Annual program recognizes outstanding people and organizations helping to advance food safety

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — NSF International, an independent global organization that writes public health standards, tests and certifies products for the food, water and consumer goods industries, is honored to announce the winners of the 2012 NSF Food Safety Leadership Awards. The awards were presented last week during the 2012 Food Safety Summit held at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center.

The NSF International Food Safety Leadership Awards program recognizes individuals and organizations that have made a real and lasting impact on food safety. NSF International created the awards program in 2004 to encourage the development of educational programs, processes or technologies that help advance global food safety.

Each year, NSF International seeks nominations from leaders throughout the food safety community and convenes an independent panel of food safety experts from academia, industry and the regulatory community to select the winners. Nominations are evaluated based on creativity, innovation, design and the contributions made to the advancement of food safety.

This year, three winners were recognized for their outstanding commitment to food safety:

  • 2012 NSF Food Safety Leadership Award for Research Advances
    Vijay K. Juneja, D.V.M., M.S., Ph.D., Lead Scientist, Predictive Microbiology for Food Safety, Eastern Regional Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • 2012 NSF Food Safety Leadership Award Winner for Systems Improvement
    Earthbound Farm, one of the nation’s largest producers of gourmet salad greens
  • 2012 NSF Food Safety Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
    Ewen C.D. Todd, Ph.D., President, Ewen Todd Consulting and Former Director of Food Safety Policy Center, Michigan State University

“The work of Dr. Vijay Juneja, Will Daniels’ team at Earthbound Farm, and Dr. Ewen Todd has contributed to incredible and important discoveries and advances in food safety. Their leadership in applying science-based methods and research to solve important food safety issues embodies the spirit of NSF International’s Food Safety Leadership Awards. In presenting them with this award, we are also thanking them for their contributions to food safety and the protection of public health,” said Tom Chestnut, Vice President of Global Food Safety, NSF International.

The 2012 NSF Food Safety Leadership Award Winners

Vijay K. Juneja, D.V.M., M.S., Ph.D., Lead Scientist, Predictive Microbiology for Food Safety, Eastern Regional Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Dr. Vijay K. Juneja is a world renowned scientist and leading authority on microbiological safety of processed foods. He has devoted his career to conducting important applied research on pathogenic bacteria, which regulatory agencies and food companies throughout the supply chain utilize to solve problems and develop improved foods safety systems and standards.

His research has led to exceptional contributions in the areas of assessing and minimizing risks from emerging technologies, developing strategies for performing risk assessments on cooked and ready-to-eat foods, and diagnostic food microbiology. Because of the impact of his research accomplishments, Dr. Juneja was honored with Early Career (1998) and Senior Research Scientist (2002) awards from the USDA Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS); the Maurice Weber Laboratorian Award (2005) from the International Association for Food Protection; the Research and Development Award (2012) from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT); and was elected Fellow of the IFT (2008).

Dr. Juneja is highly regarded for his ability to develop and implement research programs that respond rapidly to changing industry and regulatory needs. His research has helped establish guidelines and performance standards for safe time-temperature parameters for cooking and cooling product in foodservice and food processing settings, ensuring that deadly pathogens are eliminated while maintaining the quality of the product. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) routinely uses Dr. Juneja’s predictive models to evaluate the safety of cooked products after cooling. His models were also incorporated into the USDA Pathogen Modeling Program (PMP) and contributed to the development of ComBase, an international microbial modeling database. The PMP is used by 40 percent of FSIS-inspected food companies to determine compliance with stabilization (cooling) performance standards and is downloaded 8,000 times annually in over 35 countries.  Regulatory agencies and Health and Human Services have applied Dr. Juneja’s research to help develop strategies to protect the public from a threatened or actual terrorist attack on the US food supply.

“Dr. Juneja has established himself as a leader in microbial food safety at the national and international level. His research has been at the forefront in addressing important food safety issues, challenges, and concerns of the industry, regulators and consumers,” said John N. Sofos, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Meat Safety & Quality at Colorado State University.

Earthbound Farm

Detecting and eliminating foodborne pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella continues to be one of the greatest food safety challenges in the global food supply chain. In 2006, Earthbound Farm was at the center of a spinach E. coli outbreak, despite the fact that their food safety program at the time followed industry best practices and standards.

With the ultimate goal of improving the safety of their fresh-cut salad and other ready-to-eat produce, Earthbound Farm launched a first-of-its kind, robust testing and safety program just two weeks after the spinach outbreak was discovered. Earthbound Farm’s Multi-Hurdle Food Safety Program now tests each lot of fresh produce twice for pathogens of public health concern (e. coli O157:H7, non-O157 EHECs, Salmonella, Shigella) – upon arrival from a farm, and again when packaged products roll off processing lines. All lots are held until test results release them; any lots that test positive are destroyed. Earthbound also implemented pathogen prevention measures in the fields and plants, including pathogen testing of all inputs and water, inspections of harvest equipment, and additional food safety audits of workers.

As a result of Earthbound’s Multi-Hurdle Food Safety Program, 3,000 pounds of contaminated salad is prevented from reaching supermarkets each week (out of 2 million pounds processed). The rapid testing program also allows Earthbound to trace the source of contamination back to the farm within 24 hours. To help ensure the program utilizes the latest technology and information, Earthbound Farm’s Multi-Hurdle Food Safety program is also continuously re-evaluated by a Scientific Advisory Panel that consists of the nation’s leading scientists and food safety experts.

Led by one of the leading architects behind the program - Will Daniels, Senior Vice President of Quality, Food Safety and Organic Integrity - Earthbound’s Multi-Hurdle Food Safety Program serves as a model for the fresh produce industry to emulate. 

“Any meaningful advancement to provide the safest foods possible to the consumer results from a committed team effort championed by one key person. At Earthbound Farm, Will Daniels is that person. He had the vision to do what was necessary to assure that fresh and fresh-cut salads produced by Earthbound have the highest possible level of safety,” said Larry R. Beuchat, Distinguished Research Professor at The University of Georgia Center for Food Safety.

Ewen C.D. Todd, Ph.D., President, Ewen Todd Consulting and Former Director of Food Safety Policy Center, Michigan State University

Over his 45-year career, Dr. Ewen Todd has made outstanding contributions in the areas of microbiology and public health. Dr. Todd has applied his research to help solve some of the world’s foremost food safety issues by developing methods to detect foodborne pathogens and establishing standards to conduct foodborne outbreak investigations.  As a result, he has inspired multiple food safety professionals to do the same.

Dr. Todd is recognized internationally for his work on foodborne disease and its surveillance and costs, assessing the impact of seafood toxins on disease, and for developing microbial risk assessments and methods for detecting pathogens in foods. Global agencies such as The World Health Organization have sought out his expertise to help establish surveillance programs for the control of foodborne disease in Europe and Asia.

He has also advocated for foodborne disease prevention and control strategies by promoting Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) systems, educating the public, and developing risk assessments for raw meat, eggs and fish. All of these initiatives have influenced research programs and regulatory approaches taken by the Health Protection Branch of Health Canada. Based on the excellence of Dr. Todd’s research, he earned Health Canada’s first ever Excellence in Science Award and achieved the highest possible level for a Research Scientists in Canada.

As a member of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP), Dr. Todd helped design and write four internationally recognized manuals on how to investigate foodborne disease, waterborne, rodent-borne and arthropod-borne disease, and how to implement HACCP.  In 2001, he was elected Fellow of the IAFP and awarded the Professional Institute of the Public Service in Canada’s 2001 Gold Medal in Pure or Applied Science. As a member of the NSF International Council of Public Health Consultants for more than four years, he has provided expertise and guidance to NSF in developing standards that help protect public health.

Dr. Todd has provided more than 400 national and international presentations on his research at industry conferences and regulatory meetings, written more than 120 peer-reviewed papers and 52 book chapters, contributed to 62 national and international reports, and developed 11 laboratory methods. Dr. Todd’s work has laid the foundation for today’s food safety professionals to help solve new and emerging food safety issues.  

“Dr. Todd exemplifies what the NSF Food Safety Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award represents with 45 years of outstanding service to improving food safety and reducing foodborne illnesses. He has not only greatly advanced the science in this area, he has also passed on his knowledge through his numerous publications, contributions to journals and professional organizations,” said Ernest Julian, Ph.D., Chief, Office of Food Protection, Rhode Island Department of Health.

The 2012 NSF Food Safety Leadership Award independent panel of jurors included:

  • Mary M. Adolf, M.S., R.D., Executive Director, International Pizza Hut Franchise Holders Association
  • Shelley Feist, Executive Director, Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE)
  • Donna Garren, Ph.D., Vice President, Regulatory and Technical Affairs, American Frozen Food Institute
  • Jack Guzewich, formerly of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (retired)
  • Ernest Julian, Ph.D., Chief of the Office of Food Protection, Rhode Island Department of Health
  • Ronald S. Klein, formerly of the Food Safety and Sanitation program at the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (retired)
  • Jim Mann, Founder and Executive Director, The Handwashing For Life Institute
  • Donald Schaffner, Ph.D., Extension Specialist in Food Science, Rutgers University
  • Katherine Swanson, President-Elect, IAFP, and Vice President of Food Safety, Ecolab Inc.
  • David Theno, Ph.D., CEO, Gray Dog Partners Inc., Food Consulting
  • Ewen C.D. Todd, Ph.D., President, Ewen Todd Consulting, and former Director of Food Safety Policy Center, Michigan State University*

For more information on the NSF Food Safety Leadership Awards, contact Kim Van Kirk at 734-913-5749 or vankirk@nsf.org. Click here to view photos of past NSF Food Safety Leadership Award winners.

Editor’s note: To schedule an interview with a NSF International food safety expert, contact Greta Houlahan at houlahan@nsf.org or 734-913-5723.

About NSF International:NSF International is an independent organization that writes standards, tests and certifies products for the food, water, and consumer goods industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment (nsf.org). Founded in 1944, NSF is committed to protecting human health and safety worldwide and operates in more than 150 countries. NSF is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Food and Water Safety and Indoor Environment.

The NSF Global Food Safety Division includes NSF Foodservice Equipment and Nonfood Compounds certification; food safety and quality auditing and certification through NSF Agriculture, NSF Consulting & Technical services and NSF-CMi; Global Food Safety Standards Certification (SQF, BRC, GlobalGAP, FSSC22000, IFS, Dutch HACCP); NSF Restaurant and Retail Food Safety programs; Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Global Aquaculture Alliance Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP), HACCP validation and inspection through NSF Surefish Seafood Safety; bottled water/flavored beverage quality certification; and organic and gluten-free certification through Quality Assurance International (QAI).

Additional NSF International services include dietary supplement and nutritional ingredient certification, drinking water certification and safety audits, and management systems registrations (e.g. ISO 9001, 22000, 14001).

* Ewen C.D. Todd, Ph.D., did not participate in selecting this year’s NSF Food Safety Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award.