According to Food Processing’s 2020 Manufacturing Outlook, food safety is the top concern for food processors. Regulators and consumers have a microscope on the industry.
Their attention is justified. Food recalls can happen for a variety of reasons, classified by the chance a product would result in health consequences if consumed. News like last year’s E. coli-tainted romaine lettuce make the biggest headlines. The cost of a food recall can reach $10 million, not to mention brand damage and lost sales, according to a joint study by the Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association. Costs include logistics associated with pulling products, disposing of the products, litigation, government fines and more.
As a result, emerging trends in food safety include:
An Even More Vigilant FDA
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has been around since 2011, but the FDA continues to tighten its regulations and standards. These stricter rules are meant to improve food safety and meet the challenges of a global industry. They encourage companies to take an intensely proactive approach to preventing food safety emergencies, rather than a reactive approach in the event of an outbreak.
Several new standards go into effect in 2020 and 2021. For instance, small businesses must comply with the Produce Safety Rules and the Intentional Adulteration Rule this year. Also, importers of animal food from foreign suppliers must comply with the Foreign Supplier Verification Program.
A more vigilant FDA, which continues to increase inspections and demand thorough documentation, is driving the trend toward strict compliance. Companies are dedicating more time, resources and manpower to keeping up with new standards.
Closely Tracked Product Journeys
The demand for greater supply chain traceability is coming from both consumers and regulators. Consumers want to verify food contents and assess factors like sustainability and ethics along the product journey. Regulators want to keep food processors true to their labels and promises. However, the main reason traceability is a high priority right now is its role in food safety.
Supply chain traceability means you can check for compliance and failures in both directions. Ahead of the product journey, you can ensure your sources and suppliers are complying with regulations. After the journey, it will be easier to identify issues that might have led to problems with the product. This makes for a speedier, more efficient resolution and reduces the impact of failures overall.
To synchronize traceability across the industry, the FDA is encouraging companies to use digital processes. Through their New Era of Smarter Food Safety program, they hope to equip companies with the knowledge and resources necessary to apply technology in their food safety protocols. This leads to the next trend: a turn toward digital and automated processes.
Greater Reliance on Technology
Meeting new standards, documenting compliance activities, preventing foodborne illnesses, tracking product journeys – all of this is a lot to manage, no matter the size of your company. Food processors are turning to technology to manage and improve these processes. The biggest trends in food safety are digitization and automation.
Digitization: Going digital is one of the top trends in food processing. Companies are moving to digital systems to conduct and document safety checks, manage and rotate their inventory, record temperatures, and more. This removes several steps in documenting compliance, reduces errors and makes information readily accessible as needed.
Automation: Automated processes are great for optimizing your employees’ time, but they can also make for more efficient operations and fewer food safety risks. Companies are using automated options for functions as minute as temperature monitoring, as hands-on as food prep, and as high level as inventory management and procurement.
Rigorous Truth in Advertising
In 2020 and 2021, the FDA’s new food and nutrition labeling standards are slated to go into effect. Companies are expected to adhere to stricter rules around what is considered “organic” or “healthy,” and rules dictate nutritional fact requirements and proper serving sizes.
The FDA is also encouraging a standard for dating labels on food products to better inform consumers and reduce waste, though they haven’t made an official rule for it. The popular claim is that a clear “best if used by” label is better practice than “best by,” and discussion around this topic is trending in the industry.
Companies are working to achieve compliance by the time the rules go into effect, as the FDA will be holding them accountable for inaccurate labeling practices.
High-Visibility Food Safety News
Foodborne illnesses, recalls and failed inspections have been getting more and more attention each year. Consumers are on alert and high-visibility food safety news spreads faster than ever. The impact of such negative press can devastate a company in an instant. Having technologies in place for improved traceability, digitization and automation can help them move as quickly as the news cycle in the event of a food safety issue.
ColumbusFood is an ideal solution for merging food processing safety and technology. It has several options, including:
- Meat and Poultry
Each version of ColumbusFood has functions in place to help companies keep up with—and ahead of—food safety trends and regulations. These include functions like lot tracking for greater supply chain traceability and risk mitigation, production and process management tools, automated data collection and quality compliance controls. With capabilities like these, companies are better positioned to respond to market changes, recover from food safety emergencies and comply with evolving standards.