Food Safety Magazine’s podcast ‘Food Safety Matters’ recently released a new episode featuring the distinguished John Butts, PhD. The episode centers on Upton Sinclair’s groundbreaking 1906 novel, “The Jungle”, and draws on the parallels between today’s food safety landscape and the food safety challenges of the meatpacking industry in the early 20th century. It also delves into what the next half-century may look like for the food sector.
Dr Butts is the Principal at Food Safety By Design LLC and the Advisor to the CEO at Land O’ Frost Inc., where he was in the primary technical role for 47 years, having retired in 2021. As part of his succession plan, Dr Butts founded Food Safety By Design LLC in 2010. Food Safety By Design helps producers of high-risk products learn how to prevent and manage food safety risks. Dr Butts’ specialty is the incorporation of food safety practices into company culture, including root cause identification using the “seek and destroy” scientific strategy for identifying and eliminating harborage sites for pathogens, which Dr Butts developed earlier in his career.
In the early 1980s, Land O’ Frost entered the shelf-stable meal business, which Dr Butts facilitated with product development, process controls, quality assurance, and the invention of a proprietary sealing method. He also provided technical and management support to Frigorifico Canelones, the largest beef processing plant in Uruguay, from 1991–2001 when Land O’ Frost owned and managed the business.
Dr Butts is actively involved in pathogen reduction and control of pathogenic organisms in cooked processed meat products, seafood, leafy greens, and other ready-to-eat products. His current work includes the application of scientific principles and quality management technology to develop sanitation process control methods and procedures.
Dr Butts is the recipient of many prominent awards throughout his professional career from NSF International, the American Meat Science Association, the North American Meat Institute, Purdue University, the Meat Industry Hall of Fame, and Food Safety Magazine’s Distinguished Service Award. He has published dozens of technical articles and delivered numerous presentations, workshops, classes, and interviews over the years. He is an active member of the North American Meat Institute’s Scientific Affairs Committee for over 40 years and was a founding member of Special Poultry Research Committee to obtain approval of nitrite in poultry during the Carter Administration. He is also a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Food Safety Magazine.
A snapshot of the topics covered in the episode includes:
- How the visceral language used to describe the meatpacking industry in “The Jungle” sparked public outcry that prompted further investigation into the scientific link between spoilage and disease
- The way in which available technology and present need enables innovation, including specific examples from the meat industry’s modernization at the turn of the 20th century and beyond
- Key changes since the era of “The Jungle” to improve occupational safety for line workers in the meat and poultry industry
- The dangers that sanitation workers face in processing plants today, and how the food industry can leverage the most advanced techniques and technology available to support sanitarians and mitigate the health risks they face on the job
- The role that food safety culture plays in managing the relationship between sanitation, hygiene, and food safety
- The areas related to food safety for which industry needs to better understand root causes and preventive controls in the present day, such as allergens, crisis management, and recall efficiency, animal and plant disease control, genomics, and other topics
- Dr Butts’ opinion on where he sees food safety progress heading over the next half-century, including changes related to the industry’s growing focus on protein.
Click here to listen to the episode.