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Symposium brings issues, experts

October 15, 2009

UW-River Falls will host its 29th annual Food Microbiology Symposium Oct. 18-21, bringing academia, scientists and food safety specialists to campus.

Approximately 100 attendees are expected for the symposium, titled “Food Safety Trends and New Approaches to Risk Management.” The purpose of the event is for teachers, scientists and anyone interested in food microbiology to receive updates on research, discuss issues and learn about bioterrorism with a special emphasis on pathogens. It is mostly, however, for food industry professionals such as people who work for the state with the Food and Drug Administration or the Department of Agriculture.

In the past, speakers have come internationally from Europe, Asia, Australia, Germany and Mexico, as well as other countries, and this year is no exception. Speakers will be attending from Brazil, Germany, Canada and eight different states. Representatives from Cargill, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Oscar Meyer, the FDA and the USDA will also be in attendance.

The conference provides a venue for concepts in food safety to be examined. Program Director Purnendu Vasavada said issues covered in past conferences have included the Salmonella and E. Coli
outbreaks dealt with in the United States, and they hope to expand the scope of food allergen issues covered.

Vasavada said it is a good opportunity for school nurses, cafeteria managers, science teachers and the general public to learn about what is or isn’t a food allergen, consumer issues and testing.

One of the speakers for the conference is Anna Lammerding, chief of the Microbial Food Safety Risk Assessment Unit at the Laboratory for Foodborne Zoonoses, Public Health Agency of Canada, in Guelph, Ontario. Lammerding is a graduate of UW-Madison, where she received her Ph.D. Her presentation is titled “More Data Faster- Now, What Do We Do with It?” The presentation will cover topics such as recent developments in laboratory technology, such as the level of detection of food hazards, turn around time for sample testing and the challenges that remain in ensuring the safety of the food supply.

“As technological advances improve how we generate data in support of food safety from farm to fork, there must be similar advances in how we compile and use these data,” Lammerding said.

Lammerding’s presentation will discuss the data needs for risk analysis and the challenges that must be overcome to optimize data-collection, analysis and timely use of information.

The symposium is annual and usually held in October. The food allergen section is open for students to attend and is recommended by Vasavada.

“I think many students will find the Wednesday morning session on allergen issues interesting,” he said. That session is held from 8 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 21.

Vasavada also stated that it is important for people to know what they can about food safety, and the conference provides exposure to professionals that students would not normally get to see or hear from. The program is meant to reach out to students in the food science, agricultural science and animal science departments. Graduate students and faculty from other universities will be present this year, and there will be opportunities for students to talk with them.

Food Science and Technology Club President Andy Paulsen said most of the older food science students will be attending the many different seminars available, and the younger members will be helping at the information desk.