CTPAT and GFSI audits they are ready for the new requirements. So, first, if you have not read the rule and guidance, please do. There are many requirements that may surprise you. For those of you that do not have food defense plans in place, get educated and get started. Compliance for most companies is coming this next summer and there is a fair amount of work to do. For those of you that already have food defense plans in place, review them. You may have to enhance them to meet the requirements. For all manufacturers, note that two critical requirements under the rule are game changing. You must consider the threat of an insider attack and most facility wide mitigation strategies are not considered effective against the insider. For those that have been focusing upon development or enhancement of their plans, these requirements have been eye opening.
What do you think are the key benefits of the FSMA International Adulteration Rule?
From my perspective, one of the biggest benefits of the FSMA IA Rule is that it raises the level of awareness and preparation for prevention of an intentional source of contamination to the same level of as that of accidental contamination. Just as in the case of accidental contamination, requiring a framework for anticipating sources of intentional contamination and ways to minimize the likelihood of that contamination will ensure a more robust approach than leaving it up to chance. With the IA rule, Food Defense plans will get attention not only by regulators, but also by customers in supply contracts, by third party auditors in their audit schemes and by employees through their awareness and engagement.
Just like food safety, we will see an increase in resources available to help with implementation, research vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies and develop more efficient methods to reduce the vulnerability and risk. Just like food safety, we are beginning an exciting journey of invention and re-invention.
Steven will speak at the American Food Sure Summit about the FSMA Intentional Adulteration Rule.