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    CEO Symposium

    Julia Stewart:
    Hello, this is PMA PR Director Julia Stewart, and welcome back to PMA’s audio blog, “Ask Dr. Bob.” PMA’s Chief Science and Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker and Lorna Christie, PMA’s Executive Vice President and COO, are with us today to share news on some exciting food safety events coming up later this year. The next Food Safety Symposium will be held in May in Ellensburg, Washington, and others are planned for later in the year.

    Bob, Lorna, what is the CEO Food Safety Symposium and why is it different from other events?

    Thank you, Julia.  We’re looking forward to our first Food Safety Symposium of 2010.

    This special CEO series that we started just last year, is geared toward the high-level decision-makers in each company because, as I’ve said previously, in order to really have effective food safety programs you have to change your business culture. The persons ultimately responsible for a business’ culture – food safety or otherwise – are the top decision-makers, the CEOs or presidents. They also have the best view of the risk if there isn’t a good food safety program — consequences like the loss of brand equity or even loss of the entire company. This symposium is geared toward this C-level position, rather than the food safety scientists. It focuses on the business aspect of food safety.

    That’s right, Bob. This symposium is different from other food safety conferences because it changes the dialogue around food safety. It takes it out of the quality assurance department and makes it the responsibility of  everyone in the company — from the CEO to the guy who packs product on the trucks at the other end of the building. This symposium is unique because it doesn’t focus on the science or technical aspects of food safety; instead it focuses on how to change your business model.

    I think that is an important point, Lorna!  We don’t talk about the science at all.  And, the symposium format includes some very interactive, real-world breakout sessions where the participants can discuss some of the points we make during our presentations, and explore how some of these ideas might be incorporated into their own businesses.

    We start off with a status check, having an honest conversation with attendees about their food safety programs, the types of elements such programs should have, and how basic business functions relate to food safety. Then we hear from a lawyer whose firm specializes in prosecuting food safety cases. He lays out the stark realities of food safety, pointing out that if you don’t have a thorough food safety program, he’s going to sue you – and win! He really drives home the consequences of not having a comprehensive program.

    Then we have one of my favorite parts which we like to call the “oh shit moment”. In breakout sessions, attendees discuss what they heard that really gave them pause, and how it could relate to their company. This illustrates the unique difference in the format of this symposium from other events out there. It looks at the impact of failure that goes beyond business losses.

    We also incorporate applied knowledge — we present a scenario and discuss what they would do. People get to think outside their traditional box and look at applying what we’ve talked about in a very different way. We’ve had great feedback from all our symposiums.

    Attendees at last summer’s  Monterey event really appreciated the legal perspective – for example, they thought the insight we offered into how post-outbreak investigations and lawsuits expose weaknesses in food safety programs was particularly beneficial. They also recognized the benefit of having fellow colleagues in the room, networking, and sharing ideas with produce and food safety executives… and understanding some of the similarities of this issue throughout the produce industry.

    And, attendees at our Austin symposium last year especially regarded the outlook on what to do if you have a food safety event and the news media come knocking on your door. In Rochester last fall, attendees noted the value of getting a better understanding of how to prepare for a food safety issue, beyond just your protocol for recalling product. In all cases, participants touted the benefit of looking at real world situations and examples of how to handle them in our business

    Thank you, Bob and Lorna. We look forward to this unique event and to hearing back from our listeners who attend it.

    For more information about the Symposium or to register, go to www.pmafoodsafety.com. Thanks for joining us, everyone…Until next time

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