Food safety emerges as unifying themeWritten by Natasha Wheeler
Fort Collins, Colo. – Experts from around the U.S. met in Fort Collins, Colo. Jan. 8-9 to discuss current issues in global food production at the International Livestock Forum, hosted by Colorado State University (CSU). Out of over 150 applicants, 20 university students involved in agriculture-related programs from around the world were also selected to attend.
Keith Belk, professor of meat safety and quality at CSU, highlighted a common theme that ran through all of the presentations given at the conference.
“Food safety has entered the arena on every single topic that we’ve discussed, whether it was maintaining access to export markets or making sure that a beef purveyor has places to distribute products in New York City, N.Y.,” Belk remarked.
Belk continued, “Every company that produces a meat product in the livestock industry today has been forced, without regulatory requirements, to implement global safety initiate standards – standards that exert control over both safety and quality in their operations.”
Regardless of whether they produce fresh or processed meats and regardless of size, he argued that if a company such as Walmart declares they will only sell products that meet global safety initiative standards, producers will meet that demand to gain a place in the market.
This market pressure is created by means that go beyond regulatory requirements to improve the control of food safety and management in food production systems.
“This is something that’s affecting the industry in a big way. It’s something that costs money but has gained demand by the folks who buy products from these plants,” he comments.
Although much of this pressure is market-driven, Belk also pointed out that July 25, 2016 will mark the 20th anniversary of the implementation of a final rule titled the Pathogen Reduction and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) rule.
“How has this evolved the industry and what sorts of things do we have to look forward to in the future as a consequence of what has happened during that 20-year span of time?” he questioned.
The rule was created to set certain food safety performance standards and establish testing programs to ensure that those standards are met. It also assigned new tasks to inspectors to adequately review the set standards.
“We have a lot of graduate and undergraduate students in programs around the country studying animal science and food safety,” Belk stated. “One thing they all have in common is, to remain in this industry in the future, they will all have to know something about food safety.”
He explained that the demand for food safety creates a demand for people who are technically competent and can assist companies as they implement programs to address safety management issues.
“We should be thinking about the potential that exists for us and our careers,” he noted. “Food safety is permeating everything we do in livestock and meat production.”