Food Safety Forum

Shaping Listeria Science into Policy 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021 - Virtual Event

We are excited to hear these experts speakers from across academia, government and the food industry. Read about the work they've done to advance food safety in their respective positions.

Keynote: Food Safety Insights From Policy Leaders 11:00 a.m. (EDT)

Sandra Eskin

Sandra Eskin was appointed Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety on March 16, 2021. In this role, Mrs. Eskin leads the Office of Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, overseeing the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which has regulatory oversight for ensuring that meat, poultry and egg products are safe, wholesome and accurately labeled.

Prior to joining USDA, Mrs. Eskin was the Project Director for Food Safety at The Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C., a position she held since November 2009. She also served as the Deputy Director of the Produce Safety Project (PSP), a Pew-funded initiative at Georgetown University from 2008-2009. While at PSP, she was a senior scholar with the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University.

Mrs. Eskin spent nearly 20 years as a public-policy consultant to numerous consumer advocacy and public-interest organizations, providing strategic and policy advice on a broad range of consumer-protection issues, in particular food and drug safety, labeling, and advertising. She has served as a member of multiple federal advisory committees related to consumer information on prescription drugs, meat and poultry safety, and foodborne illness surveillance. During her career, she has written numerous reports and articles on food-safety topics. Mrs. Eskin received her J.D. from UC Hastings College of the Law, and her B.A. from Brown University.

Frank Yiannas

Frank Yiannas is the Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, a position he assumed in December of 2018. He is the principal advisor to the FDA Commissioner in the development and execution of policies related to food safety, including implementation of the landmark FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). His leadership role within the Agency covers a broad spectrum of food safety priorities, such as outbreak response, traceback investigations, product recall activities, and supply chain innovation across the full spectrum of FDA-regulated products.

Mr. Yiannas is, in effect, the Agency’s chief ambassador to reduce food safety risks and achieve high rates of compliance with FDA food safety standards, working to develop innovative collaborations with external partners and stakeholders and effective relationships with government and industry leaders, as well as consumer groups.

A renowned food safety expert and author, Mr. Yiannas came to FDA from leadership roles with two industry giants: Walmart and the Walt Disney Company. Through his career, he’s been recognized for his role in elevating food safety standards and building effective food safety management systems based on modern science and risk-based prevention principles.

His experiences in the food safety arena have also made him an advocate for the promotion of a Food Safety Culture to protect the world’s food supply, arguing that science and policy alone are not enough. Advancing food safety also requires an understanding of organizational culture and principles of human behavior. Engaging on this level to help shape an organization’s culture is the subject of his books Food Safety Culture, Creating a Behavior-based Food Safety Management System, and Food Safety = Behavior, 30 Proven Techniques to Enhance Employee Compliance.

Mr. Yiannas is a past president of the International Association for Food Protection and a past vice-chairman of the Global Food Safety Initiative.  He is also an adjunct Professor in the Food Safety Program at Michigan State University, and in 2017 was awarded the MSU Outstanding Faculty Award.

A microbiologist, Mr. Yiannas received a B.S. in microbiology from the University of Central Florida and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of South Florida.

The Latest Science on Listeria: Why is this important? 11:40 a.m. (EDT)

Dr. Donna Garren

Dr. Donna Garren is the Executive Vice President of Science and Policy for the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI).  Her extensive background and expertise in food safety, food science, nutrition and regulatory affairs are instrumental in building and enhancing strong and effective regulatory programs for the food and beverage industry.  Prior to joining AFFI, Dr. Garren was the President and General Manager for NSF Agriculture (formerly NSF Davis Fresh), a business unit of NSF International.  Dr. Garren has also held senior food safety and health positions with The Consumer Goods Forum, National Restaurant Association and United Fresh Produce Association. 

She earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Food Science and Technology from the University of Georgia and her Bachelor of Science in Food Science from Clemson University.

Risk-Based Listeria Management: Science, Policy, and Tools  - 11:50 a.m. (EDT)

Lisa Weddig (moderator)

Lisa Weddig is the Vice President of Regulatory and Technical Affairs for the National Fisheries Institute in McLean, Virginia. NFI is the leading industry association in the United States advocating for the seafood community, representing the seafood commerce chain from “water to table.” Joining NFI in 2007, she serves as the primary liaison for regulatory issues, food safety and labeling developments and seafood fraud concerns for the association members. 

Prior to joining NFI, Ms. Weddig spent 18 years with the Food Products Association (now Consumer Brands Association) where she held various positions in thermal processing, HACCP, food safety and educational support for association members.  She earned a B.S. in Food Science from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia and a M.S. in Nutrition Education from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland.

Dr. Martin Wiedmann

Dr. Martin Wiedmann received a veterinary degree and a doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, and a Ph.D. in Food Science from Cornell, where he currently is the Gellert Family Professor of Food Safety. His research interests focus on farm-to-table microbial food quality and food safety and the application of molecular tools to study the transmission of foodborne pathogens and spoilage organisms. His team has published > 300 peer reviewed publications, which have been cited >10,000 times. 

He and his team are regularly asked to help industry with a range of microbial food safety and quality challenges. He was a member of the Listeria Outbreak Working Group, which was honored by a USDA Secretary’s Award for Superior Service in 2000. He also received the Young Scholars award from the American Dairy Science Association in 2002, the Samuel Cate Prescott Award from Institute of Food Technologists’ in 2003, the International Life Science Institute North America Future Leaders Award in 2004, and the American Meat Institute Foundation Scientific Achievement Award in 2011. He is a fellow of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM), and a member of the International Academy of Food Science and Technology.

Dr. Jeff Farber

Dr. Jeff Farber is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Food Science at the University of Guelph, in Guelph, Ontario. He currently co-supervises a number of students, and provides general guidance and advice in the area of food safety. Dr. Farber is also President of an international consulting firm, which does consulting with various organizations and countries on issues related to microbial food safety, as well as an Advisor for Index Biosystems, a Canadian biotechnology company.   

Dr. Farber most recently was employed as a Full Professor in the Department of Food Science at the University of Guelph, in Guelph, Ontario, where he was Director of the Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety, and previous to that, he was the Director of the Bureau of Microbial Hazards, in the Food Directorate of Health Canada, where he led a group of about 60 people working in the areas of food safety research, risk assessment, policy, risk management and risk communication.

Dr. Farber is a Past-President of the International Association for Food Protection, and has over 35 years of experience working in the food safety area.

Dr. Farber has received numerous personal and team awards, most recently in 2020, winning 3 awards from the International Association for Food Protection, and being nominated as a Fellow for The International Union of Food Science and Technology. In 2009, he won one of the highest awards presented to Federal Public Health Officials, the Prime Minister’s Outstanding Achievement Award, for his work as the lead scientist for Health Canada on the deli-meat listeriosis outbreak.  

Dr. Craig Hedberg

Dr. Craig Hedberg is a professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, serves as the Major Chair for the Public Health Practice Major, and is the academic co-director for Minnesota’s Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence; one of six Centers of Excellence established by CDC in response to the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Dr. Hedberg conducted outbreak investigations and supervised the foodborne disease surveillance program at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) for 15 years. Among his signature accomplishments at MDH was the development of Team Diarrhea, a student work force dedicated to conducting foodborne illness investigations. Student worker teams are now being developed by many other states in an effort to improve foodborne outbreak responses.

Since joining the faculty at the School of Public Health, where he teaches and conducts research on foodborne disease surveillance, Dr. Hedberg has been a key contributor to the Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response’s (CIFOR) Guidelines for Foodborne Disease Outbreak Response.

Dr. Hedberg has developed an international reputation for his standing as an expert in the public health surveillance and control of foodborne diseases.

Putting Policy into Action - Moving Forward (Roundtable) - 1:10 p.m. (EDT)

Dr. Lory Reveil (Moderator)

Dr. Lory Reveil is Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI). She earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Microbiology from Cornell University and her Bachelor of Science from The University of New Mexico.

In her role as Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, Dr. Reveil represents and  advocates for the frozen food industry before federal regulatory agencies and engages with the food industry on important policy priorities.

Dr. Sanjay Gummalla
Dr. Sanjay Gummalla is currently vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, at the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI). His broad industry experience in food science, food safety, and nutrition are key to guiding science and policy advocacy, and effective scientific tools and resources for the food and beverage industry. He is in the forefront of coordinating Listeria monocytogenes prevention and control programs and policy efforts on behalf of the frozen food industry. 

Prior to joining AFFI, Dr. Gummalla was the vice president of product development at Zentis NA, a global fruit preparation manufacturer. His technical expertise extends to flavor development, food microbiology, and product development resulting from managing global food application projects at Givaudan Flavors and leading the global dairy flavor research and development portfolio at Cargill. 

Dr. Gummalla currently serves on key committees representing the industry, he is an advisor on the U.S. Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee for Processed Foods, a committee member on IAFP’s Journal of Food Protection, President of the Capital Area Food Protection Association, and chair of the International Food Science Certification Commission which administers IFT’s Certified Food Scientists program. 

On the food safety front, he is a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual instructor and served as adjunct assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati, where he taught food microbiology. Early in his career, he was a post-doctoral researcher at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) representing FDA’s foray in to nanotechnological applications for food safety. He holds a Ph.D. in Nutrition and Food Sciences from Utah State University. 

Dr. Tim Freier

After receiving his Ph.D. in microbiology from Iowa State and conducting post-doctoral research at Oregon State, Dr. Tim Freier has worked for over 25 years in food safety-related positions at Silliker, Cargill and Mérieux. He was a co-developer and instructor for the American Meat Institute’s “Advanced Listeria Intervention and Control Workshop” beginning in 1999, teaching thousands of food industry and regulatory professionals the art and science of Listeria control. He has been active with many other groups including the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association,  where he chaired the Task Force on the Control of Salmonella in Low-Moisture Foods, the Listeria Guidance Task Force and the Microbiology Food Safety Committee.  Dr. Freier chaired the Meat and Poultry Professional Development group for the International Association for Food Protection. He has served two terms on the U.S. National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods.

Dr. Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is an associate professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Dr. Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Dr. Chapman co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman. 

Nigel Thorgrimsson

Nigel Thorgrimsson was recently appointed to the position of Director of Regulatory Affairs at Ardo, a global industry-leading producer of frozen vegetables, fruit and herbs, following 20 years as the group’s Quality Director. Prior to joining Ardo, Thorgrimsson studied Agriculture and gained experience working and living on four different continents as a qualified agronomist and technical manager, growing a variety of crops, vegetables in particular.

With an MSc. in Food Regulatory Affairs, Thorgrimsson combines his practical understanding of food safety in the frozen produce value chain with knowledge of regulatory systems, both in his role at Ardo, and also in supporting PROFEL (European Association of Fruit and Vegetable Processors), where he chairs the Technical & Legislative Committee. 

Passionate about consensus building and driving improvements, Thorgrimsson has represented PROFEL at the front line of discussions with EU institutions, Member State representatives, research centres and producers, to shape the way forwards for the sector, and deliver practical measures to ensure improved levels of food safety.

Industry Efforts – Current and Future State (Roundtable) 2:15 p.m. (EDT)

Dr. Robert Brackett (moderator)

Dr. Robert E. Brackett, PhD, served as Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) Vice President and Director of the Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH). In this capacity, he served on the IIT administrative leadership team, as well as directed the scientific and educational programs at IFSH. Dr. Brackett has over 35 years of experience in food safety research, training, and policy. Dr. Brackett’s accomplishments include publication of 18 book chapters, over 100 scientific articles in peer-reviewed publications, over 300 oral presentations, over 200 of which were invited, and over 45 of which were invited for presentation in international fora.

Dr. Brackett also served as Senior Vice President and Chief Science and Regulatory officer for the Washington D.C. based Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). Before joining GMA, he served at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (FDA CFSAN), where he started as a senior microbiologist in the Office of Plant and Dairy Foods and Beverages in 2000. After several promotions, Dr. Brackett was appointed CFSAN Director, where from 2004-2007 he provided executive leadership to CFSAN’s development and implementation of programs and policies relative to the composition, quality, safety and labeling of foods, food and color additives, dietary supplements and cosmetics. Earlier in his career, Dr. Brackett held professorial positions with North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and the University of Georgia.

Dr. Brackett is a member and Fellow in the International Association for Food Protection, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the American Academy of Microbiology. He is also a member of the American Society for Microbiology, Association of Food and Drug Officials, AOAC, and the Food and Drug Law Institute. He has been honored with the FDA Award of Merit, the FDA Distinguished Alumni Award, the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service, the International Association for Food Protection’s President’s Appreciation Award, and, the William C. Frazier Food Microbiology Award. Dr. Brackett received his doctorate in food microbiology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

John Allan

John Allan helps lead all dairy food safety efforts for the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and has responsibilities in federal, state and international regulatory, technical and scientific affairs. He engages on behalf of IDFA members with 3-A Sanitary Standards, Inc., and the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS). Allan also helps represent IDFA’s international interests through engagement with the International Dairy Federation and the Codex Alimentarius Commission. 

Prior to joining IDFA, Allan worked for the American Frozen Food Institute and National Yogurt Association; the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization within the Codex Alimentarius Commission Secretariat; and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  He graduated from the Univ. of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science in microbiology and a Master of Science in food science and technology.

Scott Thacker

Scott Thacker leads Trident Seafoods’ food safety efforts to achieve regulatory compliance and customer conformance. He collaborates with multidisciplinary global teams to make science and data-driven decisions. His current focus is on Listeria monocytogenes inactivation and inhibition through non-thermal interventions.

He is active in EU and APAC food science and technology working groups to facilitate global regulatory adherence while standardizing company best practices. He has oversight of RTE thermal processing and non-thermal processing microorganism of concern inactivation validation and verification.

Dr. Max Teplitski

Dr. Max Teplitski is a Chief Science Officer at Produce Marketing Association (PMA), where he is responsible for the produce safety, agriculture technology, supply chain and sustainability programs, as well as government relations. Prior to joining PMA, Dr. Teplitski was Division Director (Acting) and National Program Leader at the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, where he oversaw federal research investment portfolios in produce safety, microbiology and nutrition.  

An author of over 100 peer-reviewed publications, Dr. Teplitski was a Professor at the University of Florida, where his research and education program focused on comparative and functional genomics of human pathogens to understand their adaptations to survival in non-host environments. Dr. Teplitski served as a Fulbright Specialist in Agriculture (Escuela Politecnica del Litoral), U.S. Embassy Science Fellow, Biotech Outreach Speaker (U.S. Department of State), and G.E. Burch Fellow in Theoretical Medicine (Smithsonian Institution).  He is a recipient of J.E. Feeley Award in Recognition of Significant Contributions in Environmental Microbiology (ASM SE Branch), UF-HHMI Science For Life Distinguished Mentor Award, Animal Conservation Award (Lindberg Foundation), and W.E. Krauss Director’s Award for Excellence in Research (Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center).

Kathleen O’Donnell

Kathleen O’Donnell is the Director of Food Science and Regulatory Affairs in the Food Safety/ Quality Assurance Department at Wegmans Food Markets.  She specializes in food safety, emerging issues, and developing quality/food safety programs for various operations at manufacturing and retail.  Kathleen is responsible for regulatory compliance including the Food Safety Modernization Act at Wegmans. 

Kathleen, a Certified Food Scientist, received both her BS and MS degrees from Cornell University.

Wegmans Food Markets is a family-owned supermarket chain with 106 stores in the US Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states.

Kevin Browning

Kevin, currently serves as Sr. Director of Food Safety and Regulatory Compliance for the J.R. Simplot Company’s Food Group.  J.R. Simplot is a multi-national agribusiness company with a strong presence and long history in global food manufacturing and sales.  Kevin has more than 35 years of experience in the disciplines of Quality Assurance, Microbiology and Food Safety.  Previous experience included stints with the H.J. Heinz Co., Ore-Ida Foods Co., Del Monte and John Labatt Limited.  He is a graduate of Oregon State University in Fisheries Science with an emphasis in fish pathology. Kevin is a past Board Member  of Intermountain Section and is currently serving as Chair of the Simplot Games Board. Kevin has a passion for food safety and is actively engaged in Simplot’s stated purpose of contributing to feeding our world.  Kevin resides in Boise, Idaho and when not traveling for business is always looking for the next location to pursue his passion for fly-fishing.

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