Matt Brown
FST Soapbox

Technology in the Food Chain: Insights from the IFT 2023 Traceability Challenge Report

By Matt Brown
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Matt Brown

In a report released in May of 2023, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) offered an encouraging and attainable outlook for cooperative and effective functionality throughout the global food supply chain. And with traceability as the primary goal in this diverse landscape of users, challenges and solutions abound. Less a snapshot of where we have been, this report is a helpful guide to where we are going and how best the industry will achieve compliance to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) by January 20, 2026.

Traceability Challenges in a Global Food Supply Chain

Traceability is a common goal in all industries. But when food and beverage is your bread and butter, the ability to trace a single ingredient can be a matter of life and death. Based on findings in a 2006 study, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported the following yearly totals: 37.2 million cases of foodborne illnesses; 228,744 resulting hospitalizations; and 2,612 deaths.[1] In order to improve the landscape of health and safety in the food and beverage industry, the IFT in conjunction with the FDA embarked on a study[2] of how low- or no-cost technology could improve traceability for businesses within the global food supply chain.

One of the greatest challenges in achieving uniform traceability lies in the vastness within the food supply chain itself. Those beholden to compliance are defined as “all persons who manufacture, process, pack, or hold foods that appear on the Food Traceability List (FTL).[3]” And this rule applies to all foods that are consumed in the U.S. market, not just those grown in the U.S. All laborers—planters, harvesters, processors, handlers, packers, distributors, shippers and retailers—who interact with any item on the FTL[4] must be recorded and tracked according to FDA guidelines. These guidelines include procedural protocol for food handling as well as timelines for processing and documentation. Whether the starting point of a single ingredient is stateside or overseas, it generally travels several places before arriving on a grocery store shelf or appearing on a restaurant’s menu.

Within this huge network of players lies the next challenge: economic and technological diversity. While economy and technology are not always one and the same, the typical overlap is demonstrated in the specific case of a head of lettuce. On one end of the supply chain continuum, a head of lettuce begins its journey in a field. There are no handheld scanners or databases in this lettuce’s origin story. There is only the hot sun, an irrigation system, and hard-working people laboring up and down the rows of lettuce. Now flash forward to Aisle 1 of your local grocery store. By now this lettuce has been inspected, washed, shrink-wrapped, labeled, UPC-ed, shipped, received and shelved. With each new set of hands it has passed through—both human and mechanical—it has likely experienced an ascending economic stratum with advancing technological features at each step. Sophistication and automation often increase exponentially as the number of places on the continuum increases. A head of lettuce purchased at your local farmers market, for instance, may have only changed hands once or not at all, while a vacuum-sealed carton of greens at your regional mega-outlet has likely seen many locales as well as top-of-the-line technology and automation.

In addition to a variety of technologies, it is likely that this head of lettuce has also passed through the hands of people speaking multiple languages. The laborers at the beginning of the continuum are often non-native English speakers. And regardless of a laborer’s native tongue, lower rates of literacy are common in entry level food industry jobs. According to statistics published by the Department of Labor in 2018, 77% of U.S. farmworkers report Spanish as their primary language. And the same report states that the average level of formal education completed was eighth grade.[5] Therefore, compliance across the continuum must be translatable and comprehendible to all levels of experience and available in all languages of users.

The challenge of complete supply chain compliance from one end of the spectrum to the other warrants cooperation across many lines: state, national, linguistic, cultural and economic to name a few. The need for intuitive solutions and an easy to implement process is paramount.

Technology as the Traceability Solution

With a better understanding of the global food supply chain itself, it is not hard to see why solutions can be found in the tech sector. When the food supply chain existed primarily in a local economy, keeping paper records was a viable process. Now the food supply chain is a global enterprise, and as such, processes must also operate on a global scale.

Tech solutions offer ready-made customization. Language translations, infographics, flowcharts and videos are easily incorporated into platforms for ease of use across all segments of the supply chain. This is beneficial to both domestic and international operations, and it is especially advantageous to those whose operations span both.

The availability of cloud-based platforms has elevated technological capabilities. No longer does every physical operation need its own dedicated server; rather, information is stored and remains accessible anywhere—from a single lettuce field all the way to the grocery store aisle across the world.

“It used to be common that shipments would arrive without necessary paperwork such as invoices, bills of lading or certificates of analysis. Even shipping labels would commonly be ripped off or illegible,” says Geoff Ellis, COO of Wherefour. “Things get lost in the mail. But when all pertinent information is stored in the cloud, it’s unquestionably accessible to the receiver, the shipper and the transport company.”

Not only does the use of cloud-based technology streamline operations for shipping and receiving, but it does the work ahead of time for quality assurance and regulatory compliance. Documentation does not have to be intentionally gathered and prepared for audits. Everything is already in order when a cloud-based tech platform is employed.

The FSMA’s Traceability Plan guide[6] mandates specific controls and standards for record keeping, all of which are reliant on lot codes. Lot code traceability is easily achievable with a comprehensive software solution. And data sharing is significantly improved with a cloud-based system. All involved parties can be in separate parts of one building or in different parts of the world, and they can still be on the same page operationally.

Expertise in the Tech Sector

With the FDA’s commitment to increased traceability, a shift in focus from response to prevention is apparent. And tech solutions have the unique ability to measure efficacy in procedural implementation across the supply chain continuum. Records are created, stored and shared in perpetuity, and those records can be instantly accessed from any location. Leaders in the tech industry are interested in creating solutions that are scalable and transferable. It is not uncommon for a platform whose original design was to address problems in one industry to end up solving a problem in a different industry altogether. Software solutions are by nature about operational functionality and can be applied to any operation therein.

Furthermore, evolution in the tech sector is rapid and collaborative. Expert insights and advancements drive competitors to continually improve and increase productivity and efficiency. “The tech sector is driven by a healthy sense of collaboration and competition,” says Ellis. “It’s exciting to watch the bar being raised by our competitors. It really motivates us to raise it even further with each new feature we develop.”

In order to achieve FSMA compliance within the diverse global food supply chain, implementing low- or no-cost tech-enabled traceability solutions is essential. It is in everyone’s best interest to remove any barriers that would otherwise prevent viable and nutritious food from getting to market.

References

[1] Scallan, E., Hoekstra, R. M., Angulo, F. J., Tauxe, R. V., Widdowson, M., Roy, S. L….Griffin, P. M. (2011). Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States—Major Pathogens. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 17(1), 7-15. https://doi.org/10.3201/eid1701.p11101

[2] Bratager, Sarah…Grantham, Alison. (2023, May 17). IFT’s Tech-Enabled Traceability Insights Based on the FDA’s Low- or No-Cost Traceability Challenge Submissions. Retrieved from https://www.ift.org/-/media/gftc/pdfs/ift-tech-insights-fda-nolowcost-traceability-report-2023.pdf

[3] FSMA Final Rule on Requirements for Additional Traceability Records for Certain Foods. (2023, June 26). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-modernization-act-fsma/fsma-final-rule-requirements-additional-traceability-records-certain-foods

[4] Food Traceability List. (2023, June 26). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-modernization-act-fsma/food-traceability-list

[5] Hernandez, Trish and Gabbard, Susan. (2018, January). Findings from the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) 2015-2016: A Demographic and Employment Profile of United State Farmworkers. 10-14. Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ETA/naws/pdfs/NAWS_Research_Report_13.pdf

[6] Requirements for Additional Traceability Records for Certain Foods: What You Need to Know About the FDA Regulation: Guidance for Industry. Small Entity Compliance Guide. (2023, May). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/media/168142/download

 

Pratik Jagad
FST Soapbox

Route-planning Software Reduces Food Loss, Improves Operational Efficiency

By Pratik Jagad
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Pratik Jagad

The food shipping industry has witnessed a surge in demand for more efficient services, and with that comes the need for more effective route planning. The success of food enterprises hinges on timely deliveries and cost optimization. To meet these challenges head-on, route planning software has emerged as a transformative tool that can reshape the logistics landscape for food companies. In this article, we explore efficient route planning in the food industry and how the adoption of route planning software can enhance overall operations.

The Importance of Effective Route Planning in the Food Industry

In the competitive world of food logistics and delivery, efficient route planning plays a pivotal role for several reasons. First and foremost, it directly impacts delivery times, ensuring that food reaches customers promptly. This not only satisfies the demands of discerning consumers but also strengthens customer loyalty and brand reputation.

Optimized routes have also proven to be a financial boon for food companies. By streamlining routes, businesses can significantly reduce food loss and improve fuel efficiency, leading to substantial cost savings in the long run. Additionally, effective route planning enables better resource allocation, enhancing overall operational efficiency and productivity.

Optimizing Delivery Routes with Route Planning Software

Route planning software leverages technology to optimize delivery routes. Some key ways in which route planning software is improving the logistics industry include:

  • Real-Time Traffic Updates: By incorporating real-time traffic data, route planning software dynamically adjusts delivery routes to avoid traffic congestions, ensuring timely deliveries even during peak hours.
  • Efficient Resource Allocation: With its ability to take into account various variables such as vehicle capacity, delivery time frames and driver availability, optimization software streamlines resource allocation, reducing idle time and improving overall delivery efficiency.
  • Cost Reduction and Fuel Efficiency: The software’s ability to design more efficient routes not only translates into cost savings but also reduces the environmental impact, as fuel consumption decreases, thereby contributing to more sustainable practices.

Ensuring Food Safety and Quality During Transit

For food shippers, maintaining the safety and quality of products during transit is of paramount importance. Route planning software addresses this concern through:

  • Temperature Control: User tools consider the specific temperature requirements of perishable goods and assign vehicles equipped with the appropriate refrigeration capacities, safeguarding the freshness and quality of products during transportation.
  • Minimizing Food Spoilage: Optimized routes reduce travel time, minimizing the risk of food spoilage, a crucial factor for businesses dealing with perishable goods.

Compliance with Food Safety Regulations

Adherence to food safety regulations is a non-negotiable aspect of the food industry. Route planning software assists companies in ensuring compliance with delivery and food safety laws, preventing potential legal issues and fines that could harm the reputation and financial stability of the business.

Enhancing Customer Satisfaction

In an era where customer experience reigns supreme, route planning software becomes an invaluable tool for food businesses aiming to enhance customer satisfaction. By streamlining delivery processes and reducing delays, the software contributes to meeting customer expectations and building brand loyalty.

Gone are the days of running your shipping operations from within a spreadsheet. The only logical next step is to implement technology tools that can help shippers catch up and eventually stay ahead of the curve. For food shippers, implementing route optimization tools and getting your perishable goods to shelves, freezers or onto plates faster can improve customer satisfaction and bottom line growth.

Food Safety Consortium 2023
Food Safety Think Tank

The Rise of Unforeseen Hazards and New Regulatory Strategies

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Food Safety Consortium 2023

The food industry is facing new challenges in food safety due to the introduction of novel foods and extreme weather events. In recent years, flaws within the nation’s regulatory system have also come to light. On October 16-18, food safety and quality professionals will gather at the 2023 Food Safety Consortium in Parsippany, New Jersey, to share lessons learned, join discussions with regulatory bodies and gain knowledge on how to mitigate current and coming food safety challenges. Join your peers as we examine topics including: 

Modernizing the U.S. Food Safety System

Following the infant formula crisis, the food industry, the public and the U.S. legislature called for changes to how we regulate food in the U.S. In this session, we look at key concerns and shortcomings with our current regulatory framework and how the system can be modernized to better address—and reduce—the most likely foodborne illness risks facing today’s consumers.

Panelists: Stephen Ostroff, M.D. former Acting FDA Commissioner, Bill Marler, Food Safety Attorney; Barbara Kowalcyk, Executive Director, Center for Foodborne Illness and Panelist of the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the FDA. Moderated by Inga Hansen, Managing Editor, Food Safety Tech.

View the full agenda.

The Rise of Previously Unforeseen Hazards

With the combined effects of the recent pandemic, globalization, climate change, digitalization, and decreased regulatory inspection oversight, it is inevitable that previously unforeseen food safety hazards have emerged from within the food sectors previously thought low risk. Arguably, the rise of previously unforeseen food hazards may be attributed to the following:

  • Food Fraud. The addition of food fraud adulterants such as non-food grade chemicals, unapproved colors and flavors, and non-compatible allergenic ingredients, pose health risks to consumers. These hazards are changing and becoming more sophisticated.
  • Fusion Foods. With the internationalization food, food ingredients are being used in new and unexpected ways. As a result, new and unexpected hazards may occur, which may not be accounted for in food safety plans.
  • Clean Labeling. Foods that are considered “natural”, “healthy”, and “sustainable”, are free of artificial ingredients, to include preservatives. As foods are reformulated, hazards that were previously not a concern may become more prevalent.
  • Protein Alternatives. Food safety hazard analysis of plant-based and cell-cultured proteins cannot be approached in the same manner as traditional meat and poultry processing.

In this session, Tim Lombardo, Senior Director for Food Consulting Services, EAS Consulting examines the challenges of identifying emerging hazards associated with Food Fraud, Food Fusion, Clean Labeling, and Protein Alternatives as well as mitigation strategies to minimize these risks.

Make Data Useful Again: Building an Analytics Strategy to Drive FSQA Performance

Are you tired of sifting through vast amounts of data that don’t provide the valuable insights you need for your business? We understand that not all data is created equal, and it can be overwhelming to determine which information truly matters for making critical decisions. In today’s digital, world where every solution promises data insights, finding the right analytics and meaningful insights is crucial for success. Join our panel discussion where three seasoned F&B industry experts will share their hard-earned lessons and best practices for navigating the data deluge. Learn how they have successfully identified and utilized the data that matters, enabling them to drive important decisions and uncover critical gaps in visibility to revolutionize FSQA and supply chain programs.

Panelists: Gary Smith, Vice President, Quality Systems, Food Brands, 1-800-Flowers and Paul Bradley, Senior Director Product Marketing, TraceGains

Registration options are available for in-person and hybrid team attendance.

 

Food lab
In the Food Lab

Addressing Food Safety Challenges During Research and Development

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Food lab

Waiting until a product is at the tail end of R&D to examine potential food safety and regulatory compliance issues can lead to unnecessary delays and tension between teams, according to experts at the 2023 IAFP Conference in Toronto. Wendy White of the Georgia Tech Manufacturer Extension Program and Kory Anderson of Cargill co-moderated the panel discussion, “From Bench-top to Scale Up: The Unspoken Food Safety Challenges of Research and Development.” They were joined by panelists Shawn Stevens, an attorney with Industry Counsel, LLC, Benjamin Warren, Senior Science Advisor for Food Safety at the FDA, and Michael O’Rourke, North American Regional Microbiology and Food Safety Leader at Cargill.

Key food safety challenges associated with new product development highlighted by panelists included a lack of clear communication between departments, especially food safety, R&D and buyers.

Failure to bring your food safety leaders in early in product development can lead to sales and marketing decisions that are not implementable, said White. Stevens noted that traditionally there is tension between R&D and regulatory professionals in food companies that needs to be addressed in order to avoid food safety risks and delays in bringing new products to market.

Challenges when introducing new products or processing methods extend beyond in-house R&D to new suppliers as well. O’Rourke warned that risks occur when new buyers choose to purchase products from small companies that are not ready to scale up for national distribution. In addition, small companies with novel foods often have a lack of food safety know-how and may be introducing products that have not been vetted and/or do not meet regulatory standards.

O’Rourke further encouraged companies to be aware of risks when working with food brokers, as this may cloud traceability. “It may require pushback to get a clear view of the processing of the products at the primary source,” he said.

Meeting the Challenge

One way to avoid costly delays is to work with the FDA through its voluntary counseling program that encourages companies with novel products and new processing methods to meet with the FDA early in the R&D process. “This can help companies chart a regulatory path and smooth the transition to market. It helps companies understand what data is required—and what is not,” said Warren, noting that submissions to the FDA are often incomplete.

Another process that can help companies forecast safety risks and regulatory roadblocks early in the ideation and development process is a Design Hazard Analysis (DHA). “This mimics food safety plans, but begins during development to provide early consideration of regulatory requirements,” said Warren.

All panelists agreed that food safety team leaders should be brought in early in product development and be given a vote on what moves forward and what does not.

Food Safety Consortium 2023
From the Editor’s Desk

Tackling Today’s Greatest Food Safety Challenges:  The 2023 Food Safety Consortium

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Food Safety Consortium 2023

Food safety and quality professionals can take advantage of three days of education, networking and panel discussions at the 11th Annual Food Safety Consortium, October 16-18 in Parsippany, New Jersey. This year’s event is co-located with the Cannabis Quality Conference and Food Defense Consortium.

In-person and virtual registration options available

Erik Mettler and Sandra Eskin

Keynote Speakers: Erik P. Mettler, MPA, MPH, Assistant Commissioner for Partnerships and Policy, Office of Partnerships and Operational Policy, Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) at FDA, and Sandra Eskin, Deputy Undersecretary Food Safety, USDA, Food Safety & Inspection Service.

Following the keynote presentations, attendees can take part in a Town Hall Q&A with Mettler and Eskin, followed by a panel discussion on Modernizing the U.S. Food Safety System, featuring Stephen Ostroff. Former FDA Commissioner, Barbara Kowalcyk, Executive Director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention, and Bill Marler, Attorney with Food Safety Law Firm Marler Clark.

This year’s program includes four pre-conference workshops, taking place on Monday, October 16:

  • Food Safety Culture Design Workshop
  • CP-FS Credential Review Course
  • Food Safety Auditor Training
  • The Seed to Sale Safety Workshop

Days two and three feature panel discussions covering food safety culture, supply chain, recall patterns and succession planning, as well as breakout sessions on prevention, mitigation, control and regulation of key food safety hazards. Session highlights include:

Re-Imagining Food Protection as a National Security Issue – DHS Perspective, Presented by Mark Wittrock, Assistant Director – Health, Food, and Agriculture Resilience Office of Health Security, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Rise of Previously Unforeseen Hazards, Presented by Tim Lombardo, EAS Consulting

Food Safety Supply Chain Management, Presented by Celso Pagutalan, ASR Group

Succession Planning for Food Safety Inspectors, Panelists: Gina Nicholson Kramer, April Bishop of TreeHouse Foods, Barbara Kowalcyk, Executive Director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention, Erik P. Mettler, MPA, MPH, Assistant Commissioner for Partnerships and Policy, Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) at FDA, Rance Baker of NEHA, and Jorge Hernandez of Wendy’s

Food Safety Culture: Creating a “Speak Up Culture,” Presented by Austin Welch, Sage Media

Risk Mitigation through Assessment, Testing, Monitoring and Compliance, Presented by Dr. Sandra Johnson, SGS North America

Recalls Trends, Regulation and Lessons Learned, Panelists: Erik P. Mettler, MPA, MPH, Assistant Commissioner for Partnerships and Policy, Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) at FDA, Shawn Stevens, attorney with the Food Industry Counsel, and Stephen Ostroff, M.D. former Acting FDA Commissioner.

Food Allergen Advisory Labeling, Presented by Dr. Steven Gendel

View the full agenda.

Don’t miss out on opportunities to network with other food safety and quality professionals during the opening night reception, networking lunches and coffee breaks.

Registration options are available for in-person and hybrid team attendance.

Event Hours

  • Monday, October 16: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm (ET)
  • Tuesday, October 17: 9:00 am – 6:30 pm (ET)
  • Wednesday, October 18: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm (ET)

 

Sonia Acuña-Rubio
Allergen Alley

Reducing the Risk of Undeclared Food Allergens

By Sonia Acuña-Rubio
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Sonia Acuña-Rubio

Each year, 200,000 people in the U.S. require emergency medical care due to allergic reactions to food. Common foods that trigger allergic reactions include certain types of seafood, dairy, nuts, wheat, soy and sesame. For some, food allergy reactions can be serious and even life-threatening, requiring immediate treatment via the drug epinephrine.

Allergens are also one of the leading causes of food recalls globally. As food allergies continue to impact individuals and families across the nation, food manufacturers and distributors must be vigilant when manufacturing, packaging and selling foods to consumers.

Understanding Allergen Regulations

Many countries aim to protect individuals with food allergies by enforcing government regulations. Such regulations can require product manufacturers to disclose ingredients in packaged food and beverages.

In the U.S., the FDA recognizes nine major food allergens: crustacean shellfish, eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, soybeans and wheat. Sesame is the newest recognized allergen and was added in 2022 as part of the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act. These allergens must be identified on labels for American food products.

Similarly, in Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has a list of 11 priority allergens, which includes eggs, milk, mustard, peanuts, crustaceans and mollusks, fish, sesame, soy, sulfites, tree nuts, wheat and triticale, which must be disclosed on pre-packaged foods sold in the country.

In both countries, products may be recalled due to improper labeling and announced via public notice. (A comprehensive list of recognized food allergens by country can be found on the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FARRP)’s website.)

Activating Your Allergen Management Program

A comprehensive and effective allergen management program protects your consumers and your company and is necessary to meet regulatory and GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative)–benchmarked standard requirements. Creating an allergen management program involves developing processes and protocols and training employees to follow them.

Allergen cross-contact can occur when an allergenic food or ingredient is unintentionally incorporated into a food product. Food manufacturers and distributors should have a program that includes an allergen risk assessment, which helps to identify and manage any unintentional allergen contamination throughout the supply chain while tracing them throughout the facility. Good Manufacturing Protocols (GMP) should be followed for personal hygiene, handwashing, sanitation programs and more.

Managing Your Suppliers

Supplier communication is key to identifying allergens in raw materials. Use current supplier specifications and ingredient statements to identify allergens coming into the facility. Be alert for “may contain” statements and review your supplier’s allergen control policies and procedures.

In today’s food production environment, there are more supply chain disruptions than ever before. If there is a change in your raw materials or supplier, make sure that all documentation and finished product labels are updated.

Additional best practices when working with suppliers include:

  • Have a policy in place for label changes, noting that if a label from a product you purchase from a supplier changes, you must be notified of the change prior to the change being made and put into effect.
  • Ask for updated specifications/allergen information from suppliers on an annual basis. This could help to quickly identify issues if the supplier neglected to inform you of a change.

By identifying and listing sources in the facility, you can detect any ingredients and processing aids that contain or may contain allergens due to cross-contact or carry-over products. It is also important to prepare a master list of all ingredients in the facility and consider both primary and secondary ingredients, such as spices, colors and flavors.

Ask questions along the production process, identifying potential risks in recipes/formulas, traffic flow (of people, materials, and waste), potential crossovers of conveyors or pipe systems, shared equipment, storage practices, material segregation and airflow.

Avoiding Allergen Cross-Contact

Ensure that raw materials are labeled and segregated with incoming ingredient specification checks by weighing powders containing unique allergens in a separate and labeled area, covering totes or containers containing allergenic ingredients during transfer, and controlling the ventilation over lines where protein powders are dumped. Use product scheduling to maintain proper segregation.

Designate dedicated equipment, including utensils, if possible, as well as production sequencing or cleaning between allergen changeovers. Refrain from using original ingredient containers that previously held allergens. At the end of an allergen production run, conduct a complete and validated allergen clean.

Use documented visual inspection on each piece of equipment and environment between allergen changeovers and conduct regular labeling checks against the approved label/package design for each item produced. A third-party partner can be used to help develop and maintain supplier specifications, audit formulations, and review current packaging.

Protecting Consumers and Business Reputation

While ensuring products are free of any undeclared allergens may seem more challenging than ever before, establishing the right programs and practices can keep both your business and consumers healthy and safe. Implementing an allergen management plan, supplier checks, and allergen controls is key to avoiding cross-contact in the production process and throughout the supply chain, ensuing fewer disruptions in the manufacturing process, and ultimately, building trust with consumers.

Glen Ramsey
Ask The Expert

Ask the Expert: Why You Need to Pay Attention to Stored Product Pests

Glen Ramsey

With food safety as a top priority for your business, keeping all pests out should also be top of mind. Stored product pests are tiny insects that can quickly damage your products and lead to lost profits. Glen Ramsey, board-certified entomologist and Director of Technical Services for Orkin, explains how facilities can keep stored product pests out of their facilities and why quick action is essential to successfully managing these pests if your facility confirms an infestation.

What are stored product pests?
Ramsey
: Stored product pests are small insects, commonly beetles and moths, that feed on the ingredients in food manufacturing and handling facilities. These pests mainly target dry foods such as grains, cereals, seeds, chocolate and fruit. Depending on their feeding habits, they are categorized as external feeders, internal feeders, secondary feeders or scavengers.

Why are they harmful in food-handling facilities?
Ramsey
: While they don’t cause structural damage or spread diseases, stored product pests can cause significant damage to stored goods resulting in lost product and lost profits for your business. These pests breed rapidly, so it’s important to look for signs of their activity and act quickly if you notice their presence. In addition to damaging your ingredients, many stored product pests can produce chemicals that alter the taste of food, and some of their larvae can irritate the digestive tract or even cause allergic reactions in vulnerable people.

What prevention methods can I implement to help avoid this pest issue?
Ramsey
: Managing stored product pests takes a comprehensive strategy, which is where Integrated Pest Management (IPM) comes into play. Instead of relying on chemical treatments, IPM focuses on a proactive cycle of inspection, sanitation and monitoring tactics. Here are a few ways you can be proactive in helping to prevent stored product pest problems in your facility between pest control visits:

Storage

  • Store ingredients off the floor and at least 18 inches away from walls to allow access for staff to inspect and clean the area.
  • As a precaution, remove any products that are damaged or found in poor condition.
  • Try to maintain storage rooms at 55 degrees Fahrenheit or lower; stored product pests are generally inactive at these lower temperatures.

Sanitation

  • Use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to remove debris from cracks and crevices.
  • Immediately clean up any product spills and encourage employees to do the same.
  • If you haven’t yet, start a continuous deep-cleaning program to ensure that every shelf is inspected, vacuumed and wiped down at least twice per year.

Ingredient Care

  • Inspect incoming shipments for signs of pests, such as webbing, larvae and live adult insects. Pay close attention if your packaging material has been damaged, as this can alert to product infestations.
  • If any suspicion of activity is seen, even only on the surface of the product, use a grain probe or similar instrument to inspect and determine the extent of the infestation.
  • Quarantine known infested product away from clean product.
  • Set aside a sample of every shipment in a closed, labeled plastic container. If insects appear over time, immediately quarantine and inspect any remaining product and notify your supplier.
  • Rotate ingredients on a first-in, first-out basis to help prevent them from deteriorating and inviting scavengers and secondary feeders.

When it comes to monitoring and managing stored product pests in your facility, you should work with a pest management provider. Make sure the provider you select is reliable and knowledgeable about the food and beverage processing industry.

 About the Expert:

Glen Ramsey, MS, BCE
Director of Technical Services, Orkin, LLC

Glen Ramsey is Director of Technical Services for Orkin. He is a board-certified entomologist and provides technical support and guidance across all Rollins brands in the areas of training and education, operations, and marketing. For more information, email gramsey1@rollins.com or visit www.orkincommercial.com.

Paul Damaren
FST Soapbox

Real-time Supply Chain Monitoring Provides Improved Visibility, Safety, Protection

By Paul Damaren
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Paul Damaren

Global fast food chain McDonald’s manages more than 38,000 locations in over 100 countries, with thousands of suppliers. The company uses real-time supply chain monitoring to help ensure the availability of ingredients, minimize supply chain disruptions and uphold its commitment to food safety and responsible sourcing.

Whether you’re a massive global brand or a much smaller company, leveraging real-time data can help your organization identify potential disruptions in the supply chain—whether that’s a weather event, transportation delay, potential food safety breach, product shortage or other incident—and take prompt, proactive measures to address and resolve them.

Food brands should implement the following supply chain management best practices:

  • Utilize advanced technologies. Tech solutions, including Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging, GPS tracking, and sensor-based monitoring technologies, are effective in providing real-time visibility and data analytics. Walmart has successfully implemented RFID tagging to enhance real-time inventory tracking and optimize their supply chain. RFID helped the company improve inventory accuracy, provide better in-store shopping experiences for customers and drive more online capabilities. Additionally, RFID helps the retail giant see the real-time location and status of items in the supply chain, ensuring product availability and leading to improved order fulfillment and greater customer satisfaction.
  • Adopt an SaaS-based supply chain management solution. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions offer real-time visibility and data analytics capabilities, enabling organizations to make more informed decisions, based on data. For example, Nestlé implemented an SaaS-based supply chain management solution called SAP to manage its supply chain, gain real-time insights into its operations, and enhance efficiency. The software provides a comprehensive view of the company’s entire supply chain, from purchasing raw materials to delivering finished products. It also includes features to manage inventory, transportation and other logistics, to ensure Nestlé’s supply chain is resilient, flexible, and sustainable. Using this innovative software to streamline supply chain management can dramatically improve efficiency, effectiveness and your bottom line.
  • Proactively identify and mitigate risks. When brands continuously monitor and analyze real-time data, they can identify potential risks, such as natural disasters, labor disputes, and supplier issues. Coca-Cola’s real-time supply chain monitoring enabled it to swiftly respond to a labor strike, minimizing disruption and maintaining supply continuity. With tech tools in place to proactively identify potential risks, brands can develop strategies to mitigate and/or minimize their impact, such as diversifying suppliers and developing contingency plans. With the proper tools and strategies in place, organizations can build more resilient, sustainable supply chains and avoid potential disruptions that could be costly and damaging for their businesses.
  • Optimize operations through data analysis. Leverage real-time data to identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies and areas for improvement within the supply chain and take corrective actions. The Subway sandwich chain has faced supply chain issues in the past due to inadequate real-time monitoring, resulting in ingredient shortages and inconsistencies across different locations. Brands should regularly assess and update their supply chain monitoring systems, incorporating feedback loops and continuous improvement practices to enhance responsiveness and agility.

Real-time supply chain monitoring has significant benefits, including:

Enhanced risk management. Prompt identification of potential disruptions allows organizations to respond swiftly, minimizing the impact on the supply chain and safeguarding their reputation and finances. Unfortunately, when Chipotle faced severe food safety crises due to E. coli outbreaks in 2015, the consequences of inadequate real-time monitoring and response mechanisms resulted in extensive store closures, financial losses and damaged brand reputation. Having the proper tools and procedures in place can help organizations avoid similar crises in the future.

Operational optimization. Real-time visibility enables organizations to identify inefficiencies, streamline processes, reduce delays, and improve overall supply chain performance. For example, Conagra Brands digitized its supply chain to improve visibility and forecasting, better predict consumer demand, optimize processes, and improve efficiency and productivity. When the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the global supply chain, Conagra wanted access to more robust data and insights, so they could better handle the supply chain and labor challenges they were facing. The organization adopted AI and machine learning tools to drive insights and optimize operations, and the results were impressive. Conagra increased operational output by 30%, and production capacity by 20% at one of its facilities, while improving productivity and order management, and reducing energy waste, manual work, costs, and out-of-stock items.

Cost savings and efficiency improvements. Real-time data analysis facilitates better decision-making, reducing costs associated with excess inventory, stockouts, and transportation inefficiencies. Procter & Gamble achieved significant cost savings by leveraging real-time supply chain monitoring, optimizing inventory levels, and improving demand forecasting accuracy.

Real-time supply chain monitoring offers organizations improved visibility, risk mitigation, operational optimization, and cost savings. By adopting best practices and leveraging advanced technologies, companies can enhance their supply chain performance, reputation, and overall successes.

 

 

 

Francine Shaw
FST Soapbox

Food Safety Imagery in Social Media: Exploring the Positive and Negative Aspects

By Francine L. Shaw
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Francine Shaw

In today’s digital age, the use of imagery in social media, articles and marketing materials has become increasingly prevalent. Images can enhance (or distort) the messages conveyed through text, bringing about a range of positive and negative consequences. This article explores the multifaceted nature of imagery, focusing on its impact on accountability, brand reputation, liability, adherence to the FDA Food Code regulations, legal ramifications, and the concern of those who monitor these visuals.

Some important things to consider include:

Accountability of Site Owners. Using imagery in social media and on website is a significant responsibility for publishers and social media page managers. Visually appealing imagery can attract users and enhance engagement, leading to increased traffic and revenue. However, site owners must ensure that the images used are accurate, ethical and respectful. Failure to do so can result in misrepresentation, manipulation or dissemination of harmful content, leading to a loss of trust as well as accountability issues for the site owner or publisher.

Brand Reputation. Imagery plays a crucial role in shaping brand identity and reputation. Effective use of the proper visuals can help establish a strong brand identity and improve consumer perceptions of your products. The right imagery evokes emotions, creates connections and enhances brand recognition. However, a mismatch between the imagery and the brand’s values—or the use of misleading visuals—can damage an organization’s reputation, leading to public backlash and eroding trust.

Liability. Copyright infringement, invasion of privacy and/or the use of misleading or deceptive visual content can create liability concerns for brands and publishers. Content creators must understand and adhere to legal guidelines governing the use of images to avoid legal repercussions and potential damages. For instance, unauthorized use of copyrighted images can lead to legal claims and financial penalties. Additionally, manipulation or propagation of explicit, defamatory or offensive visuals may result in lawsuits and reputational damage. Content creators must be vigilant in obtaining proper permissions and ensuring their visuals comply with legal standards.

Compliance and Regulations. Images are widely used to market food products, services and brands, as well as to influence consumer choices. However, these images must align with the FDA Food Code and FD&C Act regulations, both of which require an accurate depiction of advertised food. Misleading visuals can result in false expectations and regulatory violations.

In addition, using imagery that visually represents U.S. regulations and industry standards for safe food handling and preparation is critical for businesses, as it assures consumers that your methods align with recognized food safety guidelines.

Who’s Watching 

In the digital age, the responsibility of policing imagery goes beyond site owners and extends to society as a whole. Users, consumers, regulatory agencies, insurance companies, attorneys, competitors and advocacy groups are pivotal in monitoring and holding accountable those who misuse or manipulate imagery. Vigilance from individuals and collective efforts to report inappropriate imagery can create an environment of shared responsibility, fostering greater accountability across social media, print publishing and the Internet.

Using images that are accurate and compliant with federal and state regulations can have multiple benefits, including:

  • Legal Compliance. Images that adhere to (or reflect) FDA Food Code requirements help businesses avoid potential legal issues and penalties that may arise from noncompliance and boost a brand’s reputation.
  • Health and Safety. The FDA Food Code is designed to ensure food safety and protect public health. Using compliant images can help promote and reinforce safe food handling, preparation and display of food, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses.
  • Consumer Trust. Displaying food images that are compliant with U.S. regulations and industry best practices show a commitment to maintaining high standards of quality, safety and hygiene. This can help build trust with key audiences, including consumers, regulatory bodies, advocacy groups and influencers, leading to increased credibility and brand reputation.
  • Clear Communication. The FDA Food Code provides guidelines on proper labeling, disclosure of common allergens and accurate representation of food products. Compliant images enable effective and clear communication of important information to consumers, ensuring they have the necessary details to make informed choices.

Imagery in social media and printed articles holds immense potential to positively impact engagement, brand reputation and communication. However, it also brings forth challenges related to liability, accountability, adherence to legal and ethical standards, and the need for effective monitoring. Stakeholders must balance harnessing the power of visuals and ensuring their responsible use. As technology further evolves, the continuous improvement of content moderation systems and cooperation among platform owners, publishers and creators become crucial to mitigate the negative aspects associated with imagery and maximize its positive potential.

 

Tom Woodbury

IoT Technology To Boost Safety, Compliance, and Efficiency: How to Get Started

By Tom Woodbury
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Tom Woodbury

Using Internet of Things (IoT)-based systems to automate temperature monitoring in refrigerators and freezers offers several benefits to restaurants. Following we look at how automated temperature monitoring works and how to get started with IoT.

How it Works: Automated Temperature Monitoring in Action

IoT-based systems use sensors to continuously monitor temperatures in refrigerators and freezers. These sensors are mounted inside the cold storage units in the warmest part of the unit, typically near the door or opening. The sensors collect temperature readings periodically and transmit the data to the cloud. As the data is recorded, the system can detect and report any anomalies.

If the conditions inside a refrigerator or freezer fall outside of predetermined thresholds, managers and staff can be notified (via text, email, or in-store apps) so they can take quick corrective actions outlined in their risk mitigation plans. In addition, the data that is recorded and stored can be analyzed to help identify trends that can be used to inform maintenance schedules and make operations more efficient. For example, the data may show how many years (on average) a refrigerator will last before it fails, so an organization can plan to buy replacement units before a failure occurs.

Benefits of Automated Temperature Monitoring

The positive impacts of automated temperature monitoring, enabled by IoT, are often realized in four key areas:

Food Safety. Maintaining a controlled environment in refrigerators, freezers, and other food storage areas reduces the risk of spoilage. By automating the monitoring process, organizations can keep a continuous watch on cold storage units and alert staff if temperatures rise above predetermined thresholds, allowing them to take immediate corrective action based on their risk mitigation processes. This is particularly beneficial in situations where a refrigerator door might be kept open too long, a freezer door is not entirely shut, or during a power outage.

Regulatory compliance. Regulatory agencies require reporting of food safety compliance. Typically, this is a human-driven process, with manual checks of thermometers and handwritten logs. IoT technologies that automatically monitor and record temperatures provide easy reporting of temperature levels over time. This streamlined process makes it much faster—and easier—to demonstrate compliance.

Efficiency. Automated temperature monitoring can make back-of-house restaurant processes more efficient by eliminating the manual “check and record” processes mentioned above. This frees up staff time to focus on other important tasks, such as serving customers.

Sustainability. By reducing food waste due to spoilage, automated temperature monitoring supports sustainability goals.

How to Get Started

With a wide range of IoT devices and systems available, selecting the right one can be overwhelming. How can you get started? First, identify your organization’s overall goals in incorporating the new technologies, and then review those high-level goals as you investigate options. Here are some criteria to consider:

Device selection: When selecting IoT devices, one size does not fit all. Different devices deliver varying degrees of functionality. Some devices support a single use case, while others have multiple sensors to enable diverse use cases for scalability. Another consideration is battery life. Seek devices that offer extended battery life by leveraging user-replaceable batteries designed for low temperature environments. Other features to look for include use of food-grade plastics and support for firmware updates over the air (FUOTA).

Wireless technology: To effectively penetrate dense refrigerator materials (typically metal), most food service operators are using the open standard, LoRaWAN due to its ability to penetrate walls and maximize battery life.

Data caching: In the event of an interruption in connectivity, you must know what the refrigerator or freezer temperatures were during the outage. Some devices and gateways can cache data and resend as soon as they reconnect, while others cannot. Temperature data caching is critical for applications related to food safety, so be sure to ask for this during the research and evaluation process.

Deployment capabilities: Deployments are complex, and a provider that can navigate deployments at scale is vital. It is important to look at each provider’s technology offerings, installation, and deployment capabilities.

There are many benefits to using IoT to deliver automated temperature monitoring, and these benefits extend beyond food safety to sustainability and improved efficiency. They key is to identify the right devices for your organization’s specific needs.