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Maple Leaf names new safety chief

The head of the research arm of the American Meat Institute will be the chief food safety officer for Maple Leaf Foods.

Randy Huffman will take his new post Jan. 5, reporting to the Toronto meat processing giant’s CEO, Michael McCain.

Huffman is currently president of the AMI Foundation, the research, education and information wing of the AMI, which represents over 600 meat processors and industry suppliers worldwide, among them Maple Leaf, Cargill and XL Foods.

Huffman joined the Washington, D.C.-based foundation in 2000 as its vice-president of scientific affairs and was named its president in April this year.

Starting next year Huffman will lead food safety and quality programs across Maple Leaf, the company said in a release Wednesday. This means identifying and assessing global best operating practices, technologies, ingredients and resources and helping Maple Leaf set up a food safety advisory council.

Such a council is expected to include a team of experts who will
“increase the company’s access to global knowledge and expertise in areas of food safety, microbiology and public education,” the company said.

The AMI Foundation’s research and education programs have focused on the major food safety hazards associated with meat processing, specifically on reducing E. coli O157:H7 and salmonella, both on-farm and in packing plants, as well as on reducing listeria contamination in ready-to-eat (RTE) meats.

Maple Leaf this summer faced a major product recall when cases of listeriosis across Canada were tied to products from one of its RTE meat processing plants in Toronto. The plant was shut down Aug. 20 and is now in limited production.

As of Oct. 17, the strain of listeria linked to the Toronto plant has been confirmed by federal officials to have sickened 53 people in seven provinces. Of those cases, 29 people have died and in 20 of those cases, listeria was confirmed as the underlying cause.

According to the AMI, during his stint with the AMI Foundation, Huffman has been a part of both the foundation-led Listeria Intervention and Control Task Force and the Beef Processing Best Practices Task Force, which have created and run in-depth training workshops for industry and government.

Before joining the foundation, Huffman handled beef safety issues as director of technical services for Kansas-based Koch Beef Co., an arm of Koch Industries, and was previously vice-president of technical services for Fairbank Farms, a fresh meat processor at Ashville, N.Y.

Huffman “will drive continuous improvement in our protocols,
assets, and human resource strategies that will reflect the latest research and highest standards globally,” McCain said in Maple Leaf’s release.

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