Guest Blog from Deirdre Schlunegger
by Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO STOP Foodborne Illness.
LGMA Honored as a Food Safety Hero by STOP Foodborne Illness
We are so very pleased to announce that our organization will be honoring the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement as a STOP Foodborne Illness Food Safety Hero at a special event being held in conjunction with the Food Safety Consortium in Schaumburg, IL next month.
STOP’s relationship with the LGMA began very soon after I became CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness, which was originally known as Safe Tables Our Priority when it was formed to advocate for victims of foodborne illness following the E. coli outbreak associated with Jack in the Box in 1993.
I met Scott Horsfall, CEO of the LGMA, at a hearing in Washington DC. He didn’t hesitate to introduce himself and quickly invited me to come out to California to see what his organization was all about. I eagerly accepted the invitation and was very impressed with what I saw was taking place in leafy greens farms to protect public health. Soon after my visit, the LGMA did a surprising thing—they invited a group of STOP representatives who had been sickened in past foodborne illness outbreaks associated with leafy greens to visit the farms themselves. This was something I haven’t seen industry do very often, but I can tell you it was a life-changing experience for everyone involved.
The meeting between leafy greens farmers whose lives had been changed following the tragic spinach outbreak in 2006 and real people, who had been impacted by foodborne illness, was a learning experience for both sides. What we came to realize is that we have so much in common when it comes to the work we do to prevent people from getting sick. That meeting created a lifelong partnership between our two organizations.
In an effort to help everyone in the leafy greens community understand why it is so important to follow proper food safety practices, the LGMA partnered with STOP to produce a moving training video. The video features Rylee Gustafson and Lauren Bush who relay heart-wrenching stories of what happened to them when they contracted a foodborne illness. The piece is extremely compelling for those who work in the growing, harvesting and packing of leafy greens to show them what can happen when something goes wrong and make them understand the importance of following the LGMA metrics to prevent contamination of leafy greens fields.
Former FDA food safety Chief Mike Taylor, who was honored last year as a STOP Food Safety Hero, cited the LGMA as an example of how food companies have made progress in embracing a food safety culture. We could not agree more and this is exactly why Scott Horsfall and Dan Sutton will accept on behalf of the LGMA STOP Foodborne Illness’s “Excellence in Food Safety Training Hero” award.
We hope that some of you will be able to attend the event on December 6, 2016 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. It is an important fundraising event for STOP and it’s open to the public. Guests will enjoy live jazz, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in celebration of three exceptional individuals who have had an impact on making food safer for everyone.
In addition to the LGMA, Jeff Almer, of Savage, MN, will be accepting the STOP Foodborne Illness 2016 “Legacy Tribute Award” in memory of his mother, Shirley, who died from Salmonella in 2008. Dr. Robert Tauxe, director of the Centers for Disease Control’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases will be honored as the STOP Foodborne Illness 2016 “Advancing Science for Food Safety Hero.”
We encourage anyone interested in food safety to attend this event or donate to our organization. Tickets to attend are $65 per person and can be purchased here. The public will also be able to participate interactively and can bid on-line between now and December 5 on several auction items, including guitars autographed by Paul McCartney and Eddie Van Halen.
We are very excited to be honoring the LGMA and all our Food Safety Heroes for their courage and devotion to preventing foodborne illness. STOP would also like to thank Food Safety Tech and Walmart Corporation for sponsoring this event and for their relentless efforts to make the world a healthier place by raising awareness of food safety. We hope to see you on December 6.