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Jeni's Hires Food Safety Director

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Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams hires food Safety Director Cindy Decker.

Columbus-based Jeni's Ice Cream says it has hired a food safety director. 

The company stopped production and twice closed its stores last year after the discovery of listeria.

Company CEO John Lowe says hiring Cindy Decker is part of the company's push to be an industry leader in food safety.

“We were hit so hard last April that during the darkest days we said ‘When we get through this, we’ve got to not just survive, we’ve got to make sure that we’re world class at this. That we create some industry-leading platforms for our company,’” Jeni's CEO John Lowe said.

Hear Marilyn Smith's conversation with Jeni's CEO John Lowe.

The below transcript is an automated transcript of the above conversation. Please excuse minor typos and errors.

Marilyn Smith: Tell me a little bit about what went into the decision to hire a food safety director.

John Lowe: You know Marilyn we were hit so hard last April that during the darkest days we said. 'When we get through this we've got to not just survive, we've got to make sure that we're world-class at this. That we create some industry leading platforms for a company.'

And as we sort of went out and looked at best practices and tried to figure out what we could do to be world- class. we decided that bringing in a director of food safety would be really unique for a company of our size and adding a Ph D. in microbiology would be almost unheard of, but would enable us to begin to sort of set the standard for food safety in the ice cream industry.

MS: Does this mean that the Michigan Avenue plant will begin producing ice cream again.

JL: No. We have not decided to produce ice cream at the Michigan Avenue plant at the moment. We don't know whether we'll do it they are or elsewhere. We will spend more time working on that plan in the future. For now we're thrilled with the way it's working We're thrilled with the partnerships we formed with Smith's in Orville and the chocolate shop and so we want to keep at that for the time being.

MS: Does that mean that Ms Decker will be working at those two locations or will she be helping to develop a plant here?

JL: Cindy will work at our facilities and with our partners. So she will provide some auditing for us, our partners, making sure they're living to their food safety standards. She will help us as we continue to innovate in the flavor bases in the things we produce, she'll work hand in hand with Jeni and the recipe development. We think there's plenty of fun exciting work that we can hand to this PhD.

MS: Jeni Britton Bauer wrote on Jeni's blog that you essentially make ice cream from the earth and that microbes come from the earth. Will he be changing your production methods in any basic way?

JL: We changed the production methods this past year. The addition of Cindy will not change anything with the way we make ice cream, it's just an added resource for our quality team and added brain to help us think about ways to be better.

MS: So you will still be using fresh local produce for example?

JL: We absolutely will be using produce, but we process it outside of the existing facility. So that it's washed and cleaned not in the environment to where we then cook it and prepare bases.

MS: Jeni also in that blog described the ice cream company as a food safety company that makes ice cream. Have you changed your basic philosophy about business?

JL: We have certainly talked about a way to instill in all of us a culture of food safety , and that is first and foremost what we have to strive for.

MS: You sound very positive do you think you found the silver lining in an obviously a very difficult year with having to shut down the plant and the stores not just once but twice. Is this the silver lining that you've been able to really turn things around?

JL: We really do feel great about the future. Our company survived. Our team rallied together in a way that is very special. There aren't many CEO's who get to say they genuinely adore the people they get to go to work with every day. And we do feel like we've more than turned the corner and the American Licks collection that Jeni has put out is the most recent example of our company having made it and now back to a point of being able to thrive.

MS: John Lowe of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams thank you so much.

JL: My pleasure thank you.