Food Safety Forum

Narrowing the Gap Between Mitigating Food Safety Hazards and Communicating Public Health Risk

Wednesday, September 13, 2023
11 AM – 2:45 PM EDT

The Food Safety Forum convenes food safety professionals, research experts and food safety policy leaders to discuss scientific issues relevant to the frozen food industry. Save the date for the 2023 Food Safety Forum, scheduled to take place September 13, 2023.

As part of the world’s safest food supply, the U.S. food industry and regulators utilize a risk-based approach to assessing and managing product safety. At the same time, it is essential for the public health community to effectively communicate true public health risks to consumers. By taking a one-size-fits-all approach to risk communications in regard to food safety, the public is left with a knowledge gap between perceived vs. actual risk and reduced confidence in our food system.
This event convened key food safety and public health stakeholders for open and frank conversations about:
  • The public understanding of risk as it relates to the safety of foods.
  • Factors that influence current communications practices.
  • Best practices to help consumers be empowered to make informed decisions that aren’t simply driven by fear.

Co-Host Organization:
International Fresh Produce Association

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Frank Yiannas
Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, FDA
Sandra Eskin
Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, FSIS
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Partner Organizations:


Media Partner:

11:00 – 11:15 a.m. EDT

Welcome and Introduction

As food safety shifts to a risk-based management approach, consumers deserve a comparable effort by the public health community to effectively communicate the true public health risks.

In this introduction, AFFI’s Dr. Donna Garren will review how risk communication is increasingly important as the global food supply chain becomes more diverse, global and complex. While consumers demand a range of benefits in their foods at lower costs, there is also a need to communicate how risks are interwoven with this dynamic. Dr. Garren will highlight initial case studies in the frozen food industry and stress that it is also time for public health agencies to acknowledge there is some definable and potentially acceptable risk in the production and consumption of food.

Dr. Donna Garren, Executive Vice President of Science and Policy, American Frozen Food Institute

11:15 – 12:00 p.m. EDT

Current Reality of Risk Communication

Food safety policies and practices such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) are important elements applied to prevent and control food safety hazards in the food supply chain and reduce public health risks. As the food industry continues to improve efforts to mitigate and address food safety risks, all stakeholders must align to effectively communicate the true public health risks to consumers. In this session, our speaker will discuss the nuances of risk-based and hazard-based approaches to effectively communicate food safety issues with consumers.

Dr. Don Schaffner, Department Chair, Distinguished Professor and Extension Specialist, Rutgers University

12:00 – 12:45 p.m. EDT

The Balancing Act: Weighing Legal Ramifications with Informing Consumers of True Risk to Public

Join these former public health leaders as they share their experience weighing the advice of their legal teams vs. communications teams. How can we positively move the needle toward effective science-based risk communication?
  • Elizabeth Fawell, Partner, Hogan Lovells (moderator)
  • Brian Ronholm, Director of Food Policy, Consumer Reports
  • Roberta Wagner, Senior Vice President of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs, International Dairy Foods Association
  • Frank Yiannas, Former Deputy Commissioner, Food Policy and Response, U.S. Food and Drug Administration

12:45 – 1:00 p.m. EDT


1:00 – 1:45 p.m. EDT

Talking to Consumers about the Science of Food Safety

Food safety communicators must be able to integrate complicated and complex topics and present information clearly to consumers in today’s media-dominated environment. Whether discussing risk vs. hazard, correlation vs. causation, or data vs. emotion, the science community must be able to thread the needle and craft a message that consumers will trust. In this panel, speakers will join to discuss their experiences in finding effective techniques and messages to communicate with consumers.

  • Sean McBride, Founder, DSM Strategic Communications (moderator)
  • Mitzi Baum, CEO, STOP Foodborne Illness
  • Kristine Butler, Acting Director of Communications and Public Engagement, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • Dr. Ben Chapman, Department Head of Agricultural and Human Sciences, Professor and Director of the Safe Plates Food Safety Extension and Research Program, North Carolina State University
  • Heather Garlich, Senior Vice President, Communications, Marketing & Consumer/Community Affairs, FMI – The Food Industry Association
  • Mark Goldman, Vice President of Corporate Communications, Public Relations & Events/Sponsorships, Schwan’s Company

2:15 – 2:30 p.m. EDT

Concluding Remarks


1:45 – 2:30 p.m. EDT

Stakeholder Discussion: Future State of the Intersection Between Public Health Agencies, The Food Industry and Consumers

During this discussion, panelists will consider opportunities and learnings from the day that could be applied to help narrow the gap between mitigating food safety hazards and communicating public health risks.

  • Dr. Sanjay Gummalla and Dr. Donna Garren, AFFI (moderators)
  • Anita Kambhampati, MPH, Epidemiologist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Steve Mandernach, Executive Director, Association of Food and Drug Officials
  • Dr. Emily Moyer, Vice President of Regulatory Compliance & Global Food Safety Standards, International Fresh Produce Association
  • Brian Ronholm, Director of Food Policy, Consumer Reports
  • Dr. Hilary Thesmar, Chief Science Officer and Senior Vice President of Food Safety, FMI – The Food Industry Association

2:30 – 2:45 p.m. EDT

Concluding Remarks

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