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April 2020

Part 3–Beyond the Basics Conference Recap

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The conclusion of our annual conference recap.  Thank you for your patience!   Click to view part one or part two

After a fascinating morning of learning it was time for lunch!  Guests helped themselves to mixed fruit, three different salads, and a cup of tomato basil soup.  Attendees were able to network and connect with others while enjoying lunch.

Jennifer Gels, MBA, RD from Ecolab was our next speaker on “Creating a Food Safe Environment.”  Jennifer serves as Vice President of Marketing.   Jennifer began with recognizing and understanding the risks involved with often overlooked food safety issues. Common food safety issues that come to the forefront include:  improper holding temperatures, poor personal hygiene, inadequate cooking, contaminated equipment, and food from unsafe sources. Often overlooked food safety issues include:  cold storage areas too warm, too-deep cooling pans, non-calibrated thermometers, improper produce handling, poor ice machine sanitation, cocktail garnishes, self-service areas, allergen isolation, and drink dispensers. Unbeknownst to all of us–in the new age of coronavirus these things came to the forefront quickly!  Soon after the spread started self-service drink dispensers were shut down and self-service areas in grocery store delis were stopped!

The second portion of her presentation was about macro trends in creating a food safe environment.  She had a wonderful illustration of a fully dressed hamburger and showed how our food supply chain is global.  The yeast may come from Canada, the lettuce from Mexico, the garlic powder from Australia, wheat from Poland, and so on.  Again, we are seeing this play out in our supply chain issues today in the midst of a global pandemic!  We never imagined in February that it would be impossible to find yeast in our grocery stores in April!  She also discussed customer preferences and how they are changing–including potential food safety issues with the increase in food delivery services.   With these trends Jennifer stated that businesses must have: visibility across the supply chain, water and energy expertise, new ways of doing business, and an evolving digitally enabled workforce.

Jennifer ended by giving us a sneak preview of a few new Ecolab products designed to help in food safety.  They have a new fruit and vegetable wash that has a 99.9% reduction in pathogens in wash water and a new “Wash and Walk” sanitizing no rinse floor and drain cleaner that reduces labor needs while providing a great sanitizing option.

After a short break our day continued with Vanessa Nordstrom, President of Everday EcoSolutions and Janice Becker of LogSafe.  They spoke on “Food Waste and the Carbon Effect.”  Vanessa began her presentation by exploring how we got to our present state of wastefulness in our modern food system.  Prior to the 1950’s we lived in a time of scarcity, 1950’s-1990 was a time of abundance, and since the 1990’s we have been in a mismanagement of our abundance. The U.S. evolved from a country of farmers to a country of doers, thinkers and innovators, resulting in consumerism. Large producers began to take the role of food production and the introduction of packaging increased the product shelf life.  Now we have 1.3 billion tons of waste globally.  Australia is #1  in waste with an average of 712 pounds per person per year and the U.S. is #2 with an average of 615 pounds per person/year. In the US, 40% of food produced goes to waste, while the world averages 30%. This equates to approximately 11% of total emissions. 

Vanessa provided us with these staggering statistics:

  • Food waste generation in the U.S. alone has increased by 300% since 1980
  • Less than 5% of unused food is recycled leaving 95% going to landfills
  • Food is the largest component of all landfilled waste
  • Food in landfills account for the largest human-related source of methane, which is a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon monoxide
  • 25% of all food purchased is never eaten
  • 40% of all food produced is never used
  • 34 Million tons of food recyclables are sent to landfills each year

So what can we do individually to help reduce food waste being sent to landfills?   More planning, less packaging, and composting is a good place to start!  For industry, she suggests:

  • Reduce waste at the beginning of supply chain
  •  Stop over-production
  •  Grocery needs to adopt the practice of selling edible food, not beautiful food
  •  Create a market for the farmer to sell a large percentage of their crop, not a small portion
  • Reduce or eliminate packaging
  • Reduce brand introductions 
  • Move away from plastics unless 1, 2 & 5
  • Leverage reusable (Compostable)
  •  Eliminate or greatly reduce single-use packaging

Next Janice Becker gave a short presentation on her company’s food safety app called LogSafe.  This app includes logs to keep track of time and temperatures and even can alert management if the logs are not completed.  The program is easy to use and easy to train employees.  For more information visit their website

Our final speaker of the day was Danny Mishek, President and Co-Owner of VistaTek and SelfEco.  Danny’s company produces plant based plastics and is located in Stillwater. Today only about 3% of the plastics manufactured are plant based.  As more and more people desire to move away from petroleum based plastics that take hundreds and hundreds of years to break down, his company sought to create something that is both beautiful and eco-friendly.  Danny shared examples of many of their products.  They look and feel similarly to traditional disposable serve ware however they are compostable.  Visit their website for more information  They also have created plant based plastic garden pots that have been proven to produce bigger, better plants in your garden!

The day concluded with closing remarks and program evaluations.  A huge thank you to all who worked behind-the-scenes to make this event happen.