ACS is deeply saddened by the recent outbreak of listeriosis and the death of two people in the northeast, which was linked to cheese from Vulto Creamery in New York State. It is a devastating outcome and a tragic time for those affected, their families, and all cheese professionals who strive to create safe, delicious, wholesome products for consumers.
Below is coverage from several sources:
Dealing with a Crisis
During a crisis, with emotions running high, it can be challenging to field questions from the media and maintain composure. In 2013, ACS offered the webinar, Surviving a Recall, in which three industry experts -- a former regulator, a cheesemaker, and a crisis communications expert -- provided valuable tips, tools, and training to help members avoid, or weather, a difficult recall situation. Watch the webinar (need the password? find it here) to brush up on this topic.
As an organization, ACS is currently updating its crisis response and management plan. A few guidelines which ACS follows in such situations may prove useful to you or your regional guild.
- When contacted by the media, collect the following information:
- Name of writer/interviewer
- Name of publication/news outlet
- Contact information (cell phone/email)
- Avoid being drawn in to a sense of urgency, and instead:
- Assure the journalist that you will meet their deadline -- or direct them to another resource quickly, if you don't feel you are an appropriate fit for the story
- Request questions be sent to you in writing (via email)
- Offer to connect the journalist to specific experts and additional resources
- Coordinate with industry partners to ensure a cohesive response
- Request opportunity to fact check final piece prior to publication
- When being interviewed:
- Keep written talking points in front of you
- Respond to questions asked and do not stray from topics at hand
- Never say "no comment" in response to an interviewer's question
- There is no such thing as "off the record"; anything you say could be published
- Avoid conjecture
- If you don't know the answer, say so -- and then direct them to someone who can answer the question, or say you'll get back to them
Members are always welcome to direct media to ACS and/or to the ACS website where they can find Position Statements on key industry issues as well as other resources.
ACS Launches Website Dedicated to Food Safety for Cheesemakers
The Safe Cheesemaking Hub,
, is a new website that provides an easily searchable compendium of food safety resources for cheesemakers. This website serves as a "one-stop shop" for the vetted resources, research, training, and tools artisan cheesemakers need to enhance their food safety practices, including:
- Online and Print Resources: online education, food safety publications and websites, FSMA information, government resources, searchable "virtual library"
- Regional Support and Education: regional courses and workshops, extension programs, directories of state regulatory agencies and cheese guilds
- Food Safety News and Updates: RSS feeds providing current information on food safety, links to industry publications, recall information, industry statistics
- Templates and Forms: Preventive Controls and HACCP Plan templates, FDA forms, crisis preparedness and response plans, dairy plant and supply chain resources
- FAQs: answers to frequently asked questions about safe cheesemaking, with the opportunity to submit additional questions to ACS's team of experts
- Spanish Language Resources: links to online resources available in Spanish
The Safe Cheesemaking Hub grew out of industry needs identified by a broad consortium of dairy and cheese industry stakeholders. Nora Weiser, ACS Executive Director, noted that "with so many resources out there, it is a full-time job for cheesemakers just to locate and vet food safety information. A tool like The Safe Cheesemaking Hub allows them to quickly find what they need, gather information on a specific issue, get answers, and move forward with their passion -- making delicious, wholesome cheeses."
Have suggested resources you'd like to see on the site? Email them to Sarah Spira.
2nd Edition of Best Practices Guide for Cheesemakers Published
In 2016, ACS published its Best Practices Guide for Cheesemakers. This seminal document was created in response to industry needs, and was reviewed by FDA technical experts so their input and comments could be incorporated.
In February 2017, ACS published the Second Edition of the Guide. This updated edition incorporates additional technical feedback from FDA subject matter experts, aligns with current FSMA regulations, and compiles a more complete, searchable bibliography linked directly to resources at libraries and booksellers nationwide.
Get Your Copy!
- Color - $45 members / $60 non-members
- Black & White - $25 members / $40 non-members
Guidance for Listeria Control & Common Listeria Locations
For producers seeking information on the control of listeria in production facilities, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy offers its
Control of Listeria monocytogenes: Guidance for the U.S. Dairy Industry
In addition, the infographic at right is provided by ACS as a tool for producers, highlighting the most common locations where Listeria is found in cheesemaking facilities, and in cheesemaking equipment.
FDA Seeks Comments on Its Listeria Guidance for RTE Foods
ACS Food Safety Activities Update
We've heard from members that you'd like to know more about ACS's work on the food safety front. This has been a priority for us the past several years. Our goal is to get resources in the hands of members, and the industry at large, that advance awareness, knowledge, best practices, compliance, and ultimately, public health and safety. Based on member needs, ACS has worked to:
- make food safety a central and ongoing part of our educational offerings
- proactively educate cheesemakers to raise awareness of food safety, reaching even the smallest artisan producers to provide resources and tools
- advocate for safe, traditional cheesemaking practices based on science
- conduct research to find gaps in industry knowledge and spur future research in key areas
- raise the visibility of artisan cheese with regulators, and engage with them to advance and ensure food safety
- work collaboratively with allied groups to enhance safety, seek common ground, and maximize reach
- include producers from the U.S. and around the world to ensure a global food safety perspective in artisan cheese production
- serve as a central, trusted resource for producers.
We've continually grown our food safety leadership role since the 2012 formation of our Regulatory & Academic Committee. Below are some examples of recent efforts which ACS has undertaken to advance food safety in the cheese industry.
Resources & Education
In 2015, ACS presented at, and participated in, the Artisan Cheese Food Safety Forum held in Providence, RI in conjunction with our Annual Conference & Competition. This Forum pulled together some 80 participants to address the current state of food safety resources and training available to artisan cheesemakers. The Forum led to the soon-to-be-published paper, Artisan Cheese Food Safety Forum Identifies Challenges and Opportunities in Education and Outreach, as well as the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy's creation of the Artisan Cheese Safety Advisory Council.
ACS hosted a Preventive Controls Working Group in Des Moines, IA last summer with broad industry participation to seek consensus on potential preventive controls for raw milk cheesemaking. This meeting was held with the encouragement of FDA which asked that ACS propose what such preventive controls might look like. Findings were presented to FDA in September of 2016, and will continue to advance the conversation on food safety in traditional cheesemaking.
Also in Des Moines, ACS invited allied organizations, such as the Cheese Importers Association of America, U.S. Dairy Export Council, regional cheese guilds, the Oldways Cheese Coalition, and the Specialty Food Association to engage in a meeting to explore areas of common concern and potential consensus in an effort to reach the widest possible audience with food safety information.
Regulatory Advocacy & Engagement
ACS engages with FDA through regular meetings throughout the year, including inviting FDA representatives to present updates to members at our Annual Conference. FDA has now attended and presented to ACS industry stakeholders every year since 2011.
In February 2016, at the invitation of FDA, ACS organized a listening session at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at which seven raw milk cheesemakers shared information about their food safety practices.
ACS recently released a key finding report from our State of the Artisan/Specialty Cheese Industry Survey. This is the first in-depth research study of this kind, and it will provide a benchmark as the industry grows and evolves. Data from the survey will inform future food safety educational offerings and provide industry insight for ACS's work with regulators.
Last year, R. David Edelman, Special Assistant to the President, National Economic Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy, reached out to ACS for input on how President Obama's administration might support and advance the industry economically. ACS submitted the requested information, stressing the important role of food safety in securing the industry's future.
Over the past few years, ACS has sought to raise awareness and understanding of food safety regulations through entry requirements for our Annual Judging & Competition. This has added transparency and traceability, as cheesemakers are required to acknowledge the ACS Food Safety Statement stating their products comply with FDA pathogen limits, and that their products adhere to the Code of Federal Regulation.
ACS will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of the artisan, farmstead, and specialty cheese industry to put food safety at the forefront, advocate for science-based regulation, provide accessible education, and preserve traditional cheesemaking practices that lead to safe, wholesome products for consumers. On the horizon in ACS's Strategic Plan 2020 are goals to streamline crisis response, enhance communications, and develop a food safety guide for retailers.
Have Questions or Need Additional Food Safety Resources?
Please don't hesitate to contact the ACS office at 720-328-2788 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We are glad to provide information, answer questions, or direct members to food safety resources.