Maple Leaf Foods hosted its sixth annual Food Safety Symposium recently in Mississauga, Ontario. At the event, 170 representatives from more than 100 companies and organizations gathered at Maple Leaf's invitation to discuss the most pressing concerns in food safety. The 2014 edition of event was themed "People or Technology", asking participants to debate which was the best investment to make a steep change in food safety globally.

"Food safety incorporates a broad cross-section of people and technologies and so we adopted a deliberatively provocative theme this year," said Dr. Randy Huffman, senior vice president of operations and chief food safety officer at Maple Leaf. "Everyone would choose "both" to the question of investing in people versus technology, but in reality, resources are never unlimited and choices about investments, both large and small, are made each and every day. The provocative question we debated was which investment would lead to the greatest advancement?"

Those advocating investments in people spoke about food safety behaviors being the ultimate determinant of whether or not a food process will produce a safe product. The tens of thousands of people working at each step of the journey from farm to fork need to be on side to make a step change in global food safety. Those who said technology would move us further, faster, highlighted the timely, data driven decisions new investments foster. Technology saves lives and brings people together in a virtual environment so that sharing and learning can occur.


"The point of this annual event is to help advance the cause of food safety," Huffman said. "This resolution had people focused on the best way to achieve that, making it a successful day for all involved."

The symposium participants had the opportunity to learn more of the "Safe Food Canada - The Learning Partnership" a proposed model for standardizing food safety competencies and enabling people working in the Canadian food industry to progress and grow in the profession with the overall goal of improvement of Canadian food safety performance. A session was also dedicated to the role technology is playing in food manufacturing.

Maple Leaf Foods has adopted a food safety promise to provide consumers safe, great tasting food produced in a safe work environment. An enabling principle in fulfilling this promise is the notion that Maple Leaf treats food safety as a non-competitive issue and actively shares food safety learnings and promotes sharing of information among industry and government groups through events such as this annual symposium.