The 2021 Virtual Food Safety Summit continued at 10 a.m. CDT on May 11, with a keynote entitled “The New Role and Responsibilities of the Food Safety Professional in the COVID-19 World.” The keynote was presented by Craig Wilson, vice president, general merchandise manager, Costco, who shared the issues he faced over the past year due to the pandemic and his experience addressing them.

The presentation also touched on the expanded role of the food safety professional in crisis management, how to keep employees and shoppers safe, civil liberties versus common sense, and how to reconcile conflicting guidelines from federal, state, and local regulators.

The webinar was moderated by Food Safety Magazine’s own publisher, Stacy Atchison.

Wilson shared many anecdotes from the halls of Costco, including some regarding civil liberties versus choice (“You’ve all seen the YouTube videos,” he joked). Costco has pandemic rules in place, including that all Costco members must wear a mask while shopping, and Costco implemented these rules based on scientific guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Members have the choice to shop there or not, based on these rules.

Wilson also mentioned how to empower Costco employees to deal with situations where members may not want to follow the rules, such as if a member refuses to wear a face mask while shopping. He also said that food safety/quality employees tend to be the “go-to” staff to deal information regarding the pandemic, because those employees understand contact tracing, food safety requirements, and sanitation methods.

In addition, Wilson discussed virtual food safety/animal welfare audits, and he said that there are many options now to accomplish this, including digital data sharing, such as blockchain.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was also brought up, as some health departments are having OSHA take the lead. Wilson talked about how OSHA also has a very good COVID-19 website, with a lot of information from the CDC, and he is interested to see if OSHA will become more involved in the actual food safety world.

Wilson also talked about reconciling conflicting information—for example, when there’s a COVID-19 outbreak at a business, the city health department may say that all results have to be reported to them first, versus reporting to the county or state health departments.

Don’t forget to check out the agenda for the Virtual Food Safety Summit here. The Summit will continue May 11–13, 2021.