More than 200 California almond growers, handlers, and allied industry members were urged to continue their diligence in practicing food safety at the Almond Board of California’s 12th annual Food Quality and Safety Symposium in Modesto, Calif., earlier this month.

“One of the themes we heard from the guest speakers was that food safety is not proprietary, and that everyone in the food industry must continue to think proactively about improving processes and safety measures,” said Tim Birmingham, associate director, quality assurance and industry services for the Almond Board. “That aligns with the California almond industry’s commitment to food safety and it’s why we continue to invest in new research, technologies, and educational initiatives to provide consumers with a reliable supply of safe, high-quality almonds.”

Jenny Scott, a representative from the Office of Food Safety at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told the group she expects the nut industry to face new regulatory requirements in an effort to modernize food safety. However, she commended the industry for its pasteurization program and cited it as a model for other nut industries. She also emphasized that implementing controls prior to processing remains critical to a successful food safety program.

Pasteurization is a proven method of reducing the possible presence of harmful bacteria on almonds while maintaining the taste, quality and nutritional value of the food. A large number of foods are pasteurized because of the proven effectiveness of the process, including milk, cheese, and juices. Since 2007, industrywide pasteurization has been an important component of the industry’s plan designed to provide consumers with the safest possible almonds from California.

Nancy Rogers Bontempo, Kraft Foods, explained how the food manufacturer is becoming more involved in ensuring its suppliers meet its standards for food safety. Additional symposium topics included an integrated approach to pest management and presentations from leading food quality experts on new research on oil migration studies in almonds and moisture and water activity, and how these factors can affect shelf life. Other guest speakers featured experts from academia and industry settings, including Carl Scruton with Setton Pistachio, Suchart Chaven with PepsiCo International Food Safety, Ed Hosoda with Cardinal Professional Products, Mike McCarthy with the Department of Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, and Ted Labuza with the University of Minnesota.