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Food-Safety specialist arrives

By Stewart MacInnis

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 05 - September 26, 1996

A food-safety specialist will begin working with Virginia's food-processing industry as Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension step up efforts to help industry meet new food-safety standards.

Susan Sumner, associate professor of food science and technology and an Extension food microbiologist, begins her duties here after six years in a similar position at the University of Nebraska.

"The big effort in the next six to 12 months will be helping industry meet the new standards," Sumner said, referring to an international food-safety program known as Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points, or HACCP. "Industry has to move to this, and we will be helping them come up to speed."

Sumner noted that Virginia Tech has several internationally recognized experts on HACCP, and that the university's food science and technology department has an excellent reputation with the food-processing industry. She said she will coordinate their efforts as Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension work to help industries implement the new standards.

HACCP is concerned with food-sanitation and safety problems at critical points in processing. Companies must establish procedures to ensure the safety of food products. "It makes common sense to do this," she said. "I look at this as a chance to show how Extension can help benefit the industry and consumers."

Sumner said much of her work in Nebraska centered on the red-meat industry, which dominates that state's food-processing sector. She said she looks forward to branching out into dairy processing and poultry processing in Virginia. "Of course, I'll be working with all food industries," she said, noting Virginia's agriculture industry is more diverse than Nebraska's. "Some of what we have to do is education. We need to let workers know what they can do for food safety; we have to get everyone in the process involved in food safety. To me that is where we can make a big difference."

Sumner will also teach students at Virginia Tech, and will conduct research. Her research will center on controlling and eliminating food-borne pathogens. It will address practical issues that affect the food-processing industry.

Sumner has a bachelor's degree in food science from North Carolina State University, and a master's degree and Ph.D. in food science from the University of Wisconsin.