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Stevenson Awarded First Almond Technical Achievement Award


Ken Stevenson was awarded the 2021 Almond Technical Achievement Award at The Almond Conference 2021. (Left to right - Ken Stevenson, Tim Birmingham, Karen Lapsley, Brian Wahlbrink, Richard Waycott)

Ken Stevenson, Ph.D., made his reputation by making sure that almonds are safe to eat. For his important work and lasting impact, Stevenson was the first-ever recipient of the Almond Technical Achievement Award, which recognizes an industry or allied industry member who has added significant value to the California almond industry through research, innovation or facilitated adoption of practices for the betterment of the industry.

Stevenson was recognized for his key role in establishing hundreds of processes that make almonds safer to eat. As the chairman of the Almond Board’s Technical Expert Review Panel (TERP) for the past 17 years, he has been at the forefront of the industry’s commitment to food safety. TERP is a third-party panel made up of experts in thermal processing, process validation, food safety and microbiology.  

“He was instrumental in setting research priorities to identify risks associated with almonds and appropriate ways to control them,” said Tim Birmingham, director of industry services for the Almond Board. “He has led the TERP panel in ongoing program refinement and validation of more than 300 processes used on almonds.” 

Stevenson is a food scientist and leader in the field of microbial food safety who worked for the National Food Processors Association, based in Dublin, Calif. In 2001, after the first of two Salmonella scares associated with people eating raw almonds, he was asked by the Almond Board to help identify ways via pasteurization and other methods to ensure the safety of almonds. 

In 2004, after another Salmonella outbreak affected 29 people in 12 states, TERP was formed, with Stevenson as its first and only chairman until his retirement in December. 

“The group consisted of four to five consultants who would work independently on sound science,” said Guangwei Huang, the Almond Board’s associate director of food research and technology. He was instrumental in recruiting Stevenson to TERP. 

Thanks to the independent gatekeeping of TERP on the validation of almond pasteurization processes, ABC has built creditability of our pasteurization program and earned confidence of the regulators who allow our industry to administer the pasteurization program.
Guangwei Huang

Huang said Stevenson was deeply involved in all the critical areas addressed by TERP, including the following.  

  • Soliciting research proposals and evaluating project findings. 
  • Establishing pasteurization criteria. 
  • Developing validation guidelines for almond conventional thermal processes (oil roasting, blanching, PPO) and new pasteurization processes of raw almonds. 
  • Assessing validation reports of new pasteurization technologies submitted by process authorities. 
  • Ensuring the validation guidelines closely followed by the process authorities as they carry out validation trials. 
  • Communicating with regulators. 

Birmingham and Huang both said the almond pasteurization program Stevenson helped create has not only solidified the almond industry’s reputation for food safety, it also has become a model for other nut and low-moisture food industries. 

“This brand new technical achievement award is a perfect recognition to his expertise in food safety, achievements in technical advancement of pasteurization technologies and contribution to ABC mandatory pasteurization program,” Huang said.