Stephen Hughes is Prevention Coordinator within the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), within the Office of Food Safety at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). After outbreaks and adverse incidents, he runs a systematic process to identify and implement public health interventions intended to help limit or prevent future outbreaks linked to certain FDA-regulated foods. Before coming to FDA, Stephen worked in a public health program in Virginia, in program areas that included food safety, indoor air quality, aquatic health, and general environmental health.   

Dr. Jennifer McEntire is Chief Food Safety and Regulatory Officer at the International Fresh Produce Association. Prior to the merger of United Fresh and Produce Marketing Association, Jennifer was Vice President of Food Safety and Technology at United Fresh Produce Association.

A food microbiologist by background, she has always worked in the Washington D.C., area, bringing a scientific perspective to food safety regulatory issues. She was previously Vice President of Science Operations at the Grocery Manufacturers Association. She has served as Vice President and Chief Science Officer at The Acheson Group and as the Senior Staff Scientist and Director of Science and Technology Projects at the Institute of Food Technologists.

Jennifer earned a Ph.D. from Rutgers University as a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Needs Fellow in food safety. She serves as an advisory board member of the Global Food Traceability Center, the technical committee of the Center for Produce Safety, and she is on the executive committee of the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance.

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In this episode of Food Safety Matters, we speak with Stephen and Jennifer  [3:35] about:

  • FDA’s three main reasons—epidemiological, logistical, and relational—for taking a commodity-specific, collaborative approach to reducing foodborne illness outbreaks
  • The key importance of prevention in mitigating food safety incidents, and how collaboration between FDA and industry enables food producers to help inform and adopt effective prevention strategies
  • The types of conversations taking place between FDA, industry, academia, and public health partners throughout the development of prevention strategies
  • The learnings from past foodborne illness outbreaks that are considered when creating prevention strategies and identifying future work areas to align cross-sector stakeholders
  • The possibility of filling some of the gaps in the Produce Safety Rule with commodity-specific prevention strategies
  • The challenges of conducting root-cause analysis in the produce sector, the benefits of getting industry to buy in to the practice, and how the conversation around root-cause analysis could be improved
  • Why educating industry to be critical thinkers about produce safety (rather than which minimum requirements to fulfill) provides the greatest opportunity for improving outcomes
  • FDA’s intent to develop a prevention strategy for powdered infant formula in light of recent events, and how the agency is collaborating with stakeholders to identify other commodities that are deserving of prevention strategies.

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