Physician Attendance at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago


Why would an emergency/toxicology physician attend the National Restaurant Association meeting in Chicago?

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) annual Chicago meeting brings the brightest, most talented leaders in the restaurant hospitality sector together for a week of exchanging ideas, learning, and exploring new products and services. So why would a physician attend?

Food safety is, or should be, on everyone’s minds.

Continual food borne illness events tarnish the industry, stockholders lose money, people lose jobs, small business owners lose their dreams, diners suffer and some even die. The toll on human life can be severe and the cost to society is in the billions.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the annual Food Safety Summit. I was impressed with the genuine commitment of so many professionals from government, hospitality leadership to vendors offering innovative ideas. The underscored proud theme at the Summit was that there has been so much progress in food safety initiatives, yet so much more to do.

  • There is a recognized lack of adoption of the scientifically sound FDA Food Code across state lines.
  • There is a lack of a universal nationwide food borne illness reporting system.
  • There are new safety challenges with farm to restaurant foods and a desire for more “natural” foods.

Sometimes approaching a problem with an entirely new perspective can be insightful. Engineers design medical equipment, artists help children heal from psychological trauma and business leadership consultants help medical team members communicate more effectively. Exchanging ideas, learning, exploring new products and services are also core to medical improvements.

My exchange with government officials, hospitality leadership and vendors at the Food Safety Summit taught me that more physician involvement in food safety has the potential to have a positive impact on food safety.

I am an emergency physician and a toxicologist who has taken care of the ill and dying. I have a passion for preventing disease and as the founder of Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance, I am excited and feel privileged to attend the National Restaurant Association show. I look forward to the exchange of ideas and to learning and exploring new products and services that may improve food safety. I am also excited to talk about the work that I have been doing with both and



Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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