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By: Anthony Flood Date: 8/19/11

What made the 2011 International Association for Food Protection Annual Meeting so unique and memorable?  Was it the record-number of friends and colleagues from around the world exchanging ideas to enhance food safety?  Was it the brats, the beer, the sights and sounds of Milwaukee – the city made famous by Schlitz, Old Milwaukee and Laverne and Shirley?  Was it the chance to chance to meet Secretary Vilsack?  Yes, yes and yes.

2011 marked the 100 Anniversary of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP).  For over a century, thousands of food safety professionals – government, industry, academia, NGOs – continue to dedicate themselves to advancing food safety worldwide.  This year the IAFP technical program reflected on past milestones in food safety while identifying solutions to address emerging food safety issues for today and tomorrow.

For example – I was honored to co-convene a session on food allergen thresholds which highlighted the research of Dr. Steve Taylor of the University of Nebraska.  An allergen threshold can be described as a minimum amount of a food (allergen) that is enough to cause an allergic reaction.  Newly published data is a critical component to establish thresholds for the major food allergens.  Dr. Taylor’s team developed the risk assessment tools to evalute the clinical data needed to support this approach.  With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration providing the necessary regulatory framework, this risk-based appraoch is an example of a solution to assess risk and manage food allergens in the near future. 

To help celebrate the 100th Anniversary of IAFP, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas Vilsack delivered a personal message to us.  His message, “for scientists to improve the safety of food for Americans . . .” was encouraging as we look ahead to future challenges in our changing food environment.

In addition to educational panels on allergen thresholds, innovations in food defense, detection methodologies, communications and food law, this year’s Annual Meeting included hundreds of technical presentations and posters from veterans in food safety to students eager to learn – from the U.S. and abroad.  Food safety and protection is both local and global and IAFP offered insights for all.

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