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No. 9: Donna Schaffner

Manufacturing Power 50

Associate Director of Food Safety and Training Donna Schaffner conducts a session at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center in Bridgeton.


Per the Obama-era Food Safety Modernization Act, most every food and beverage company now needs someone on site trained in aspects of food safety. Schaffner and her team at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center train representatives from hundreds of these companies every year.

If you’re a food manufacturer, you’re familiar with FSMA—and whether you know it or not, therefore familiar with Schaffner. She helped work out the details the preventive controls rule within the law, which was a response to a salmonella outbreak caused by Peanut Corporation of America. Nine people were killed and more than 700 were sickened due to PCA’s mishandling of the situation, in which company executives reportedly ignored lab results that showed salmonella contamination and shipped products before receiving the results of salmonella tests.

The work of Schaffner, and others, aims to prevent history from repeating. She’s one of 21 people in the world with a top-tier certification to train on preventative controls, meaning she can train those who train others—and she’s trained more people on the rule than anyone else.

“You can’t inspect safety into something,” Schaffner told NJBIZ. “[With FSMA], the onus is on the food processor to make the food safely. If they’re not, [the FDA] can shut them down. They can take away their registration to stop them from producing food, they can make them recall food if they feel like it was made unsafely, they can fine them and, in some cases, people can go to jail.”

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