The curtain has closed on the International Production and Processing Expo, but its mission to improve the safety of the world's meat and poultry supply lives on.
The meat and poultry industry has a reputation in some circles for being a dirty business. Activists and advocates, often speaking with more volume than actual facts, decry chicken farmers and cattlemen for treating their animals poorly, working in less-than-sanitary conditions, and running an operation that causes ills ranging from human sickness to environmental destruction.
All the beef, pork, chicken, egg and other food folk in attendance at IPPE likely have heard those charges before. In reality, they know that they and their colleagues place utmost priority on the fitness of the world's food supply, and their attendance at events like IPPE is evidence of this commitment.
If you were at Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center for the three-day event, you rubbed elbows with more than 25,000 food professionals, all taking time away from their busy operations and families to attend the show and gaining knowledge to better their business. Your feet are probably aching from walking all over more than 400,000 sq. ft. of exhibits dedicated to technology to improve the environmental sustainability, safety and health of meat and poultry operations.
What's more, your head is full with information gleaned from the IPPE's sessions, many of which focused on heightening food safety. During one such session, Daniel McChesney, director of surveillance and compliance for the US Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine, discussed egg production but expressed a sentiment common to professionals in all food-related industries.
"We have the responsibility to make food safe,” McChesney said.
The environmental fitness of food production is another common topic. Jeff Potent, environmental protection specialist for the EPA's Office of Wastewater management, spoke during the Animal Agriculture Sustainability Summit at IPPE 2014 on how government and food producers can work together for better outcomes.
"Traditional approaches to risk reduction and pollution control can only go so far to deliver the long-term and broad environmental quality we seek," he said. "Regulations have their place, but they are limited; we want to broaden the way we engage with industry."
It is certain that incidents such as Salmonella outbreaks and Listeria contamination still occur from time to time. However, the existence of such well-attended safety-focused events as IPPE (as well as GFSI in Anaheim, California in February, and the Food Safety Summit in Baltimore later in April) are proof positive of the industry's firm dedication to increasing the safety of the world's food supply, and keeping it a top priority into the future.