President's Message

Dear Food Safety Professional,

I can’t believe it has been 10 years since we started the Arkansas Chapter of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP).   We were fortunate that a handful of Food Safety Leaders from the UofA, Walmart, Tyson, etc. came together to create the Arkansas Association for Food Protection (AAFP).

We’ve come a long way in 10 years from a time when we were excited that 40 people attended.   It doesn’t seem that long ago that Jerri Lynn Pickett, Jacque Adams and Hillary Hagan were making food for those 40 attendees.   I am sure they are glad that is in the past!  I can remember Dr. Steven Ricke, Dr. Phil Crandall and Dr. Michael Johnson working tirelessly on the agenda and finding friends in Academia to come speak to our fledgling conference.  The Spirit of the Arkansas chapter is influenced by Dr. Johnson’s DNA just like that of the UofA Division of Agriculture Food safety research foundations that he initiated and developed.

After 10 years, AAFP mirrors the IAFP membership consisting of food microbiologists, food industry executives, quality control professionals, educators, and government officials.   The Arkansas Chapter is positioned to make an impact as a premier farm-to-fork region with some of the world’s largest companies in food safety. Our member companies decisions reach far beyond Arkansas thus we feel that AAFP has the obligation to make an impact upon food safety initiatives and educate our members about emerging pathogen and adulterant issues.

As you may have heard me say a few times, AAFP is rare in that we have the world’s largest retailer/grocer, the largest meat company, and leading distribution/refrigerated transport companies headquartered within our state. We have an impressive and diverse group of food processors, produce, poultry, and livestock growers located around the state ranging from produce, fruit, prepared meals, canned foods, frozen foods, juices, wine, meat, sliced meats, etc. We have nationally prominent Departments of agriculture in the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

After 10 years, we have become a highly respected conference that won the IAFP Annual Conference Award in 2015.   We have created a conference that attracts National level speakers that draws 200-300 food safety professionals to our conference from multiple states in the Region.  Our Vendor access and expo make us unique among IAFP chapters and the Vendors have been a secret to our success in growing the conference to make a bigger impact.

Over the years we have created a solid Board that is dedicated and experiences very little turnover which provides a stable leadership for AAFP.   Our Executive leadership has been dedicated as well and continues to grow in scope.

2018 Leadership
President – Brian Umberson, Director of Business Development at Novolyze
Vice President – Barbara Smith Schultz, VP of FSQA at Pepper Source, Ltd
Science & Agenda Chair – Peggy Cook, Consultant at Wheatsheaf Group
Sponsors & Vendors Chair– Nancy Gushing, Corporate Lab Manager, OK Foods
Operations Chair – Karen Beers, Lab services Director at Pilgrim's
Treasurer Chair – Keith Day, QA Director at Twin Rivers Foods
Poster Competition Chair- Jerri Lynn Pickett, Senior Microbiologist at Tyson Food Safety and Research Lab & WBA Analytical Laboratories
Academic Chair- Dr. Steven Ricke, Professor, Donald "Buddy" Wray Chair in Food Safety, Department of Food Science, Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
Dir of Marketing  – Chris Reno, Business Development Manager, SAI GLOBAL


We look forward to the continued growth of the AAFP chapter with new leadership and board members joining the AAFP chapter.  The dedication of the newest members will continue to influence, grow and mold the chapter for the next 10 years.


I am honored to be your Chapter President during our 10 Year Anniversary.  I am honored to be a part of a special team and organization that has grown and made an impact over 10 years.    The most special part of the impact we have made is that it feels like we are just getting started.   Here’s to our next 10 years….


All My Best,


Brian Umberson