Meat & Protein Harvest

Discussing Best Practices for Beef Safety

Last week I was in Tampa representing Birko at the Beef Safety Summit. This meeting, organized by the Beef Industry Food Safety Council (BIFSCo), is intended to bring together industry leaders in food safety and provide a forum where best practices can be shared with the common goal of protecting beef safety. One aspect of the meeting is that there are no trade secrets among the beef producers when it comes to food safety, based on the fact that sharing knowledge and best practices will benefit the industry as a whole.

BIFSCo and the Beef Safety Summit grew out of the Jack In The Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in 1993 and the first Beef Safety Summit was held in 2003. As this year was the 10th annual Beef Safety Summit, there were a number of activities to commemorate this anniversary. This year’s keynote address took the form of a retrospective panel discussion between Dave Theno and Bill Marler. Dave was the food safety consultant who was employed by Jack In the Box to review their beef procurement and cooking procedures in response to the outbreak. Dave pioneered many of the processes that are prevalent in the beef industry today. Bill Marler was the attorney who represented a number of victims of the outbreak in their claims for compensation from Jack In The Box. As you can imagine, this was a very moving reminder of why we do what we do.

Bill provided copies of the book Poisoned by Jeff Benedict, which is a history of the Jack In the Box outbreak. I highly recommend reading it.

At the first Beef Safety Summit, industry representatives were invited to sign a pledge of their commitment to work together to combat E. coli O157:H7. At this year’s meeting there was an opportunity to sign an updated pledge to reaffirm our commitment to the fight against foodborne pathogens. I was honored and privileged to sign the pledge on Birko’s behalf. This message fits well with Birko’s belief that we are “your partner in food safety” and I know that each one of you will assist our customers to the best of your ability in their efforts to live up to this pledge.

Elis Owens, Ph.D., Director, Technical Services, Birko, can be reached at [email protected], 303-289-1090.