In the mid 1990’s, the Jack-in-the-Box and Odwalla tragedies marked the beginning of an era of enlightenment for me, and many others involved in public health, education and food industry. I had previously considered food poisoning an uncomfortable, sometimes serious, but temporary non-fatal illness. The tragedies involving young children exposed to E. Coli 0157:H7, directly and indirectly, profoundly shook my confidence in the safety of the food supply. As a father of 3 young children at the time, I became very concerned for the safety of my family.
On a professional level, as a director of third party certification programs at NSF, it became apparent to me that many aspects of the supply chain, from farm to fork, needed standardization, validation and verification. Indeed, we witnessed an entire third party audit/certification industry rise up in response to the multiple outbreaks, deaths, illnesses and lawsuits that fundamentally changed corporate priorities for suppliers, processors and retailers. USDA and parts of FDA formally adopted HACCP as the modern prevention based scientific strategy to minimize pathogens in the food supply. The passage of FSMA in 2011 addressed every step in the food supply chain, except one – Consumer Food Safety. As long as some food commodities are sometimes microbiologically contaminated with bacteria that must be addressed through a control step by the consumer, a major responsibility for safety rests with the consumer. Basically, food safety knowledge and practices must extend to the consumer.
I first became aware of the Partnership for Food Safety Education in the mid to late 1990’s thanks to the leadership of the Food Marketing Institute. It was through their generosity and leadership that the PFSE came to life and brought together public and private organizations to help educate consumers. At the time, there was no comparable organization, and Fight Bac! was launched.
At the first USDA/NSF Consumer Food Safety Education conference in 2006 in Denver, the Partnership emerged as a prominent force in the quest to educate the public. The Partnership also meshed nicely with the newly created NSF hand washing program for kids – Scrub Club. It was then that I recommended that NSF become a contributing partner to PFSE and I had the honor of joining the Board of Directors. At the 2010 USDA/NSF Consumer Food Safety Education Conference in Atlanta, attendance exceeded capacity, thanks in large part to the participation and assistance of PFSE and FightBac!
As a Board member, and more recently as Board Chair, I take great pride in having contributed in a very small way to the success of the Partnership. I enjoy the organizations and the people it attracts – concerned citizens from all walks of life. Most BAC Fighters are health and food safety educators from public and private sectors who multiply the messages to keep consumers safe. And since there are new consumers born every day, the Partnership’s work is never done. It has been an honor to be associated with such a dedicated group of hard working volunteers, but especially with Shelley Feist and her wonderful staff.
If you haven’t been to a Partnership meeting, attend one. If you have the ability to serve on the Board of Directors, apply. I am very confident you too will find it a very worthwhile and rewarding experience.