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Going Quantum with Event Coverage

About the same time that ADPI came into being, the world’s top scientists were laying the groundwork for quantum physics. One of their more interesting predictions was the possibility that the fundamental building blocks of our universe could be linked together instantaneously and over limitless distances, a phenomenon that Einstein called “spooky action at a distance” (probably what made his hair stand on end like you see in the famous photos). 

Today physicists call this extraordinary linkage a quantum entanglement. You cause something to happen with a particle over here, and the very same thing happens to its entangled partner, halfway across the universe, at the same time.

“What on earth does this have to do with dairy?!” you will be asking right about now. Well, even though your ADPI casts a pretty broad net when it comes to industry knowledge, classical thinking would tell you that we can’t be in two places at the same time.

Enter quantum physics, and we absolutely can! This past week, your ADPI attended both IFT FIRST at McCormick Place in Chicago, and the International Association for Food Protection Conference (IAFP) in Toronto! Actually we pulled this off by the tried-and-true “divide and conquer” method: one force (comprised of KJ, Tara, Katie, and Steve) descended on IFT, while the other brushed up on his Canadian and dug the passport out of the desk drawer.

IFT is a pretty familiar event to most, but IAFP may be a little less well known to the masses.  As its name suggests, the core theme of IAFP content is food safety and all things related.  IAFP reports that they have 4,497 members as of the end of June this year, and about 3,200 people registered as attendees for this year’s conference.

The following is a recap from Andy Powers, ADPI Vice President of Technical Services on his attendance at the 2023 International Association for Food Protection Conference (IAFP) which was held in Toronto, Canada.

Figure 1: Einstein contemplating the "spooky" nature of quantum entanglement (we can't actually back this up)

ADPI was already strong in the field of food safety, with our own expert food scientist KJ Burrington in the role of Technical Development, and with Marianne Smukowski’s 35+ years of dairy food safety experience in our Center of Excellence; but we knew we could and should expand our knowledge in this area, so ADPI joined IAFP as a Sustaining Member, and we made sure to engage at their annual conference to start leveraging our investment.  Yours truly got the nod to attend, learn, and report back.

What did we learn?  Here are a few highlights:

  • Our work to revise the ADPI Ingredient Standards, including taking our first small steps toward enhanced food safety, is right on track according to Dr. Sarah Cahill, Senior Foods Standards Officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (the FAO).  In her keynote lecture, she not only acknowledged that good, useful standards are living documents that evolve with the times, but also that they literally “save lives” in her own words.  Great to get some reinforcement, and from a world-renowned subject matter expert!
  • There was substantial focus on microbial bad actor Cronobacter sakazakii, of infant formula recall fame in the past year’s news.  Not only did we learn a bit more about what makes this troublesome bacterium tick, but we also heard the rumor mill churning about something new in the works at FDA on this subject.  Our interpretation of that widespread chatter:  that “C sak” is likely to be elevated to the same degree of concern as Listeria and Salmonella across the entire food chain, not just the subject of some limited guidance documents for dry infant formula available on  Is the U.S. going to set maximum permissible levels throughout the food supply chain, by category and risk level of the application?  Sounds like we’ll know something sooner rather than later.
  • Speaking of C. sakazakii, data was presented which illustrated that a typical four-zone hygiene program appears to be
    Figure 2: “Global Moose” (mascot of the Metro Toronto Convention Center, and potential source of pathogenic E. coli)
    pretty capable to reduce Salmonella from 22% positive test results in Zone 4 down to none detected by Zone 1; but that same program did not eliminate “C sak” which was prevalent at 14% in Zone 4 and still detectable 1% of the time in Zone 1.  Lots of great information at the conference about how to get the most bang for your buck with your environmental monitoring program, especially when it comes to Cronobacter.
  • Did you know that 17% of listeriosis cases in the U.S. were attributed to Hispanic-style cheeses, between 2008 and 2017?  This category is growing over 7% year on year, and the industry has ample opportunity to improve in its prevention strategies and track record.  We learned about the numerous approaches, both available and under development, to mitigate risk in this commercially important dairy category.
  • Speaking of Hispanic-style cheeses, this rapidly growing segment is also apparently very fragmented and distrusting, concerned more about preserving trade secrets than about pre-competitive collaboration to mutual benefit.  Does this mean that ADPI has an opportunity to bring this industry together in an atmosphere of trust and cooperation?  Food for thought…Still speaking of cheese, did you know that cheesemaking is ironically one of the reference processes (brewing is another) for food safety risk assessment of cellular agriculture / precision fermentation technologies?  Does this knowledge give us traction to understand CA/PF’s value proposition better, and perhaps to emphasize real dairy as a truly safer production pathway if we can identify inherent advantages?
  • FDA is increasing its scrutiny on the validation of kill steps in the manufacture of some products, such as low-moisture and acidified foods.  Dairy relies on scrupulous adherence to legally defined pasteurization conditions, but will there come a time when we are challenged to show our own case-by-case proof that these predetermined and long-standing practices continue to be effective in our facilities today?  No intent to be alarmist here, just acknowledging that there is less and less tolerance by regulators for manufacturers who rely solely on past practice to justify today’s approach.
  • Did you know that Dubai uses the same methodology to manage its Foodwatch food safety application that I recommended as a
    Figure 4: Development process management tool for Dubai’s comprehensive food safety app “Foodwatch”
    systems thinking tool in my webinar last week?  The rapid response technique known as Scrum is apparently gaining traction in the world practice of food safety corrective & preventive action.  I called it!
  • We learned about the so-called “certification market” which is the dangerous trend toward commoditization of food safety standards, potentially losing sight of their true purpose in favor of solely their value to facilitate commerce.  How to keep standards in balance between protecting the consumer and enabling trade?
  • GFSI is looking at a major overhaul to its service “in the greater good” including implementation of a new Auditor Training & Professional Development program as well as more granular plans for benchmarking, development and preservation of competencies, enhancing public & private partnerships for food safety, and providing an online platform to confirm certification status for all schemes which are GFSI-recognized, not just a subset of them.

Hopefully these report-back excerpts whet your appetite for further discussion, so please do not hesitate to reach out for more information about any of the highlights described above, or with questions about other topics in the realm of food safety, “spooky” or otherwise.  You know how to find me!


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