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Flick honored by Vice President Gore

By Lynn Davis

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 06 - October 2, 1997

George Flick, university distinguished professor, was one of six Sea Grant researchers who were jointly honored this week by Vice President Al Gore.
Flick, a professor of food science and technology, is a founding member of the National Seafood HACCP Alliance which has spent the last three years developing education and training programs to prepare the seafood industry for mandatory U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations to ensure that all seafood is safe for consumption. These regulations go into effect in December.
The award is given by Gore to "partnerships that make a significant contribution to the nation. The award was presented Monday, Sept. 22, by Linda Walker, director of the Vice President's National Performance Evaluation Project, which promotes efficiency in government services and departments.
The National Seafood HACCP Alliance was created in 1994 under the guidance of the National Sea Grant College Program, and is a success story of intergovernmental agency partnership and cooperation with industry and academia. The alliance was accomplished through a collaboration of existing federal, state, and university programs--no new staffs, departments, or offices were developed to answer this call.
Participation in the alliance included representatives from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative States Research, Education and Extension Services, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Fisheries Institute, the National Food Processors Association, the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference, the Association of Food and Drug Officials and their regional offices, and various states agencies and private organizations dealing with health, food safety, and commerce.
In addition to Flick, known nationally and internationally for his contributions to the field of seafood science, six Sea Grant researchers from across the country also were honored as members of the alliance.
Flick said he and his colleagues had no notion their efforts would lead to such acclaim. "We never did it for the award," said Flick. "We saw a national need and decided to work together. The industry appreciated we could bring together a lot of talent. They would have been out of business without a HACCP plan. We couldn't have asked for a better set of circumstances."
Appropriate for the nature of the award, this partnership brought together several of the best minds in seafood research nation-wide, each with a different expertise that complemented the other members. Taken together, their knowledge spans most of the major seafood species fished and processed commercially in the United States.
"The reason the Seafood HACCP Alliance has strength is everyone is working in a cooperative effort," Flick said. "We have achieved success through the group, rather than by individual efforts. This is a major step; we're doing programs we could never have done as individuals."
Flick joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 1969. He has published three major texts on seafood-composition properties and processing technology. His work in crab-meat pasteurization has become the industry standard and all federal and state regulatory agencies use his procedure. His rapid response to the Kepone contamination in the James River in 1977 prevented a major disaster in the state's oyster industry, saving it from financial ruin.
His expertise is sought regularly by state, federal, and regional agencies. He has been named a fellow of both the Institute of Food Technologists and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is the only native English speaker to have been invited by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science to serve as a visiting professor at the University of Tokyo's Department of Marine Biochemistry. He has won numerous awards and honors and serves on many boards and associations. He has been instrumental in establishing programmatic funding for Virginia seafood research through participation in Virginia Sea Grant and other programs.
His contributions to the HACCP alliance have been substantial. Flick wrote one of the chapters in the Seafood HACCP training manual and wrote model Standard Sanitary Operating Procedures for several commercial species including trout, crab, smoked fish, as well as co-authoring one on catfish.
Flick also participated in many of the "Train-the-Trainer" sessions which oriented government inspectors and those in higher education to HACCP principles. Working together with other alliance members, they then began training those in the industry itself, the watermen, processors, wholesalers, and importers.
Through Virginia Tech, Flick sponsored two nationally presented satellite programs within the alliance. The first program featured representatives from the FDA and the second included food-science lawyers. In these forums they discussed the regulations and answered questions via downlinks and call-in lines on the implications and repercussions of these new laws--including potential criminal penalties for those seafood enterprises that do not follow HACCP guidelines.
Yet another satellite training effort included addressing HACCP regulations for seafood producers who export to Europe--the European Union passed a law on Jan. 1, 1996 requiring producers to demonstrate they follow HACCP procedures.
Although the HACCP regulations formally come into effect in December, and the initial training come to a close, Flick anticipates the alliance will continue to work.
"We're looking at satellite training, and distance-education efforts to train people. Years down the road we may be working on other things, but we'll be working together," Flick said.
The Virginia Sea Grant College Program involves four state institutions: Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University, the University of Virginia, and the College of William and Mary.