In one way or another, nearly my entire career has been focused on keeping food safe – whether writing about insect and rodent control; Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli; the Big 8 allergens; or other potential and actual food contaminants and adulterants. Having majored in Journalism in college with minors in European History and German, food safety was not something I ever expected to write about beyond the random food-related local or news story — or even really thought much about.
Then I happened into a communications position in the commercial pest control industry, where pest contamination was a key focus. This led to a few articles in QA’s sister publication, Pest Control Technology (PCT), which then led to question from the publisher, “You have experience with the food processing industry, right? We’ve started a new magazine ... Could you write an article about biofilm?”
And thus, my career with QA was born. It is a career that has evolved through the years to become not just a job, but a calling; a passion; a way to contribute to consumer safety in ways I never considered when deciding my life path was writing.
As you likely can relate, however, it is a contribution that is rarely recognized because consumers do not see food safety as having any add-on value; rather it is, as it should be, an expectation. That is, it is an expectation for those whom food contamination has not personally impacted. For those who have faced life-altering foodborne illness, it is no longer an expectation. For them, food contamination is a daily dread, a heavy burden, a literal food fight.
Thus, it is the unspoken, even unaware, gratitude by those who have been affected in the past — and those who, thankfully, have not — that gives our food safety contributions purpose. And it is precisely that generally unspoken praise that caused a recent acknowledgment of our value to strike my heart (and tear ducts).
“Thanks for writing about food safety and how lives are impacted,” wrote the author of this issue’s My Story (page 10). “Stop Foodborne Illness has been a wonderful organization for my family, and I’m glad you found us through them.”
My response: “Thank you so much for sharing your story with QA. My hope is that by sharing these stories with food industry workers, we strike their emotions and increase their understanding of the real-world reasons of ‘Why’ everything they do in their daily jobs working with food impacts real people.”
That is exactly why we are partnering with Stop (https://stopfoodborneillness.org) to run a personal impact story in every issue of QA. And in each story, you will re-read the words of Stop CEO Mitzi Baum, “Behind every foodborne illness outbreak are people who suffer horrible consequences due to food contamination. Everyone is susceptible to foodborne illness, everyone. “It is up to all of us to handle food safely to save lives.”
Is your team handling food safely to save lives?