Food-Safety Collaboration a Key Membership Benefit

The American Meat Institute completed in 2006 the first century of its illustrious history serving the meat industry. As AMI enters its second century in support of the industry, The National Provisioner celebrates what makes AMI so strong: its membership. This month, we introduce a new feature titled, “Inside AMI.” Inside AMI will give readers details into the whys and hows of membership and benefits for processors, from one member’s perspective.
This month, The National Provisioner asked Tracie Sheehan, Vice President of Food Safety for Sara Lee Corporation and Chairman of AMI’s Scientific Affairs Committee for her thoughts on the relationships and benefits that Sara Lee Corp. gains from being involved in AMI and what AMI offers the industry from Sara Lee’s perspective.
NP: The meat industry as a whole owes plenty to AMI, but are there any ways in which Sara Lee’s history coincides with or lends itself to the success that AMI has had over the decades? Is there a specific example of how Sara Lee takes the information and other benefits of AMI membership and translates those things to everyday operations?
Sheehan: Sara Lee has been a member of AMI for more than four decades. Sara Lee Corporation and Food & Beverage executives are members within several policy committees that focus on broad functional and operational areas and develop policy recommendations for specific issues within these areas. Our role within the advisory committees provides us with the opportunity to share and integrate specialized advice on issues that mean the most to our operations, customers and consumers.
There are two key industry milestones of which we are exceptionally proud. The first is AMI’s policy to treat all food-safety issues as non-competitive industry topics. With AMI in the driver’s seat, Sara Lee and other meat companies came together in 2001 to discuss key food-safety issues and the ways in which we could collaborate as an industry to share ideas, insights, needs and solutions. Instead of working in a silo, we worked hand-in-hand with our competitors to ensure that we were all focused on food-safety initiatives that would help the industry and the consumer.
Secondly, through the help of the AMI, Sara Lee joined an integrated committee that was primarily focused on taking a proactive approach to ongoing sanitary improvements for both equipment and facility designs. It is due to these key collaborations with the AMI that the industry as been able to ensure that U.S. meat is the safest in the world.
NP: From Sara Lee’s perspective, what is the primary benefit that comes from being a member of AMI, and why is AMI so strong in that area?
Sheehan: The primary benefit to being an AMI member is that AMI is committed to the relentless pursuit of quality food-safety measures within the industry. We have the opportunity to take an active role in these food-safety pursuits through our AMI committee involvement, and we directly benefit through ultimately implementing state-of-the-art food-safety policies that improve our products and the industry as a whole.
The AMI Foundation has funded millions of dollars in research on food safety that has led to interventions on the farm and in processing facilities, resulting in reductions in foodborne illnesses associated with meat products. These interventions have been implemented by most major food processors.
NP: What are some of the key ways in which Sara Lee is involved in AMI, and has been involved in recent years? Do you see Sara Lee expanding its involvement or keeping it steady down the road?
Sheehan: We are very active in our involvement with AMI, and we expect this relationship to continue indefinitely. Richard Armstrong, Vice President of Supply Chain for Sara Lee Food & Beverage, is an active Board of Directors member. Bob Reinhard, Director of Food Safety for Sara Lee Food and Beverage, is Chairman of the Inspection Committee that addresses issues involving federal inspection of livestock, poultry and processed meat and poultry products, and I am Chairman of the Scientific Affairs Committee that addresses scientific issues related to meat and poultry production, distribution and consumption.