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    October 6, 2023

    Darin Detwiler and Bill Marler on Food Safety & What We Owe Consumers

    The future of food safety is being influenced by evolving regulations, growing consumer (and industry) demands for transparency, and an increasingly intricate global supply chain. While businesses face these complexities and work to improve their own food safety commitments and standards, there is still uncertainty in how they can stay ahead of the curve. Luckily, knowledge is power. And at the Virtual reCONNECT 2023 user conference, attendees heard from some of the top thought leaders on food safety efforts.

    The highly anticipated, day two live keynote and Q&A with food safety champions Darin Detwiler and Bill Marler, “The State of Food Safety Today: How Far We’ve Come and What’s Next,” inspired reCONNECT attendees to consider safer futures for consumers. Hosted by Trustwell’s Chief Customer Officer, Katy Jones, food industry professionals across the spectrum won’t want to miss this exclusive reCONNECT event. While reCONNECT 2023 has ended, you can still access the recording of this event by registering today and checking your email for the exclusive access link and password. 

    About the Speakers

    BillBill Marler is a leading food safety advocate and food poisoning attorney who has worked tirelessly to improve the safety of the U.S. food supply. For more than three decades, Marler has represented victims of every large foodborne illness outbreak in the United States – including people sickened by E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. His advocacy work extends beyond litigation and courtrooms, as he has been instrumental in regulatory change, helping to spur the passage of the 2010-2011 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, and has testified on food safety before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. He’s also a frequent guest speaker and writer on food safety issues. You can learn more about Marler and his essential consumer advocacy work in our Transparency Talk episode on “Building a Safer Future for Food: A Discussion with Foodborne Illness Lawyer Bill Marler.”

    Darin DDarin Detwiler, associate professor of regulatory affairs at Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies, is an author, speaker, and professor of food regulatory policy, specializing in food safety, global economics of food and agriculture, Blockchain, and food authenticity. Detwiler advises industry, NGOs, and government agencies, helping to address food safety and authenticity issues in the U.S. and abroad. A well-respected food safety advisor, researcher, and author, Detwiler has spent more than 30 years advocating for food safety policies and regulatory change. You can learn more about Detwiler and his distinguished career in our Transparency Talk episode on “Facing the Reality of Foodborne Illness: Insights from Dr. Detwiler on Netflix’s Poisoned.”

    Food Safety Champions for Over 30 Years

    During the event, Darin Detwiler and Bill Marler explored their past 30 years of dedication in the food safety space and discussed the progress that has been made over the years. However, there’s still a lot of progress to go in protecting consumers from foodborne illnesses, and our guests shared some of their insights, as well as discussed their participation in the Netflix documentary: Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food.

    "Just 30 years ago, we talked about food safety in a very different sense than we do today," Darin shared as he kicked off the discussion. "Today, we have the internet, podcasts, webinars, and documentaries - we have so many ways in which consumers are talking about food safety. The industry is experiencing the pressure of consumer awareness through the sharing of information, and the call from consumers to hold them (companies or the industry as a whole) accountable for failures."

    "As a lawyer, I take a slightly different spin on the last thirty years," Bill responded. "People need to understand that before regulations from 1994 labeled E.coli as an adulterant, meat companies could knowingly sell E.coli-contaminated meat. From about 1993 until the early 2000s', ninety-five percent of my law firms' revenue was from hamburger-linked E.coli lawsuits. Now, I haven't had a hamburger-linked E.coli case in years, and it's because of testing and regulations from FSIS. But, we continue to make two steps forward and one step back. We still have much to do.

    Challenges and Future Drivers of Change in Food Safety

    "I've had many discussions with CEOs in boardrooms for fast food companies," Darin shared, "and many of them will talk about their legacy from the past 30 years. But I have to keep reminding them that if you look at the legacy building over the next thirty years, whoever is at the helm of the company will most likely not have been born yet, or be of an age to remember what it was like today. When these leaders talk about what they invest in and their priorities, or what they celebrate as part of their legacy, they can lose track of the 'why' behind it, and undermine the incredible progress that has been made."

    Yet to this day, 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses every year. Beyond the advancements our guests shared, they also had a lot to say about where the industry is headed and how to right the ship.

    Darin: "There's been incredible advancements, but those numbers have been consistent over the last three decades. Today, the landscape is just that much more difficult. The diversity of where we get our supplies from and the overall very complicated geography of outbreaks. All of these various disruptors are here to stay. And five years from now we'll have challenges we couldn't even imagine today. We could come up with the best laws, policies, or technology today, but as soon as we get that implemented and normalized, new disruptions will pop up. These disruptions will always require us to be forward-thinking, proactive, and have a strong underlying awareness and culture around food safety."

    Bill: "In my thirty years of work, every single case had one thing in common: it could have been avoided. There's always warning signs that companies, frankly, fail to recognize. It's more than just food companies, it's human behavior. We won't think about the disruptions and just get caught in the day-to-day, and if we don't have an established food safety culture that is always looking around the corner, asking simple questions, then outbreaks can slip through. For example in 1992 when Washington increased their cook temperatures from 140 F to 165 F, and no other state did that. That should have caught the attention of companies. Everybody needs to be vigilant, aware, and have a culture and the people in place to advocate for the consumer and spend time looking ahead to resolve incidents before they become an outbreak. The more companies do that, the more those numbers will start to drop."

    Rounding out the discussion, Bill and Darin also answered live questions from the audience, including their perspective on the greatest threats to food safety today, what common mistakes in food safety they see, and more. 


    Rewatch reCONNECT On-Demand

    As the industry continues to navigate the intricacies of creating a safer global food chain for all, it’s important to remember the power of collaboration and knowledge sharing when it comes to innovation. At this year’s reCONNECT, we offered a number of sessions focusing on both challenges and opportunities within the field – food technology, allergen and product labeling, recall management, regulatory compliance, and more.

    Bill Marler and Darin Detwiler's discussion was a major highlight for the event, and you can now access the recording of the event online. Register for reCONNECT and check your email for an access link and password. Join Trustwell in our mission to change the food industry for the better and register today to learn from leaders on food technology, food safety, and regulatory compliance at reCONNECT 2023. 

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