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What’s Ahead for the Almond Industry? Find Out at ABC’s Food Quality and Safety Symposium


Not often do top experts in food quality and safety gather in one room to inform growers and handlers of key trends and new challenges facing the industry. Fortunately for almond growers, huller/shellers and handlers, the 21st Annual Food Quality & Safety Symposium is just one month away.

“The annual symposium is a great chance to get an understanding of the food safety and quality climate at the current moment in time and to reconnect with colleagues,” said Tim Birmingham, director of Quality Assurance and Industry Services at the Almond Board of California (ABC).

Birmingham will be one of the experts playing host to an impressive agenda of speakers at the event, which is scheduled for Thursday, June 13 at Wine & Roses in Lodi, California. Symposium attendees will hear from experts on topics ranging the full spectrum of quality and safety, from the orchard to the customer.

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One key practices growers can implement to help reduce the risk of aflatoxin is to shake the mummy nuts, or nuts left on the tree after harvest, to the ground and disk them up.

Dr. Marc W. Allard, a research area coordinator for genomics at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will discuss how the FDA is leveraging whole genome sequencing — a cutting-edge application of DNA mapping and analysis technology — to improve almond quality and safety by making it easier to trace and contain foodborne illness outbreaks. As food safety continues to be a priority, understanding the control tools in place will help industry members deliver a quality project through their own management practices.

Continuing the focus on quality, Dr. Themis Michailides, plant pathologist and lecturer with UC Ag and Natural Resources, will give an overview of Aspergillus and associated aflatoxin concerns, as well as all the tools growers have in their toolbox to help control it in almonds today. ABC’s Julie Adams, vice president of Global Technical and Regulatory Affairs, will then discuss the impact of aflatoxin on markets around the world, outlining how to handle any rejections from top destinations like the EU and Japan.

On the regulatory and compliance front, experts will guide attendees through FSMA and the Produce Safety Rule — including FDA’s recently announced use of enforcement discretion for almonds. Elizabeth Fawell, ABC’s FSMA consultant from Hogan Lovells law firm, will dive into FSMA’s intentional adulteration rule sharing details on potential risks during almond production, which should be considered when addressing rule requirements. Then, Dr. Linda Harris, cooperative extension specialist in Food Science and Technology, UC Davis, will share insights into best practices to ensure food safety from farm to fork, and remind attendees why growers need to remain diligent in their contribution to food safety.

Handlers especially will want to hear expert guidance on FDA food facility inspections, offered by Howard R. Sklamberg, legal counsel with Akin Gump. Sklamberg, who concentrates his practice on regulatory compliance and strategy related to food and drug law, will explain what handlers can expect and how to prepare for a facility inspection.

Rounding out the agenda with a prospective look ahead will be Dr. Chris Simmons, researcher at UC Davis, presenting a roadmap toward a future of almond harvesting that leverages new off-ground harvester technology. ABC’s Daren Williams, senior director in Global Communications, will then close out the event by explaining how innovations in harvest dust reduction and air quality — along with water use, zero waste and environmentally friendly pest management — ladder up to ABC’s Almond Orchard 2025 Goals, and what those goals mean for the industry.

“The symposium is sure to be a complete round-up of food safety news, from growing to handling, that’s beneficial to all parties,” Birmingham said.

RSVP to the 21st Annual Food Quality and Safety Symposium today by clicking here, or email Jayme Puthoff at for more information.

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