University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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Oct. 22, 2004


Experts Discuss Global Food Safety at Conference
By Jenny Bjelland
UW-RF News Bureau

Global food science industry leaders with expertise in food microbiology safety and food quality gathered at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls this past week for the 24th Annual Food Microbiology Symposium.

The eclectic group of individuals from around the world attended a series of speakers and workshops to learn recent updates on pathogens, toxins, and contaminants affecting the food industry.

Frank Busta, director of the new Homeland Security National Center for Food Protection and Defense at the University of Minnesota, was the keynote speaker for the conference along with Ann Marie McNamara, vice president of food safety and scientific affairs at Silliker, Inc., a global leader in food microbiology testing.

Busta, in his speech, "A New Paradigm for Threat Management," explained the new national security center's mission. "Our role is to protect the safety of all the nation's food supply through research and education," he said, referring to both intentional and unintentional threats.

The new university-based research center in Minneapolis is one of four such partnerships that bring together industry representatives and academic staff in order to develop new techniques to protect food supply.

McNamara described the recent increase in food testing during her speech, "Regulator, Consumer, and Customer Demands for More Robust Testing." According to McNamara, since the early 1990s, regulatory programs, consumer groups, the retail and food service industries and the legal community have called for more and better food testing.

Recent demands have lead to a higher frequency of microbiological, chemical and nutritional tests on food products for Listeria, E. Coli, BSE, food allergens, and trans-fatty acids on nutritional labeling just to name a few.

Because the food science industry is constantly changing, the annual Food Microbiology Symposium is important in keeping industry personnel up to date, says Stephen Ridley, dean of the UW-RF College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.

More than 125 members of the food science industry attended the symposium including some from Australia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Israel, Norway, Belgium, France, England and the Netherlands. The event was sponsored by 27 national and global industry businesses.

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