NSF International, a global independent public health organization, yesterday honored Robert O’Connor, DVM, senior vice president of technical services at Foster Farms, with a 2015 Food Safety Innovation Award. The award, announced at the Food Safety Leadership Awards ceremony during the Food Safety Summit in Baltimore, Maryland, honors outstanding breakthroughs in food safety and individuals who have made a lasting impact.
Dr. O’Connor was selected for the award by NSF International’s independent panel of food safety experts for his leadership in developing a comprehensive Salmonella control program. Under Dr. O’Connor’s leadership, Foster Farms implemented a multi-hurdle approach to controlling Salmonella which extended through all areas of the company’s operations – from breeder stock, through grow-out, to the processing plant. Since April 2014, Foster Farms has consistently achieved a Salmonella prevalence in raw parts of 5 percent or less – an industry-leading level that is three times lower than 15.4 percent parts prevalence standard proposed by the USDA in January 2015, and five times lower than the 2011-2012 USDA-measured industry benchmark of 25 percent. Dr. O’Connor has actively shared the program with the USDA, CDC and members of the poultry industry as part of a collaborative effort to improve Salmonella control nationwide.
“We are pleased to recognize Dr. O’Connor’s food safety contributions with an NSF International Food Safety Leadership Award in the category of innovation,” said Kevan P. Lawlor, NSF International president and CEO. “His leadership and enthusiasm in applying science-based methods and encouraging information-sharing embodies the spirit of this award and our mission of protecting and improving human health.”
“All of us at Foster Farms are proud of Dr. O’Connor’s accomplishments and his dedication to continual advancement in poultry health and food safety – not only for the benefit of our company, our consumer and customers, but for the entire industry,” said Ron Foster, Foster Farms president and CEO. “Dr. O’Connor’s dedication is helping to advance poultry production throughout the United States.”
As part of the food safety program, Dr. O’Connor recruited and formed a Food Safety Advisory Board, an independent group of food safety experts, to inform and validate the company’s strategic approach and assess best practices for continuous advancement. He also led the National Chicken Council’s working group on Salmonella reduction and continues to participate as an active member.
“I am honored to receive this award and would like to recognize my staff and company leadership who applied countless time to this effort, as well as our food safety advisors who also contributed to the program’s success,” said Dr. O’Connor. “Food safety is a complex issue that requires collaboration and data sharing. All producers have a stake in improving the quality of American foods and the welfare of the birds in their care.”