Food Safety Summit May 6-9, 2025
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FSS 2023: Risk Culture—How to Balance Risks for the Safety of Consumers, Team Members, and the Environment

FSS keynote stage

The 2023 Food Safety Summit keynote presentation, which took place on Wednesday morning, focused on a conversation with modern, forward-thinking executives on the topic of balancing risks for the safety of consumers, team members, and the environment.

Panelists included Michael Eckhardt, Michael Eckhardt, Senior Vice President, Chief Legal and Risk Officer, and Secretary for Wawa Inc.; Randy Huffman, Ph.D., Chief Food Safety and Sustainability Officer at Maple Leaf Foods; and David McDonald, President and CEO of OSI Group. The session was moderated by Lone Jespersen, Ph.D., Principal of Cultivate.

The panelists discussed how successful food companies manage risks that sometimes compete for investments and leadership attention, including learning how to partner with colleagues from human safety, sustainability, and animal welfare to improve food safety performance and deepen your company’s food safety culture. The executives also shared specific challenges and wins from their respective organizations, along with the cultural solutions that help them successfully manage risk.

Before the panel discussion, Food Safety Magazine (FSM) Publisher Stacy Atchison took the stage to thank the Food Safety Summit Editorial Advisory Board (EAB), in particular, EAB Chair Gillian Kelleher, who Stacy revealed will return as EAB Chair for the 2024 Summit.

Stacy next invited FSM Editorial Director Adrienne Blume to the stage to present the 2023 FSM Distinguished Service Award to Michael R. Taylor, who has focused on modernizing the U.S. food system throughout his career, including implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) during his time at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He also worked in industry, academia, and the nonprofit sector, serving as a board member for Stop Foodborne Illness. “I just want to focus on thanking you, the people who work to ensure food safety every day,” Mr. Taylor remarked upon receiving his award. He also thanked Stop Foodborne Illness for contributing their stories and experiences to the cause of furthering food safety, as well as for defining the trajectory of his later career.

Panel Discussion

Chip Manual of Gojo Industries, Gold Sponsor of the Food Safety Summit, next took the stage to introduce the panelists before handing the podium to moderator Dr. Jespersen. She began by highlighting the importance of working with colleagues to “declutter and simplify” processes, thereby improving behaviors and culture within an organization to improve food safety and mitigate risks. “To do this, we have a bit of a leg up in the food safety industry, as we have some tips and tricks up our sleeve,” she said, before introducing the risk culture model.

The risk culture model focuses on three main branches: hazards, assessment, and responses. The risk culture model, as well as insights from the keynote discussion, will be summarized in the upcoming August/September 2023 issue of FSM.

The panelist discussion next kicked off under the theme of leadership. Mr. McDonald began by sharing his discovery of the concept of food safety culture, which showed him the importance of engaging the entire industry in mitigating risks, and allowing employees at all levels of an organization to use their voice to provide meaningful input to avoid food safety incidents. For example, OSI group promotes “look out, speak up, act now” within the organization. Mr. McDonald also explained how OSI group strives to “make food safety personal,” such as by asking frontline workers to think about how they ensure food safety while cooking their own recipes for their families at home.

Next, Mr. Eckhardt explained the power of translating the importance of food safety to employees and senior management in ways that are meaningful to them. Additionally, Dr. Huffman highlighted the importance of middle management specifically in mitigating food safety risks. He also discussed a strategy that improved risk management at Maple Leaf Foods, which is simplifying how performance is measured, because team members want to know that they are making a difference in an understandable way.

Dr. Jespersen then underscored the pertinence of using fact-based, data-informed decisions. The panelists explained how each of their organizations collect and leverage data to drive risk management discussions and decisions. They also discussed how organizations can reduce complexities while maintaining compliance, such as by “subtracting what does not add value” and using available technological tools. Also highlighted was the importance of making data and results visible to employees, as well as having one-on-one and small group discussions with frontline workers.

Subscribe to FSM for free to read a summary of the keynote presentation and be alerted when the article is published.

The 2023 Food Safety Summit is taking place at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois from May 8–11. Select sessions, such as the keynote presentation, are being broadcast live and can be viewed on demand for one year. Register to access!


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