WASHINGTON -- The Food Marketing Institute and its food service-industry counterparts, all members of the International Food Safety Council, have announced final plans for the inaugural International Food Safety Congress, to be held July 19-21 in Orlando, Fla.
Some 30 educational sessions over the four-day event will address the wide variety of food-safety issues facing operators today, including Hepatitis A in the work force; irradiation; crisis communications; biotechnology; international food sources; and sanitary distribution practices, among others. Session formats will vary from hands-on training workshops to multidisciplined panels, according to organizers.
The international nature of the conference reflects the growing reliance on global sourcing of food items, said Dr. Jill Hollingsworth, FMI's vice president of food safety programs.
"The volume of imports and exports has reached the point where some sort of common knowledge about food-safety practices are required, regardless of the source country," she said. "That is why the conference has such a large international scope."
True to the theme, the event features a session that specifically examines cultural issues in international food-safety education. Hollingsworth noted that training can be more effectively retained if communication and culture barriers are identified and addressed in a proactive manner. Similarly, another seminar looks at the challenges presented in training a global workforce in identical food-safety protocols.
Hot-button issues such as irradiation and genetically modified foods are also part of the program, with sessions dedicated to those topics. Another session will track the growing role of audits in the food industry, and how international standards and codes impact the business process. And, an examination of the threat posed by Hepatitis A will highlight a separate roundtable, said Hollingsworth.
"The food industry is just now taking an active role in fighting this unique disease, since food is its principal transmission route," she said. "There are a number of relatively simple, cost-effective ways retailers and other food operators can protect themselves, their employees and customers."
She noted that some operators have begun mandating vaccinations for all existing and new employee food handlers, a trend that is likely to grow as the industry becomes more aware of the disease.
As part of the larger conference, organizers are offering an all-day, executive-level ServSafe review session and ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification Exam. Both will be held immediately after the conclusion of the conference, on Saturday, July 22. ServSafe, developed by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, has become one of the most recognized food-safety programs in the world; and was recently adapted for use in the retail supermarket industry through an agreement between FMI and the NRA.
Besides FMI, other participating organizations include the NRA and its Educational Foundation; and the International Hotel & Restaurant Association. The event is sponsored by Procter & Gamble.
For more information, call the offices of the International Food Safety Council at 800-456-0111, or register on-line at www.restaurant.org.