Last month Almond Board of California (ABC) hosted its 19th Annual Food Quality and Safety Symposium. Events like this are important because they help the California Almond community deliver the high quality almonds that consumers love.
Richard Waycott, ABC president and CEO, kicked off the event talking about how though the California Almond industry is growing in terms of production, it’s nimble because it’s made up primarily of small communities and family-run farms, which is what makes research and sustainable innovation possible.
Other topics highlighted at the Symposium included the evolution of both the California Almond Sustainability Program1 and Accelerated Innovation Management initiatives, emerging biomass usage opportunities, and expansion across all global markets.
In addition, to tackle the complicated subject of the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), experts presented tips for understanding and meeting these new rules. Elizabeth Fawell, Almond Board’s FSMA consultant from Hogan Lovells, outlined a four-step approach in her presentation to help the industry understand what rules apply and when they come into effect for different operations. Steve Patton, from the California Department of Food and Ag (CDFA), touched on FSMA enforcement. He noted that there is a mutual trust between the FDA and the almond industry. As an industry, California Almonds are well positioned to adapt to the changes because we have proactively, voluntarily created and implemented so many programs that are already in line with FSMA requirements.
Dr. Linda Harris from UC Davis, and David Goldenberg from the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, UC Davis, both had sessions that addressed various food safety risks. While the industry as a whole follows strict protocols and standards, both reiterated the importance of establishing and evolving food safety plans, with the goal to establish strong preventive strategies before any potential response or reaction is needed.
The Symposium attendees also heard from the Agricultural Machine Research and Design Centre team of the University of South Australia. They are experimenting with novel methods of almond harvesting and processing, aimed at addressing environmental and quality concerns of a growing industry. The team has identified several positive key takeaways after preliminary research: early harvesting offers a harvesting method independent of the weather; reduces mold, bacteria and pest infestation; significantly reduces dust and is easier for hulling.
Ultimately, the annual Symposium helps the California Almond community stay ahead of food safety issues and aware of the advancements in food safety technology around the world to make sure that almond lovers enjoy a safe, delicious nut.
1California Almond Sustainability Program definition: Sustainable almond farming utilizes production practices that are economically viable and are based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees. The result is a plentiful, nutritious, safe food product.