News from STOP Foodborne Illness

Get to Know Your Board: Bradd Eldridge

Over two decades of food safety experience, a deep reserve of energy and passion for preventing foodborne illness, and a caring heart. That mini profile perfectly describes this month’s “Get to Know Your Board” member, Bradd Eldridge.

Bradd joined our Board of Directors last year in June. We caught up with him recently and found out how Bradd became a staunch food safety advocate and what he’s doing to make sure the food you and your family eats is safe.

Q: Bradd, how did your career path propel you to your current role as Founder and Owner of Quality Management Partners?
A: For about 25 years, I worked for Abbott, a global pharmaceutical and healthcare products company. Then, I moved out on my own founding Quality Management Partners (QMP), LLC to serve in a consulting capacity to food manufacturers.

Now, you’re likely wondering: How did the Abbott work translate to food safety?

Let me explain.

While at Abbott, I worked with their nutritional food manufacturing facilities. Abbott Nutrition makes infant formula, liquid nutritionals, nutrient-fortified bars, and other healthy snacks. Abbott Nutrition’s manufacturing facilities must follow the same current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations (cGMP) that a general food facility adheres to. cGMPs outline systems that assure proper design, monitoring, and control of manufacturing processes and facilities. My positions with Abbott Nutrition included Director of Global Quality Operations and Director of Global Quality Compliance and Strategic Affairs. I also worked with Abbot’s medical device and pharmaceutical businesses. All of this gave me a broad, deep base of knowledge and expertise in best practices at a top tier company.

With a solid foundation of global food quality, safety, and manufacturing experience—and a huge passion for improved safe food manufacturing practices—I was well-positioned to create QMP. And I enjoy every single minute of my work helping food manufacturers operate at the highest levels of quality and excellence.

Q: QMP works with the entire food supply chain from grower/producer to manufacturing/distribution to retail/food service providers. Give us a typical client profile and the kinds of results you achieve to help prevent foodborne illness.
A: Working with the complete supply chain from farm to fork, my goal is always to help deliver safe, pathogen-free food to consumers. No matter where a client is in the chain, QMP’s desired outcome is the same: Prevent foodborne illness.

For a typical client, I’ll go into a facility and assess their policies and procedures, manufacturing and employee practices, organizational structure, and leadership knowledge/support. Fortunately, I spent nearly 25 years with a company I feel was best in class in all of those areas. So, I’ve got a good benchmark to compare to, which enables me to provide high quality feedback to a firm I’m working with.

Specifically, when it comes to bringing about significant impact toward preventing foodborne illness, one area I like to see dramatic improvement in is employee knowledge and practices around how they can do their very best to keep food safe. One of the most important actions is effective hand washing. Simple but, honestly, something that usually isn’t up to snuff.

Another area I focus on with clients is creating a strong environmental monitoring program, which helps a firm identify potential risk areas and subsequently take necessary action if a sample shows a positive result for a harmful microorganism.

Other key activities I partner up on to enhance a client’s overall manufacturing quality system include supplier controls, sanitation programs, and management oversight. These collectively contribute in a major way to preventing foodborne illness.

At the end of the day, the value that my team and I at QMP bring is an experienced, knowledgeable, focused, caring set of outside eyes. We help firms see things they oftentimes don’t see due to their attention being mainly on the day-to-day activities versus the big picture. We zoom in and get action going on all of the critical, supportive elements of a quality food manufacturing system that establishes a strong structure for sustained success in preventing foodborne illness.

Q: What do you find to be a very common challenge with a relatively “simple fix” in the food supply chain as it relates to preventing foodborne illness? Why do you think this is such a big problem?
A: Employee training.

Fully training employees to make sure they’ve got the knowledge and vested interest in strict, sanitary food safety practices is key. They also need authority to take all measures in their control to prevent foodborne illness. This breeds a strong, effective food safety culture. It’s not employee-dependent. It’s systemic within the organization, which, I’ve found, has the farthest-reaching impact toward achieving successful outcomes.

Now, getting an organization on board with investing adequate time and resources in that approach can be a tough obstacle. And that’s because companies oftentimes don’t fully appreciate the value that comes from creating this kind of culture. Business leaders tend to focus on the financial bottom line. They don’t fully appreciate that, even though everything seems fine, they could be one tragic event away from going deep into the red. Just one foodborne illness outbreak can throw a company into a tailspin of trying to overcome a horrific situation that could’ve been avoided if they’d invested in developing a culture of employee knowledge and empowerment.

Q: How did you learn about STOP Foodborne Illness and what inspired you to become a Board Member?
A: Being in the food industry for many years, I’ve known about STOP Foodborne Illness and have been receiving their e-Alerts and eNews. Several years ago at a Joint Institute of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) dinner, I had the privilege of sitting next to STOP’s CEO, Deirdre Schlunegger. We hit it off really well! Deirdre’s a down to earth person with tremendous passion for her mission of preventing foodborne illness.

During my conversation with Deirdre, she learned about my areas of expertise and invited me to apply to join the Board of Directors. When I was voted on last year, I felt honored and highly motivated to contribute to the life-saving work of STOP Foodborne Illness.

Q: During your tenure as a STOP Foodborne Illness Board Member, what’s one goal you’re laser focused on accomplishing? What are you doing right now to drive progress forward on that goal? And how can our readers help you reach it?
A: Building public awareness and increasing knowledge of food manufacturers, farmers, agricultural product facilities, employees, and everyone involved in the food production/consumption chain. I’m focused on helping them learn exactly what they can do to reduce—and hopefully eliminate—foodborne illness occurrences.

Speaking at food safety conferences is one important way I do that. During a typical speech, I describe best-in-class food safety programs and how to implement them to prevent foodborne illness. I find poor manufacturing and personal food safety practices are usually caused by lack of awareness. Conferences give me an excellent platform to increase awareness and get people walking away with specific tactics they can use right away to keep harmful pathogens out of their food.

For eNews readers, I recommend doing three things:

  • First, learn more about how to prevent foodborne illness. Our website, www.STOPFoodborneIllness.org is a great place to start.
  • Next, make small food safety changes that add up to big results. Wherever you feel you’ll benefit most, start there. Maybe it’s committing to proper hand washing, for instance. Or assuring proper cooking temperatures and preventing cross-contamination from raw to cooked food.
  • Finally, share your knowledge and what you’re doing with friends, family, and colleagues. Be a leader who inspires others.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
A: I want to give a GIANT shout out to the entire STOP Foodborne Illness community!

Thank you to our supporters, staff, and board members. All of your time, effort, energy, knowledge, experience, and passion is the driving force behind everything STOP is able to do to prevent foodborne illness and help people affected.

If you ever want to reach out to me, just send me an email at bddeldridge@yahoo.com. I’d really love to hear from you.

 

About Bradd Eldridge

Bradd Eldridge is Principal of Quality Management Partners (QMP), LLC, a consulting firm that works with organizations within the farm-to-fork food supply chain. QMP employs its expertise through “Quality System Optimization” where they assess and improve a company’s manufacturing processes to ensure effective, efficient operations that ultimately result in delivery of safe food. Previously, Bradd was Senior Director of Quality with Abbott Nutrition where he worked globally developing and implementing programs to assure successful product quality, safety, and compliance were obtained across the Abbott Nutrition division. In addition to Bradd’s service as a STOP Foodborne Illness Board Member, he’s a member of the Joint Institute of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) Advisory Council, Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), International Association for Food Protection (IAFP), and Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). Bradd is also an adjunct professor at Northwestern University where he teaches food safety and quality. Bradd lives in the Chicagoland area with his wife and three children.


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