The COVID-19 pandemic is putting tremendous stress on the food supply chain, from farm-to-fork, as the industry struggles to balance increased demand with the disruptive threat of the virus on business and the workforce. For food manufacturers, an unintended consequence of actions being implemented to protect workers from COVID-19 -- social-distance rules and increased hand-washing for example – is the risk caused by relaxing normal food safety procedures. Indeed, the FDA and USDA have temporarily stopped plant inspections. This presents a significant opportunity for food suppliers to mitigate through workflow automation and enabling of remote monitoring.
Author's note -- Caution: soapbox rant ahead! This will definitely come across as a soap-box-ish rant. As with any source of enlightenment and learning, the newly indoctrinated are historically known to be a bit overzealous and passionate about their newly gained knowledge, As someone recently certified with PCQI credentials, this author falls squarely into that category. Nevertheless, the import of the training and the understanding of how food safety is designed as a living “system” is so important, that it deserves a soapbox treatment. So with that context, read on!
Use this checklist to help avoid Tens of Millions in damage costs, severe brand equity loss, and unexpected food audits.
Consider this hypothetical food safety situation: A manufacturing facility tests positive for bacteria. In response to the finding, they issue a voluntary recall. The decision-makers in the C-suite desire to limit the damage as much as possible in order to protect the brand and the bottom line, perhaps without fully understanding the direct impact doing so can have on the company’s compliance with FSMA requirements and overall brand success. Here’s how the situation unfolds.
For years we have approached problems that arise within the food supply chain in a segmented manner. If something happens at step 27 along the chain, X, Y, and Z are identified as the appropriate controls, corrective actions, and measures to take. This is a limited, even stove-pipe, approach to food safety that may be hitting its limits in the modern food industry. In their most literal sense, chains should be comprised of distinct yet interconnected links. The food supply chain is no different. While every phase, from farming, to production, to processing, to packaging, to transportation and to retail has a different yet important role, it is critical that we understand how they work together, and how the information created at each step interrelates. This is particularly important to creating an advanced, interconnected food safety scenario - one that the FDA has recently referred to as “A new era of smarter food safety”. Creating an effective food safety system, such as suggested by the FDA statement from this month, requires more than just interconnectivity, it requires interoperability. Collaboration will soon no longer be a suggestion, but a necessity.
What is your organization doing to ensure that it’s conforming to your own food safety and quality assurance policies, as well as preparing for 2nd or 3rd party audits -- external audits from third parties like customers and regulators? If you haven’t implemented a formal process for conducting internal food safety audits, it’s time to consider that doing so can significantly limit organizational risk, reduce operational inefficiencies and even save money over the long term. To help you grasp the full impact, we’re sharing some holistic ways to think about the immense value of establishing a formal, dedicated internal audit process.
There’s a well-known cliche that says, “Information is power.” It’s a wise saying – one that’s certainly proven to be true in the areas of food safety and quality. But the interesting thing about information is that it’s both infinite and ever-changing. What the age-old adage doesn’t clearly communicate is that information is only as powerful as the processes and tools used to harness it.
After years of status quo, in 2011 the United States implemented its first major food safety legislation in 70 years — the Food Safety Modernization Act. Nearly ten years later, we’re still working to implement it. But as quickly as regulators are trying to catch up, the more complicated our supply chains have become. For example, 15% of the US’s overall food supply is imported from over 200 other countries, according to the FDA. The complexity grows exponentially when we contemplate what this means for tracking food safety across a supply chain of this scope.
In a recent Global Market Insights report on the food safety testing market, analysts studied the most accurate numbers and current trends to predict what is happening in our industry. What stands out is how far the industry has come in recognizing the shared responsibility of protecting food sources from the field, to the processing plant, to the retailer, and, of course, the eventual consumer.
According to the CDC, an estimated 2 million bacterial illnesses occur each year in the United States from contaminated meat and poultry products. With this in mind, many food suppliers have turned their attention to a dual strategy of being both proactive and how to best quarantine and prevent. Enhancing their biosecurity helps prevent the spread of foreign animal illnesses such as avian influenza, African swine fever, and foot-and-mouth disease, which helps protect their distributors and consumers from handling contaminated product..
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is no little-known piece of legislation in the industry today. As the defining rules have been finalized – and compliance dates have come and gone – manufacturers everywhere have felt the pressure of regulatory change. But is everyone on the same page when it comes to understanding these “new” compliance requirements? How is your company approaching its FSMA compliance obligations, and do you believe that technology can help?
When you think about the greatest threat to your food company’s profitability, your mind might automatically jump to nuances like employee turnover, inflating overhead costs or mismanaged advertising campaigns. Would you be surprised to know that a single failure in your food safety program could actually be the most devastating profitability factor of all?
The first ever World Food Safety Day (WFSD) will be celebrated on June 7, 2019, in an effort to draw attention and inspire action to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks, as well as contribute to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development. Get a better understanding of this momentous occasion with a helpful breakdown of when, how and why this day was established, and what you can do to participate.
In early May, the 21st annual Food Safety Summit was held in Rosemont, IL, bringing together hundreds of leaders and key stakeholders from the government, regulatory and academia community, as well as retailers, food processors, distributors, food manufacturers, growers, food service companies, testing laboratories, importers and exporters, law firms and other food safety professionals. If you didn’t have the opportunity to participate in this industry-renowned event, there are some key takeaways you don’t want to miss.
“We recognize that it’s time to look to the future of food safety once again, with a view that builds on the progress we’re making with our regulatory framework, but also leverages the use of new and emerging technologies to create a more digital, traceable and safer system,” reads a newly released statement from Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D., and Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas on steps to usher the U.S. into a new era of smarter food safety. The announcement introduces the FDA’s plans to develop a “blueprint” intended to further modernize and evolve the country’s approach to food safety.
According to USDA records, more than 20 million pounds of meat were recalled last year, and the U.S. government is expected to issue new food safety guidelines after a recent spike in meat and poultry recalls due to product contamination. These headlines reveal the alarming rate at which food companies are still experiencing costly recalls, even amid modernized food safety regulation and heightened oversight. These statistics are a strong reminder of the importance of following preventive food safety guidelines and taking a proactive rather than reactive approach to contamination challenges.
These days, headlines warning consumers of food recalls from prominent brands are not few or far between. From Tyson Foods pulling 36,000 pounds of chicken nugget products due to complaints of rubber contamination, to Boston Market recalling 86 tons of boneless pork rib patties for potential glass or plastic contamination, to Butterball calling back more than 78,000 pounds of raw ground turkey over Salmonella fears, there’s no shortage of reminders that food safety is an ongoing challenge. In fact, the CDC’s official list of foodborne outbreaks for 2018 was larger than any previous year shown on their website, which goes back to 2006.
In food manufacturing plants across the country, food safety and quality managers can be seen documenting, storing and accessing their vital data using cumbersome spreadsheets and outdated paper methods. They’re clambering to meet heightened regulatory needs and monitor daily operations with limited resources, overworked employees and closing windows of time. As they cling to antiquated data management practices, the risk of food safety recalls and compliance infractions only surges. If you’re one of the many organizations in this familiar predicament, the message is clear: It’s time to go digital with your food safety data!
It is not surprising that operational efficiency in the food safety industry is maximizing product output at the lowest possible price while never compromising -- and dare suggest increasing-- food safety. Experts in the food industry understand there is a continual need to increase speed and efficiency during the manufacturing and production process without compromising food safety. One of the ways the industry is beginning to be more proactive about food safety is through utilizing the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). IIoT refers to physical devices connected to the internet that collect and share data from the manufacturing and industrial processes.
As you work to stay informed on the latest updates in food safety, you may have encountered the term “food intelligence platform” and made some assumptions about its meaning. There are a number of misconceptions surrounding software platforms in the food safety arena, which can lead to misinformed decisions about what type of solution is best for your operation. To support you in addressing this challenge, we’re taking time to debunk myths about food intelligence platforms and explain the fundamental differences between a laboratory information management system (LIMS) and food safety software.
Food safety as a discipline is highly complex, and it can become especially complicated for manufacturers as they struggle to address evolving regulations and shifting industry realities. In the midst of this confusion and the wake of FSMA rollout, many food safety-related terms are tossed around. Unfortunately, not all of them are clearly understood or correctly represented by the people using them. Today we’re going to dissect two of these particular concepts – HACCP and a Food Safety Plan – and explain exactly what makes them different.
The short answer? Absolutely. In fact, tracking production across all of your food processing plants is a critical component of food safety compliance, recall prevention and brand preservation. What’s more, it does NOT have to consume your resources or cause major impediments to your daily production goals IF you understand how to leverage the proper technology.
The CDC alert that made headlines on November 23 advised consumers, restaurants and retailers not to eat, serve or sell any romaine lettuce, rendering the event the third E. coli outbreak related to romaine within a 12-month period. Because health officials were unable to quickly pinpoint the origins of the tainted lettuce, retailers and trucking companies were left to dump truckloads of affected products, likely amounting to tens of millions of dollars in losses. The occurrence is a staunch reminder of the major risks associated with lack of supply chain visibility and control in today’s food industry. It’s also a good reason to ask: How safe is YOUR supply chain?
“Risk” is a word that’s used pretty frequently in the world of food safety. For manufacturers, it’s a word of caution, one that often engenders fear. Why? Because the greater your food safety risk, the higher your probability of experiencing production-halting, brand-damaging and even job-defining repercussions.
Food Safety Magazine just released its annual article tallying the previous year’s food-related recalls announced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. 2018’s count amounted to 382 food product recalls, including some products that were recalled more than once. From undeclared allergens to bacterial contamination and more, last year saw a seemingly continuous stream of supply chain hazards that resulted in foodborne illness outbreaks, voluntary company recalls and the FDA’s first-ever mandatory food recall. What do these numbers reveal about the efficacy of the industry’s food safety programs? And what risk-prone mistakes might your company be making right now?
Over the last four decades, food safety has been covered by 30 federal laws and 15 federal agencies. Now these agencies are asking for better funding to protect food safety programs within the U.S. using the latest technology. In a step forward, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has requested more funding in the 2020 budget to employ technologies such as DNA sequencing for food products and increase personnel by the thousands.
When you think about the food safety requirements that manufacturers must meet to stay compliant with government regulations, your thoughts may go directly to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the newest FDA rollouts of prevention-based mandates. You’d certainly be focusing your attention on the right concerns. But if you apply a broader perspective in the arena of FDA, USDA and CFIA regulations, you’ll find that most of the food safety requirements your organization is obligated to fulfill are grounded in the time-tested principles of HACCP. Ultimately, having a food safety program that’s based on the HACCP approach is fundamental to reducing risk, improving food quality and protecting profitability.
Like many aspects of food safety, the details surrounding compliance with industry regulations are complex. In efforts to protect consumers, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has mandated prevention-based protocol for all sectors of the food industry, including produce farms. In fact, the Produce Rule presents its own nuances and requirements for which farms must be especially prepared. To help you grasp the ins and outs of the Final Rule on Produce Safety and develop a stronger understanding of your obligations, we’re providing a breakdown of important information.
In the world of food manufacturing, food safety isn’t just another category of responsibility; it’s a fundamental mindset. Driven by the critical nature of compliance and the high stakes associated with experiencing a single food safety incident, manufacturers are becoming increasingly motivated to embrace this mindset and adopt smart technology solutions that support it fully. As you look to identify and integrate software that addresses complex food safety needs, do you have a clear understanding of what types of features offer the greatest potential for success?
As both consumers and the food industry are well-aware, 2018 was a year of national food recalls, which was further compounded by the strain on the FDA during the partial government shutdown. Not only did this lead to consumers becoming more aware of where their produce is being sourced, but it also caused many grocers and food producers to reassess their own supply chain and food safety standards.
As advancing technologies continue to innovate the food safety industry, they enable manufacturers to achieve clearer visibility into critical areas and implement compliant food safety plans that help reduce risk. Every data point you collect presents an opportunity for valuable analytics that support a dynamic approach to contamination and recall prevention. Food safety data and analytics can reveal a great deal of useful information IF you understand how to leverage them effectively.
Test data is one of your greatest assets for ensuring food safety standards, which makes it integral to maintaining an effective, compliant food safety plan. Even if you’re collecting, managing and leveraging your food test data, however, you could be overlooking a critical piece of the puzzle: your testing environment. After all, having accurate test data relies not only on the validity of specific test samples, but also on the quality of the testing environment.
As we settle into the new year, we find ourselves thinking about what’s to come in the food safety arena. 2018 saw some high-profile food recalls, including the nationwide warning about romaine lettuce just days before Thanksgiving. While the industry responds to threats like these, many manufacturers speculate about what they can expect food safety program requirements to look like in 2019 and beyond. Here, we’re offering some expert insight to help you get clarity on the subject and prepare your company for the most imminent movements in food safety.
Today the FDA declared that the latest Romaine Outbreak investigation has concluded and published its findings in the: “Investigation Summary: Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Romaine Lettuce Implicated in the Fall 2018 Multi-State Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7”. I want to join the chorus of many food safety professionals commending Commissioner Gottlieb and Deputy Commissioner Yiannas for their diligent efforts to conclude this investigation during a time period that included the most recent government shutdown! The tl;dr (“too long - didn’t read” for those that don’t know all my abbreviations yet) from the statement is the focus on the root cause of the systems failure. I copy the relevant section in here (emphasis my own) because the explanation is well structured and highlights an important point I want to focus on: prevention.
Dairy farming as an industry has evolved over time as consumer needs, regulatory requirements and operational factors have shifted. In response to this progression has been the advancement of technology to fulfill emerging needs. Today, there is an abundance of technology solutions available to fill this space, and the market will only become more saturated over time. As a result, dairy producers are challenged to identify the most valuable options for their operations.
As with most sectors of the food and beverage industry, the ways in which consumers perceive and purchase meat products has changed over the last several decades. From more informed food safety concerns to a greater emphasis on healthy eating, the overall shift in public mindset has challenged meat processing companies to focus on meeting new demands. As the industry evolves, it is imperative for meat processors to avoid stagnation. Emerging issues require innovative approaches. As most companies in this field understand, however, developing effective strategies to address modern needs can become overwhelming and complex.
We recently posted about the FDA warning letter sent to a Kellogg’s cereal manufacturer earlier this year, which occurred after positive Salmonella samples from the production facility were repeatedly ignored. This corrective action failure caused an outbreak of foodborne illness in 36 states, plus reputational damage to the brand and noncompliance action from the FDA. The manufacturer is now subject to a wide-scale food safety overhaul, which will incur mounting costs for completing a full review of the facility, the implementation of changes to hygienic zoning and traffic control programs, an updated environmental monitoring program, the re-engineering of certain equipment to improve sanitary design, and enhanced training and auditing to ensure that programs are implemented as written. This is a prime example of what can happen when there’s not a robust and fully compliant corrective action plan in place – as well as an urgent reminder to reassess your own efforts. Are you implementing a corrective action plan that meets current compliance obligations, focuses on the safety of consumers and safeguards your brand?
Decades ago, the only food safety risk players in the protein industry were highly concerned about was that of animal diseases pervading their stock. Today, however, companies in the business of producing, processing, distributing and/or preparing meat, poultry and other protein products must be highly vigilant over the threat of foodborne illness caused by pathogens and other contamination issues. Facing this significantly more complex challenge – particularly in light of current industry regulations – has made the development of strong corrective action plans supported by smart software solutions an absolute necessity.
It’s now widely known that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requires all applicable facilities to implement comprehensive corrective actions as part of a compliant food safety effort. What many corporate food safety managers may not know, however, is that developing a robust corrective action plan is about more than simply checking off your compliance boxes. Doing so actually strengthens your ability to reduce risk and protect your assets. For an inside look at how this unfolds, we’re bringing life to the practice of corrective action by offering you some tangible examples.
In the food manufacturing industry, corrective actions are steps taken to identify, correct and prevent future occurrences of deviations from a facility’s predetermined food safety process. The fifth principle of the industry standardized HACCP system is to establish corrective actions for responding appropriately whenever a potential food safety hazard’s critical limit is exceeded. Each facility’s corrective action plan should detail what to do when a deviation occurs (i.e., identifying and correcting the cause), who is responsible for doing so and how to properly record the actions taken.
As a food safety manager, you probably worry about what does and doesn’t go on when you’re not around. That’s because there’s more on the line than just business output and operations. If the entire plant structure – from your people to your processes – is not focused on meeting food safety regulations and consumer standards, you’re vulnerable to experiencing serious noncompliance penalties, costly recalls, and reputational risk. But if you assume that ERP software is the answer, keep reading.
A Kellogg’s cereal manufacturer was recently issued an official FDA Warning Letter, which cites a number of food safety infractions linked to consumer illnesses reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Kerry, Inc., the company that manufactures Honey Smacks, underwent an inspection at its Gridley, IL, facility after an outbreak of connected Salmonella infections spurred a voluntary product recall from Kellogg Co. As a result of the inspection, FDA investigators identified “serious violations of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food regulation.”
Grocery stores have transformed the food consumption experience. Whereas shoppers were once singularly focused on traversing the aisles to find the best deal on breakfast cereal, dinner ingredients and other food staples, there is now ample opportunity to meet with friends, purchase and enjoy a full meal AND check out with essential grocery items, all in one stop. But has this emerging trend increased your risk of food safety failures?
We’ve said it before: No food production process is perfect. There are immeasurable opportunities for the safety and quality of your product to be endangered at just one processing facility, let alone multiple. And as much as we’d like to think that good intentions prevail, there’s simply no way to thwart every single one of these risks. Even so, there’s good news for you and your company: Recalls can STILL be prevented!
Now that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is fully embedded in the food processing and manufacturing industry, every food brand is called to elevate its approach to food safety and transform reactive efforts into proactive plans. But if FSMA compliance has you struggling to understand and implement the proper regulations within your operation, you probably have some important questions about what’s required of you.
As a producer of food products, you understand that food quality and safety data is both critical and sensitive. But what some manufacturers often lose sight of is the fact that it’s also owned by YOU. This may sound patently obvious, but it is virtually certain that you as an organization are not EMPOWERED to access, aggregate, analyze and act on YOUR data! Try this thought experiment: how long would it take to get an answer to the question “what is my incidence rate of positives trended against 1st-clear sanitation performance for the past 9 business days?” I guarantee you you’ll find your data is walled off from easy access while surrounded by a digital moat. There are historical reasons that organizations such as 3rd party service labs provide your data in very specific formats (Certificates of Analysis etc…): it is both necessary for some aspects of your business to have these forms of output, and they are legally required if for example a lab is ISO certified. All that is well and good, but does NOT solve for the problem of enabling you to mine ALL of your own data in order to take action to improve the safety and quality of your product! Whether you rely on an internal lab team or outsource to various other testing partners, it’s necessary to maintain control over all of your food safety and quality data. Ask yourself: Do you have comprehensive access to your historical data? And if your company changed lab service partners, would you still be able to access and leverage it? It’s time to educate yourself on the importance of breaking down silos, digital and analog. Here’s what you need to know.
Compliance is a hot topic in today’s food industry, as consumers push brands to demonstrate social responsibility and government agencies dig deeper into food safety realities. Companies all along the supply chain feel the pressure to ensure high-quality, compliant processes. In the C-Suite, executives are working to oversee these efforts and fulfill your organization’s compliance obligations. But have you taken the time to determine whether you truly understand your risk position in relation to compliance?
Food recalls happen much more often than the public typically realizes. However, when national attention spotlights a company recall, it has the potential to cause irreparable damage to the brand and even initiate liability consequences for decision makers. As consumers become more informed about food safety issues and government agencies tighten their regulations, the number of recalls occurring across the country continues to increase.
In the wake of a food recall, brand image is on your mind -- and you may be frantically searching for solutions to keep that image intact. A recall is alarming to your customers, and it has the potential to jeopardize their trust in your brand. Just know that you CAN recover from a food recall event and maintain a positive relationship with the public. The key is smart, effective communication.
Food safety reform is sweeping the nation as the FDA enforces its most extensive regulatory shift yet. While manufacturers and suppliers across a spectrum of food categories work to align their operations with these new mandates, players in the meat industry may not be perking their ears on this particular matter. After all, meat and poultry have historically been controlled by the USDA, not the FDA. Even if you’re complying with USDA standards, however, it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on with regard to FSMA, for a number of reasons.
A quick scan of recall listings on either the FDA or USDA site reveals a host of food safety incidents that have affected brands in just the last few days. Pull up an extensive review of food recalls in the past several months or years, and you’ll see some staggering numbers. In fact, a recent report issued by the Economic Research Service indicates there were 4,900 food recall events in the United States from 2004 to 2013. That translates to roughly 490 recalls per year -- or 1.3 recalls every day.
A dynamic and thorough HACCP program is absolutely critical to minimizing your manufacturing company’s food safety risk. Yet, even in this time of unprecedented industry evolution and deepened regulatory responsibility, there are many plants that continue to miss the mark on meeting necessary HACCP standards. To help ensure that your company is implementing a strong HACCP system, we’re providing you with valuable information and insight into one of the most overlooked and underestimated principles.
Many of us can honestly say there are aspects of our jobs that feel like a never-ending cycle. For plant and quality assurance managers in the food industry, the responsibility of preparing for audits really is an endless challenge. The perpetual need to ensure audit readiness can seem relentless and burdensome. The reality, however, is that food safety can be managed in a highly systematic way -- one that equips you and your team to embrace the kind of audit preparation that doesn’t spur an incessant loop of tedious tasks.
If the heightened threat of experiencing a food recall has been on your mind, you’re not alone. Professionals in the food industry at large have been transforming their mindset in response to consumer and government demands for a more rigorous food safety effort. Every brand is under scrutiny from the public, as well as the watchful eye of the FDA, to ensure that today’s food safety standards are being upheld. It’s time to take action on executing a FSMA-compliant plan to meet evolved regulations and protect your brand against the risks of a food recall.
There’s no way around food safety audits for manufacturing companies. Government regulators, like the FDA, USDA and CFIA, continue to heighten compliance enforcement, and clients often conduct regular investigations to manage supplier food safety. On top of that, there are internal audits to be implemented on a consistent basis. That amounts to quite a mountain of audit preparation, which means complex data acquisition and reporting.
There’s a consumer-driven movement happening in the food industry, and it’s impacting the products you bring to market. As people become more informed about health and nutritional realities, interest in eating “clean” foods and maintaining organic diets has surged. In fact, statistics show that worldwide sales of organic food has risen 500% in the 21st century (from $18 billion in 2000 to $90 billion in 2016). In response, farmers are changing the way they grow and manage their crops. So, what does this shift mean for your plant’s approach to food safety and recall prevention?
In the food manufacturing world, plant and quality assurance managers are no stranger to the struggles of overworked employees, strained resources, interruptive audits, tracking snafus and testing pressures. You’re tasked with managing multiple systems at once because each one focuses on a different manufacturing need, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But you don’t have to keep spinning your wheels to stay on top of critical quality and safety issues or mitigate the risk of a costly recall.
Where would your brand be without the loyalty and trust of its consumers? A company that suffers from diminished consumer confidence is a company at risk of failure -- or, at the very least, significant loss. Therefore, protecting your brand image is of the utmost importance, though this can be a major challenge in today’s food industry climate. As federal regulations evolve, consumers become more informed and the number of food safety incidents climbs, there’s one undeniable truth at the core of protecting your brand: You must adopt a preventive approach.
It happened: Your company experienced a food recall that impacted your business, your brand and your bottom line. You were faced with the costly consequences of manufacturing a product that had to be pulled from the market, including the backlash of negative press and the expense of recall implementation. Whether you’ve fully recovered or are still in the process of recouping your losses, the fact remains that your organization is on high alert to ensure you don’t suffer a reoccurence. Do you know what steps are required to prevent another food recall from happening?
You see the news headlines declaring recalls at restaurant chains, supermarkets, meat and produce companies, ready-to-eat product manufacturers and other types of food processors. You see consumers responding on social media and in their individual buying habits. You know that government regulations have been elevating food safety standards to a whole new level. And you worry about how these industry realities will affect your brand.
Regardless of whether a food recall happens through government mandate or voluntary action, there’s much at stake, from major recall implementation expenses to rippling reputational challenges. If you don’t manage the situation properly and proactively, you’re unlikely to be successful in protecting your customer relationships and rebuilding your brand. Do you have an effective, efficient plan in place to address these concerns appropriately? Do you know the difference between smart actions and potentially damaging ones?
Food safety concerns have existed for as long as humans have been eating and drinking, but only in the last few decades has the industry seen such a monumental transformation of efforts to protect the public from unsafe products. In fact, the standardized quality control method known today as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) began as a mission-critical NASA initiative in the 1960s to ensure the safety of prepackaged foods for spaceflight. 50 years later, innovative technology continues to advance food safety strategies and facilitate regulatory compliance across the supply chain. Protecting consumers from the plethora of biological, chemical and physical hazards that can lead to foodborne illness and other health issues is an ever-evolving undertaking.
The peanut butter debacle of 2007 is said to have cost parent company ConAgra $78 million to deal with $1 billion worth of potentially Salmonella-contaminated product. And while many significant strides have been made in the last decade to prevent occurrences of this magnitude, companies in the food manufacturing business still experience brand-damaging recalls -- some with resounding impacts on both the company and the industry at large.
Sanitation of the manufacturing plant is a pivotal contributor to contamination prevention, overall food safety and risk management, which is why no food safety effort is successful without effective communication with this department. But in many cases, sanitation tasks are outsourced to a third party, causing significant gaps in communication. When this happens, visibility suffers, assumptions are made, documentation responsibilities fall through the cracks and the entire organization is at risk.
News headlines featuring popular food brands illustrate the reputational damages and profitability losses that companies can experience as a result of food safety issues in the manufacturing process. The truth is many corporate leaders don’t have the necessary visibility into what’s happening at the plant level to rectify food safety mistakes before they become public health concerns.
Maybe you’ve been looking at food safety all wrong. It’s not just a compliance issue. It’s not a siloed compartment of your company. It’s not a list of boxes to check off. On the contrary, food safety is a critical brand protection function and therefore a driver of business profitability. Therefore, the more powerful your solutions are to ensure food safety, the more your company stands to gain in terms of ROI.
Managing non-conformances is a complex effort, made even more challenging and complex with new food safety requirements. Executing corrective actions well and in a timely manner though is critical to both being compliant with regulations as well as continuously improving your operations to reduce brand risk. As FSMA continues to roll out and necessitate a proactive focus on contamination prevention, one of your top concerns must be to implement preventive controls that meet government provisions. You can’t expect to accomplish this objective without arming your team with the right tools for the job; tools that give them the right data at the right time!
As the entire domain of food safety transforms and FSMA deadlines elapse, corporate-level executives and brand managers must prioritize their companies’ compliance efforts or risk facing crippling impacts. From regulatory penalties and legal consequences to recalls and reputational damages, the stakes are high. Food safety is one of the few, if not the only, events that can terminally damage a brand. Don’t believe me? Just look at Chipotle, Blue Bell and Peanut Butter of America. What’s your strategy for preventing these potentially fatal brand consequences? Have you established a structured corporate vision for food safety excellence? Do you know how?
If you’re someone who’s responsible for the livelihood of your food organization’s brand, you’d likely jump at the opportunity to see into the future and prepare for what’s in store. After all, your brand is a precious commodity -- the lifeblood of your business -- and you know that protecting it is an absolute necessity. Luckily, you don’t need a fortune teller or a crystal ball to get a glimpse into food safety five years down the road. You simply need to recognize the emerging trends, respect the compliance landscape and heed the advice of industry experts.
If your corporation has established protocols and behaviors that satisfy all the requirements for FSMA compliance, you’re certainly on the right track. After all, these new rules are mandatory for food manufacturers, so you’d be facing significant penalties and risks by failing to comply. But if you’re focused solely on checking off the compliance boxes to avoid legal ramifications, you’re definitely missing the bigger food safety picture -- and that could have a negative impact on your brand.
The food manufacturing industry has been revolutionized by automation in recent years. What used to require excessive time and effort to manage via paper-based methods and cumbersome strategies is now streamlined through digital data collection, organization and reporting. Instead of wasting valuable production time on manual, labor-intensive processes for ensuring food quality and safety, plants have the benefit of optimizing these efforts through automated systems. Why, then, are some companies still failing to meet current safety standards and quality objectives. Why are they still suffering from inefficiencies that lead to costly problems? Is your organization facing a similar predicament? Even if you have an automated management system at your disposal, you may not be utilizing it correctly. A food quality and safety management solution is there to make operations easier, quicker and more accurate. If you’re not seeing these benefits, you may not be working with the right tool or getting the most out of it.
Yes, the food safety industry is majorly transforming as we speak. Yes, you need to shift your mindset immediately and refine your processes dramatically. Yes, there’s a hefty, potentially devastating price to pay if you continue to rely on outdated approaches and refuse to adopt proactive measures. But no, this doesn’t have to be a nightmare for your manufacturing company. And no, you don’t have to be afraid. Why? Because the reality of change is as old as time, and with most periods of change come evolution and innovation. This can certainly be said of the food processing industry.
Is your food manufacturing company in full compliance with FSMA yet? The clock is ticking, and deadlines are fast approaching. In fact, compliance dates for some companies have already passed. If you’re behind the timeline, it’s essential to get up to speed before noncompliance penalties are at your doorstep. Implementing the plans and procedures necessary to fulfill FSMA requirements isn’t a quick or easy effort. You may be intimidated by the time commitment and complexity, but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to ignore your compliance responsibility. Don’t jeopardize your operations or your brand by letting these problems and challenges get in the way of meeting FSMA regulations.
Animals are susceptible to foodborne illnesses just like humans are, and pet owners want to feel confident that the food they’re giving their pets is safe from contamination. Any threat to the safety of the food they’re purchasing could diminish their trust in the brand and result in reputational damage. As pet food recalls become more widespread, it’s important to assess your food safety efforts and take the necessary steps to prevent a costly outcome.
A food recall can be a manufacturing company’s worst nightmare. In fact, it’s one of the most dreaded possibilities for food safety managers everywhere. That’s because one food recall has the potential to bring your brand to its knees. In response to a recall, consumers may change their purchasing, food preparation and consumption practices, or they may avoid the product for months or years after the recall has ended. Your customers want to know that the products they’re buying are safe, and a single breach in that trust can have rippling effects that completely deteriorate your brand. Once the news of a recall hits the public, it can become a storm of bad press that turns customers away.