Coffee, Conagra and consumers – talking in bed

Amy’s convinced the coffee in our Wellington, NZ, hotel room has no caffeine, so I made an early morning run yesterday to the Starbucks around the corner.

The coffee place was just opening and as I awaited my order, a load of prepared sandwiches arrived. The first thing the staff member did was insert a tip-sensitive digital thermometer into one of the sandwiches to verify that the proper temperature had been maintained. Good on ya. The guy getting my order said it was standard operating procedure, and as we chatted it emerged he was newly arrived in Wellington from Montreal. Another Canadian buddy. Or friend.

Next was a talk with ConAgra’s Food Safety Council in Omaha, Nebraska. That’s ConAgra of pot pie and peanut butter fame.

Quality experts at ConAgra Foods today will hear from a lawyer who has sued the company due to food borne illnesses and from two food safety advocates as the company stresses the need to keep its products safe.

"It’s part of raising the game and listening to every expert on the food safety front," said Teresa Paulsen, ConAgra spokeswoman.

ConAgra decided to bring in Bill Marler, Barb Kowalcyk, director of food safety and co-founder of the Center for FoodBorne Illness Research and Prevention, and myself to hear what we had to say.

Marler told the Omaha World-Herald he was going to talk about fostering a culture that focuses on food safety while remaining profitable in a competitive industry, and credited ConAgra Chief Executive Gary Rodkin and other company executives for inviting him to speak.

"It says a lot for the company.”

Being in Wellington, NZ, and 17 hours ahead, provided several technological hurdles, which we sorta managed to get around. Video didn’t work, so the folks in Nebraska saw my slides and heard my disembodied voice – apparently in surround sound.

I was talking into a telephone (left, exactly as shown), advancing my slides, but had no audience feedback. While awkward, I could get used to this lecturing style.

By the time I spoke with the consumer advisory group for the New Zealand Food Safety Authority later that afternoon, I had the message much more focused: here’s the top-5 factors that contribute to foodborne illness, here’s the research we do to reduce the burden of each, and here’s how we use different mediums and messages to foster a food safety culture, from farm-to-fork.

It’s been good to reflect on why we do the things we do, and it’s been great traveling in Wellington with Amy. Now it’s time for a couple of days of hanging out, catching up on news if I ever get my e-mail working again, and then its off to Melbourne on Sunday.

This entry was posted in Food Safety Policy, Thermometers and tagged , , , by Douglas Powell. Bookmark the permalink.

About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time