By Dr. Randall Huffman is Chief Food Safety Officer of Maple Leaf Foods
This week [Editor’s note: this article originally appeared on October 25, 2010. See the bottom of this post for details.] the federal government issued a progress report on actions it’s taken to strengthen food safety. The report is available on the CFIA site and it outlines significant progress made since the 2008 listeriosis outbreak and in response to the report delivered in 2009 by the independent investigator tasked to make recommendations around strengthening food safety systems.
Key to this has been new money it announced towards a five year Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan. Just one of the investments the government is making: $13 million for increased inspection capacity for meat and poultry processing facilities this year and next. It has also been linking up more laboratories to the PulseNet Canada network to allows DNA fingerprints across Canada to be compared and to identify sources of illness in real time. It outlined clearer roles and responsibilities in the event of health emergencies and new leadership with the appointment in May of a Chief Food Safety Officer. And it has improved communications outreach so it can better inform Canadians, including new online tools.
And the government is working with companies like ours to ensure the entire system – with public and private sector members – is working together. The new Agri-Subcommittee on Food Safety (ASFS) has met several times and these meetings are facilitating good cooperation between companies such as ourselves and Health Canada, the CFIA and food safety partners.
There’s still more to do however – for government and companies. We’ll be looking for evidence of progress on steps the government has committed to complete, such as finalizing new guidelines around recalls and the revised policy on Listeria monocytogenes. We’re especially interested in seeing the approval of a range of new technologies that are commonly in use elsewhere in the world such as technologies that facilitate rapid-testing of foodborne pathogens. It’s important for Canadian companies to have approval to use the range of food safety tools that are being used elsewhere, notably in the US, so that our systems are robust and complementary to regulatory requirements. We are also anxious for government to provide ongoing reporting of industry compliance to the regulatory requirements so that the industry can hold ourselves accountable for continuous improvement against meeting and exceeding the standards.
Canadians want to know that companies and government officials are cooperating and moving ahead with improvements and better regulation and we are. There’s been a lot of progress since 2008, demonstrating that the lessons learned during that year are being implemented and backed up by good collaboration between the food industry and public health agencies.
About this article:
This article originally appeared in the Maple Leaf Foods Blog on Food Safety Leadership on October 25, 2010.
Food safety has been increasingly in the news since the August 2008 Listeriosis outbreak and rightly so, since Maple Leaf deli meats contaminated with Listeria led to the tragic loss of life of 23 Canadians and made many others ill.
Maple Leaf Foods believes it is its responsibility to maintain direct and open communications on a subject that is of high interest and importance to everyone. This blog will engage leaders from Maple Leaf Foods including:
CEO, Michael McCain
Chief Food Safety Officer Dr. Randall Huffman
Senior Vice President, Food Safety and Quality Assurance Sharon Beals
Maple Leaf Foods will also enlist the help of other food safety experts in a dialogue with interested Canadians and others as we continue on our journey to food safety leadership.
This blog will feature commentary on Maple Leaf Foods’ progress, including videos and podcasts, address topics and questions related to Listeria and other food safety issues, and respond to events as they occur.
Maple Leaf Foods invites you to interact with us through this blog, sharing your comments, questions and opinions. They look forward to engaging in a productive and candid conversation on this important topic.
About Dr. Randall Huffman:
Dr. Randall Huffman is Chief Food Safety Officer of Maple Leaf Foods.
In his current position, Dr. Huffman is responsible for leading Maple Leaf’s food safety and quality assurance programs. This includes working with the Company’s protein and bakery businesses to identify, assess and implement best operating practices, standardized processes, new technologies, and other initiatives that support Maple Leaf’s leadership in food safety and quality assurance. Randy will also support the establishment of a Food Safety Advisory Council, a team of experts with the mandate to increase Maple Leaf’s access to global knowledge and expertise in areas of food safety, microbiology and public education.
Dr. Huffman joined Maple Leaf Foods in January 2009. Previously, he was President of the American Meat Institute (AMI) Foundation, the research, education and information arm of AMI. As President of the Foundation he led the Food Safety Initiative, which funded over 60 food safety research projects during his tenure. Dr. Huffman also worked with federal agencies to increase support of food safety research; represented AMI on numerous issues related to food safety; and managed a range of research projects related to nutrition, diet and health issues. Randy also served as a primary technical and scientific resource to the industry on food safety and meat quality. Prior to joining AMI, he held senior positions related to food safety, quality assurance and product development in the food industry.
Dr. Huffman holds a Ph.D. and M.S. degree in Meat and Animal Science from the University of Florida in addition to a B.Sc. degree in Animal Science from Auburn University. He is an active member of the American Meat Science Association, the International Association of Food Protection, and the Institute of Food Technologists. He has participated on numerous university and government food safety advisory panels including the Cornell University Institute of Food Science Advisory Council, and U.S. Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative food safety research review panels
About Maple Leaf Foods:
Maple Leaf Foods is a leading consumer packaged food company, headquartered in Toronto with operations across Canada and in the United States, United Kingdom, Asia and Mexico. We make high quality, great tasting, nutritious and innovative food products and are proud to have our leading, national brands such as Maple Leaf, Schneiders™, and Dempster’s™ in the cupboards and refrigerators of our consumers. People also know us by our well-known and trusted national household brands such as Olivieri™ and Maple Leaf Prime Naturally™, and other brands including POM™, Shopsy’s™, Mitchell’s Gourmet Foods™, Ben’s™, Bon Matin™, Burns™, Chevalier™ and Hygrade™, and the New York Bakery Co. ™ in the United Kingdom.
We pride ourselves as Passionate People, Passionate about Food. We employ 23,500 people and our culture is values-based and action-oriented – one that is rich in leadership development and continuous improvement.