University of Delaware student Weber Stibolt recently received a scholarship for food safety auditing from the Food Marketing Institute Foundation and was given the opportunity to travel to Indianapolis to take part in the Safe Quality Food Conference.
Stibolt, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said he was honored to be one of 10 scholarship recipients from across the country and that the conference was a great opportunity to network and learn from industry professionals.
“It was one of the most well organized, most thoughtful, very engaging conferences that I’ve ever been to. They had all sorts of workshops for every single sector of food. They had different roundtable sessions and breakout sessions that you could go to, and general speakers for everyone to listen to,” said Stibolt.
One of the highlights of the conference for Stibolt was hearing from one of the writers of the Food Safety Modernization Act and getting her views on the act’s requirements.
“That’s a very important piece of legislation coming out for a lot of food safety people, including manufacturers and auditors. Food safety is definitely taking off, and it’s going to be a huge industry to go into very soon,” said Stibolt.
Stibolt said the event provided a great networking and learning opportunity with close to 700 people from across the country attending the conference.
“Every single food company that you can think of was there, and it was valuable to network with them,” said Stibolt.
As for his favorite part of the conference, Stibolt said that it was great to meet the other scholarship winners and to see what they are doing and hear about their interests.
“I was actually the youngest scholarship recipient there. Most of them were graduate level students. It was interesting to see the work they’re doing, how they got into graduate research, and what they want to do with that in the future,” said Stibolt.
Food safety internships
Stibolt received the scholarship because of his interest in going into food safety as a career and also based on food safety internships that he completed the past two summers, one with Magee Farms and one with Kenny Brothers Produce in southern Delaware.
At Magee Farms, Stibolt helped the company with its food safety plan and found that he really enjoyed helping put it together.
“I loved doing mock audits and improving their food safety measures at the farm level. That was very interesting to me. It takes a very certain type of person to be able to do food safety, very Type A, by the book, everything has to be perfect. Because, if not, then you fail the audit and won’t be able to sell your produce,” said Stibolt.
Stibolt said that a mock audit involved making sure that the farm met a certain set of guidelines.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into any sort of food safety manual. It’s very tedious but also very important because if you don’t document it, it doesn’t happen. You could be following food safety practices but if you’re not writing it down and adequately monitoring it, then it’s worthless. So making sure all those records were in the manual and making sure that everything was to a ‘T’ was very important,” said Stibolt.
With Kenny Brothers Produce, a cucumber processing facility in Bridgeville, Stibolt also spent time working with food safety.
“Their purpose was to sort cucumbers by sizes and then ship them out to pickle manufacturers. It was interesting to see the food safety that’s involved in that – the handling of the produce, the safe packing of the produce, making sure that all the standards were met and all the procedures were being followed,” said Stibolt.
After graduating, Stibolt said he wants to go into quality assurance or some sort of food safety job to help manufacturers make sure they are producing safe, quality food.
“Safe food is something that I think is really worthwhile. If I can prevent an outbreak from happening because of what I’m doing in the plant to make sure we’re following food safety measures, it’s really worthwhile to me and it’s very rewarding to be able to have a direct impact on the food supply of the country,” said Stibolt.
Article by Adam Thomas
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