Despite all the food safety advances in sanitary machine design, sanitary plant design, product testing and inspection, and many processors reexamining their current SSOPs, HACCP plans and FSMA preparation and adherence, there is still much work to be done to protect the food supply and to inform consumers of potential problems.

This issue of Food Engineering has several articles related to food safety, including X-ray inspection equipment, rapid testing and Listeria thriving in plant equipment. These articles could not come at a better time. In addition to proper equipment cleaning and overall plant sanitation protocols, detailed and ongoing staff training to minimize the potential for Listeria contamination is essential. Please see “Listeria hides in processing machinery” in this issue on pages 13-14.

The recent recalls concerning possible Listeria contamination have been top of mind, not only for those in the food industry, but for consumers as well. For example, this past weekend, I was asked to bring a dessert to a gathering of family and friends, but I was not prepared for the feedback I received about choosing ice cream. Everyone at the gathering wanted to be sure they were not eating one of the recently recalled brands. The ironic part is no one, except me, could correctly recall the names of the brands involved.

And that’s the problem. As the food and beverage manufacturing industry makes strides in plant and equipment sanitation, it continues to wrestle with consumer education. From my encounter this past weekend, it’s easy to see how an entire food category can be affected by uninformed consumers.

I don’t think consumers will ever stop enjoying ice cream, but they could still use a lot more education.

One final note: In case you missed it, select sessions from the Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference held last month are available for online viewing. On the topic of food safety, don’t miss the presentation by Craig Wilson, vice president of food safety and quality assurance at Costco. To view this and other select sessions, visit