For ePublishing pioneer, Rick Biros, preventing foodborne illness is a sacred passion that’s taken root in his heart and soul.
And, lucky for us, that’s the case.
With Rick’s impressive smarts, entrepreneurial spirit, and caring heart, he’s been helping people learn about food safety and how to prevent foodborne disease over the past two decades. Today, we invite you to learn more about this close friend of Stop Foodborne Illness by digging in to our Q & A interview below with Rick.
Q: Tell us about your story, Rick. How did you first become interested in food safety?
A: In 1993, like many people, I was horrified by the E. coli outbreak in the Pacific Northwest that killed four children. With young children of my own, it really hit home.
At the time, I was working for a leading food processing trade journal. I noticed none of the trade journals serving the food industry devoted much editorial space to quality assurance/quality control. This inspired me to launch Food Quality in December 1994, which was the first trade publication focused on food safety and quality. I sold it in 2007, but that magazine is still promoting strategic and tactical approaches in food safety for food and beverage folks through its new publisher, Wiley.
Q: You’re currently President/Publisher of the e-Magazine, Food Safety Tech. Tell us about this publication and who it reaches.
A: I launched Food Safety Tech, which is a digital publishing/conference business model, in 2011.
In digital publishing, we don’t have expensive printing and postage costs, so distribution of content to food safety professionals outside the U.S. is possible. Social media has been very effective in reaching more people, too—we’re big into LinkedIn and Twitter.
Right now, digital distribution is enabling Food Safety Tech to provide practical content to over 120,000 food safety professionals worldwide. Our conferences add the “human element” to sharing information and best practices.
Q: Through your work, who is someone you’ve helped whose story really stands out for you?
A: Great question! Well, there are many, but let me share a brief snippet about a food safety professional from Lagos, Nigeria who attended the Food Safety Consortium conference after learning about it in Food Safety Tech. He told me his organization won an award as a result of food safety changes he made that were inspired from his learnings at the Consortium. It was very gratifying to hear that feedback and know that people who eat at that establishment are now enjoying safer food.
Q: When it comes to food safety, what challenge around it really gets under your skin?
A: For me, the biggest thing is Economical Motivated Adulteration (EMA) in food because it’s a blatant attempt to cheat, which can and does lead to injury and death. It’s awful, and it has got to stop.
To me, EMA is criminal. Plain and simple. At Food Safety Tech and at our conferences, we educate food industry folks on tools and techniques they can use to protect their customers and their own brands from EMA.
I’d like to add something else that really bothers me. It irks me that most food safety professionals have a thankless job. When things are going well, it’s not often a food safety professional is commended on a job well done. Yet, when there’s a problem, the spotlight’s on them. People in food safety work should get much more praise, recognition, and reward than they do.
Q: When did you first learn about Stop Foodborne Illness and what do you find most valuable about our work?
A: I’ve been in the industry for a long time and don’t really remember when I first learned of Stop Foodborne Illness. It feels like you’re an old friend I’ve known for years and years.
I find your work so important in raising awareness around the fact that there are faces behind the statistics. I feel that knowing more about the human element is critical for the food industry. Highlighting the human side really helps them understand who is impacted by food safety incidents and how very painful they can be on a physical, emotional, and financial level.
Q: What’s one initiative at Food Safety Tech our readers can get involved to help advance food safety?
A: Food safety should not be used as a competitive advantage. Sharing food safety best practices is good for everyone in the industry and, ultimately, the consumer. While a cliché, I believe “when the tide goes up, so do all the boats in the harbor.”
At the 2017 Food Safety Consortium conference, we’re incorporating more opportunities for the industry to share best practices with a “Call for Abstracts.” I encourage everyone to consider sharing their knowledge and pay it forward by going to www.FoodSafetyConsortium.org and clicking on the “Call For Abstracts” tab.
Rick Biros is President/Publisher and Founder/Co-Owner of Innovative Publishing Co., LLC (IPC) and a longtime food safety advocate. Through IPC, he publishes the food safety eMagazine Food Safety Tech, and organizes several industry events, including the Food Safety Consortium, Food Safety Supply Chain Management Conference, and The Food Labs Conference. When he’s not knee deep in his publishing and advocacy work, you can find Rick enjoying time with his wife, Beth, and their four children, along with surf casting, fitness training, and any kind of fishing.