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Making Every Day a World Food Safety Day

Excerpts from a Speech delivered by Frank Yiannas at the

Slovenian Chamber of Commerce

Annual Food and Agriculture Conference, June 7, 2023

Good morning. It’s an honor to be with you today, which also happens to be officially celebrated as World Food Safety Day in many countries around the world. I want to thank the Chamber of Commerce for the invitation and the warm hospitality.

To be candid, I was invited to participate in various World Food Safety Day events in several countries around the world this year. However, I specifically chose to be with all of you – the food and agricultural sector – in Slovenia.

You might be asking yourself, why? Slovenia is a not a big country. My reason for being here is due to a several factors. First, I respect Tatijana and Jana with the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce very much and I appreciate all that they have done to translate my book, Food Safety Culture, into the Slovene language. I also believe Slovenia has a rich reputation of producing high quality products in such a pristine, environmentally friendly, and green environment. And they have a huge potential to punch above their weight class in the 21st Century global food system.

I am at something of a crossroads professionally and have been giving a lot of thought lately to the ideas, beliefs, and commitments that have fueled my career. Who is Frank Yiannas in 2023? Why should you be listening to me?

I recently left the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after serving more than four years as its Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response. Before that, I was in charge of food safety in two of the world’s largest corporations – the Walt Disney Company and Walmart. I did my best to help ensure that the guests at Disney theme parks, resorts and cruise ships, and the customers of the world’s largest retailer were protected from illnesses caused by food.

Looking back at my career, I see myself as someone whose commitment to food safety has not dimmed over the years. In fact, my commitment is stronger today than ever before. Whether in government or in private industry, the work for me has always been driven by this guiding principle, as long as foodborne disease exists somewhere in the world, it can exist anywhere in the world. And it’s my philosophical belief that one foodborne illness is one too many. There is always – and I mean always - more that we can and MUST do to protect consumers from unsafe foods.

And that is what the work will always be for me, no matter what platform I’m working and speaking from.

So, in the year 2023, this is the great truth that has become clear to me. Ultimately, I don’t think it matters whether you work for a government agency or a food company. It doesn’t matter if you work for a trade association or a non-profit. It doesn’t matter whether you work in a big country or a small one. It doesn’t matter where in the world you live, whether it’s the United States or Slovenia.

What matters is YOU. That’s right. YOU.

What matters is what you know and believe about food safety and, even more importantly, how those skills, knowledge, and beliefs shape your actions and behaviors to keep consumers in your country, and in other countries around the world, as safe as they can possibly be from foodborne disease.

So, my title today is “Making Every Day a World Food Safety Day.” You see, while I think celebrating World Food Safety Day once a year is nice; if I’m candid, it does leave me a little unfulfilled.

I want people and companies to focus on food safety, think about food safety, talk about food safety, and practice food safety every day – not just one day a year - because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s a regulatory requirement or June 7th.

It’s with that thought in mind, that I want to share some thoughts on the Future of a Safer, Smarter, and More Sustainable Food System.

[this portion of the speech has been omitted here for brevity]

In closing, I want to thank you for what you’re doing to advance food safety, so that people in Slovenia and around the region can live better lives.

And for food safety professionals around the world, let’s work together to Make Every Day a World Food Safety Day.

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