A newly formed strategic alliance between the National Restaurant Association and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) will bring more cutting-edge food safety research into restaurant kitchens and the regulatory environment. The alliance's first initiative will consist of a special joint forum to be held at 2 p.m. Monday, May 24th at the Association's Restaurant Hotel-Motel Show.
An informative exchange of food science, regulatory perspectives and food safety information will focus on the topic of time and temperature specifications in restaurants and retail food operations. This forum will bring together restaurant representatives, food scientists, regulators and retail representatives to discuss how new relevant science can be used to improve the safety of foods in restaurants and at the retail level.
"Putting science into place benefits industry, food regulators and consumers," said Steven Grover, the Association's vice president for technical services, public health and safety.
Through planned conferences such as the Association Show and IFT annual meetings, the two organizations will compile, position and effectively communicate the current state of knowledge on timely food safety issues to appropriate audiences including food service professionals, academia, the regulatory constituency and the general public. A special team will oversee the dissemination of information to targeted groups.
In the future, the Association may tap expertise from IFT, a premiere group of 28,000 food science and technology experts, to support broader Association food safety issues such as: food irradiation, regulatory reform, HACCP, organic foods and biotechnology, Grover added.
Grover also provided a general update on the Association's activities on key food safety issues. Among the highlights:
The Association is working with federal officials to make improvements to the 1999 FDA Model Food Code, released in February 1999. The new Food Code contains several major improvements over previous versions, Grover said, adding that the association will be working throughout the next year to make it even better in 2001.
Association officials are currently conducting an outreach initative to inform state restaurant executives and multi-unit restaurants about specific modifications that will make the current Food Code more workable.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala has recently sought out Association CEO Herman Cain's views regarding key food safety initiatives. As a partner in food safety, the restaurant industry is committed to serving safe food and actively supports initiatives that improve cooperation and communication. Among the important food safety issues addressed with Secretary Shalala were expanded acceptance of the 1999 FDA Food Code, the need for accurate foodborne illness reporting and better federal agency regulatory coordination regarding proper food handling procedures.
Finally the association has made a major step to support the concept of "cold pasteurization" (irradiation). In January 1999, the Association Board voted to recognize the food safety benefits of "cold pasteurization" and encourage the availability of products processed using the technology. The Association submitted formal written comments to the FDA advising against mandatory labeling of cold pasteurized products at retail.
"These important food safety efforts will help build upon our years of quality food safety education and directly improve food safety in restaurants and at home," Grover said.