Janie Dubois, Ph.D., Laboratory Manager, Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN)
In the Food Lab

Capacity Building in Food Safety

By Janie Dubois, Ph.D.
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Janie Dubois, Ph.D., Laboratory Manager, Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN)
I’ll start this with a blunt and age-revealing truth: This is my first blog. This means I am more than happy to receive your “constructive advice” and suggestions for topics. This blog will appear monthly and focus on capacity building in food safety.
I would like to start by explaining what I do and through the months, introduce a number of initiatives and organizations involved in this field. The thing about food safety is that we all want it and there is a willingness to improve it; however, this objective can always benefit from more engagement and better knowledge of the tools that exist.
So back to me… I manage the International Food Safety Training Laboratory (IFSTL), a public-private partnership between the University of Maryland and the Waters Corporation. The Lab is the latest program at Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN), which itself is a public-academic partnership between the University and the U.S. FDA. Why so complicated, you might wonder, because it takes a village… Put simply, what we do is deliver courses on laboratory methods fit for the purpose of demonstrating the safety of food. Why the village? Because one important reason for testing is to meet regulatory requirements put in place to ensure the health of populations and enforced through trade channels. We are lucky enough to be able to involve the regulators in the US (i.e. FDA, USDA and EPA) to explain why the rules are there, why some methods fit the purpose and others don’t, but also we ask them to explain what the health and economic consequences of failures to deliver safe food are. Then we needed teachers for hands-on laboratory work, and we needed some resources to make it happen. As I said, it takes a village.
The IFSTL is a resource for technical assistance and training identified in the FDA’s International Food Safety Capacity-Building Plan published in February 2013. Goal 4 of the Plan specifically addresses technical assistance and objective 4.4 further defines the vision for multilateral acceptance of fit-for-purpose laboratory methods. Personal experience has taught us that some laboratory analysts embrace the flexibility brought about by requiring methods to be equivalent instead of a rigid imposition of pre-defined methods, but others would rather simply be told what to do. The flexibility allows each laboratory to apply the methods that best fit their situation in terms of access to trained staff, to instrumentation, to test kits and to financial resources, while still fitting the purpose of the measurement. There are usually quite a few recommended validated methods and good reasons to select any of them. So for that topic only, there are lots of questions requiring not only technical expertise on instrumentation, but also on the requirements of the regulatory system and, let’s face it, tricks of the trade.
The selection of courses we offer is guided by input from FDA foreign posts informing us of needs observed in their region. The need may arise from a new regulatory requirement, from a change in agricultural production and exports or simply because training is not available in the region. We also receive input from the industry, primarily but not exclusively from members of the JIFSAN Advisory Council. Finally, we also receive requests from other countries either through technical assistance activities or directly from analysists. Generally, we prepare courses that are open to the public (of laboratory analysts) from the US and foreign countries for registration, and these courses always benefit from a heavy involvement from the U.S. regulatory agencies. In some cases, we develop and deliver private courses for industry that include aspects of their own laboratory quality control systems. In a nutshell, that’s what we do at the IFSTL.
In the coming months, I will talk about a number of initiative in food safety capacity building and I hope that it will encourage us to continue to work together to achieve the goal of providing safe food to the world. 
Shawn K. Stevens, Food Industry Counsel
Food Safety Attorney

The Food Safety Modernization Act for Dummies (Part 2)

By Shawn K. Stevens
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Shawn K. Stevens, Food Industry Counsel

In my previous column, I introduced the novel concept that achieving compliance under FSMA can in many ways be really quite simple.

Indeed, in its most basic form, FSMA mandates only a handful of requirements. If you are a food company, and if you source your ingredients domestically, you will only be required to show that you have:

  1. A written food safety plan;
  2. Records to prove that you are following your written food safety plan; and
  3. A traceability system in place (or, stated differently, that you have records to demonstrate where your ingredients came from, the products in which your ingredients were used, and the customers to whom your resulting finished products were sold).

In turn, the key to actually demonstrating compliance to FDA (when FDA visits your facility to perform its first FSMA inspection), is to craft your FSMA materials so that they are aligned as closely as possible with what the FDA will “expect” to see.

The cornerstone of FSMA is the development of a written food safety plan. To create your written plan, you will need to conduct a food safety assessment within your facility, identify those food safety hazards that are reasonably likely to occur within your products, and then develop and implement controls (i.e., critical control points) designed to manage those hazards.

It is important to note that the controls you identify will need to be proven effective (i.e., validation), and you will need to create and maintain monitoring records that will prove that your controls are working as intended (i.e., verification). You will also need to develop prerequisite programs designed to ensure that you are following good manufacturing practices, that your employees are following hygienic practices, and that your facility remains clean. Although you can actually write the first draft of your plan, it will ultimately need to be approved by a “qualified individual.” We, of course, can help you there.

To establish compliance under FSMA, companies will also need to adopt a robust traceability system. From a food safety standpoint, it will be very important in the eyes of FDA that all companies be able to identify the source of their incoming ingredients, the specific products in which those ingredients were used, and the companies to whom the resulting finished products were sent. This way, if there is a downstream problem associated with a product, FDA can immediately trace the product back upstream, and then quickly identify, contain and solve any potential problems.

So long as your program enables you to accurately and quickly accomplish these goals, FDA will likely characterize your program as compliant.

Next, if you do decide to source any food ingredients from foreign suppliers, you will also need to ensure that those suppliers are complying with each of the FSMA requirements as well. You can demonstrate compliance under FSMA by having a copy of your supplier’s written food safety plan (developed by a qualified individual) in your file. I would also recommend having your foreign suppliers audited annually, and performing some type of microbiological testing to verify the effectiveness of their programs and the quality of the products they are shipping. Also remember, both your plan and your supplier’s plan will need to be reassessed any time there is a change in any manufacturing process, or at least once annually, whichever comes first.

Finally, although this column represents the essence of FSMA, I would not be doing my job as a lawyer if I did not at least offer the following disclaimer: There are at least a few finer rules contained within FSMA not specifically addressed in this column and, regardless of where they are hidden, all of the rules are and will be changing routinely. Thus, as you work to develop your plan, it will be critical to read the Act and ensure you understand each of the Federal requirements and FDA’s corresponding expectations.

But, we, of course, can help with that too. So, as you march forward toward compliance, rest assured, it really can be quite simple. Yes, you CAN develop a written food safety plan and chew gum at the same time … just don’t do it on the production floor.

Shawn K. Stevens, Food Industry Counsel
Food Safety Attorney

The Food Safety Modernization Act for Dummies (Part 1)

By Shawn K. Stevens
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Shawn K. Stevens, Food Industry Counsel

There has been a lot written in recent months about the perceived complexities of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The new requirements are broad and onerous, stakeholders complain. The proposed rules will be burdensome and costly, experts predict. And FDA enforcement will be varied and inconsistent, others warn. And, yes, even I have been at least partially guilty (I will reluctantly admit) of adding my own voice to the growing chorus detailing all the unfavorable features of FSMA.

But, as I continued to think about the problem, I quickly began to realize that none of this commentary is overly helpful for the business owner simply trying to achieve compliance. Most companies don’t really care about listening to experts pontificate endlessly (which has been going on months and, in some instances, years). Instead, most companies just want to be told what they need to do. So, with that in mind, I thought it would be helpful if we started with a blank canvas, and approached FSMA from a different angle. FSMA for Dummies – or, compliance made simple.

To start out, let’s be clear, the general principles underlying FSMA are really quite easy to grasp. In its most basic form, FSMA requires companies to make safe food. Duh.

Second, food companies shouldn’t be misled about the difficulty of compliance. How a company goes about making safe food is, well, with just a few exceptions, left up to the company itself.

So far, so good? I hope so. It’s not very difficult.

Next, to actually demonstrate to FDA that a company has achieved compliance, a food company needs only to understand what the FDA inspectors will want to see when they show up at the company’s door. Here too, the answer is very simple. Generally speaking, if you process food products using ingredients sourced from suppliers in the U.S., there will be three basic requirements.

First, you will need to show FDA inspectors that you have a written food safety plan. Second, you will need to show the inspectors the records that you have created which prove you have been following your written food safety plan. And third, you will simply need to show the inspectors where your ingredients came from, the products in which those ingredients were used, and your customer to whom you shipped them. If you process foods using ingredients sourced from overseas, you will also need to have a folder in your file cabinet (or on your computer) called “foreign supplier verification program.” We will talk about what exactly FDA will want to see in that folder in our next column.

So, when it comes to FSMA, try to discount any forecasts of rough seas or dark clouds. Instead, embrace the idea that complying with FSMA can be very straightforward and easy.

And, with that footing, I will detail, in my next column, the basic steps companies can take to meet the three (or, maybe four) basic requirements listed above.

Yes, it is possible, even dummies can do FSMA.

Shawn K. Stevens, Food Industry Counsel
Food Safety Attorney

Lawyers Are Like Pathogens

By Shawn K. Stevens
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Shawn K. Stevens, Food Industry Counsel

I’m often asked if I have heard the latest lawyer jokes. “No,” is my usual response. When it comes to attorneys, therearen’tmany jokes – mostly only true stories.

Unfortunately, the same holds true for food safety and the law. Few of the stories we read about today, whether they involve controlling new and emerging pathogens, complying with new food safety regulations, surviving the uptick in federal inspections and enforcement actions, or defeating an increasing number high-profile foodborne illness lawsuits, can be characterized as laughing matters.

The fact is, each of us has chosen to associate ourselves with an industry whose products quite literally affect the health and security of a nation. And with this choice, we subject ourselves to enormous responsibility, wide-ranging criticism, comprehensive regulation and continuous oversight.

Just hearken back to 1906, for instance, when Upton Sinclair published his controversial novel which was highly critical of the food industry. The federal government quickly responded with new legislation which, for the first time, would mandate continuous federal inspection in meat slaughter plants. On June 23, 1906, as the bill was debated, Senator Joseph Bailey (of Texas) was quoted as saying:

“Whatever may be said about the origin of this controversy and wherever the blame should be placed, there can absolutely be no doubt that nothing but a drastic [new] law can now rescue the beef industry . . . and give the public confidence in what they eat.”

Sound familiar? Well, shortly thereafter, Congress passed both the Wholesome Meat Act and the Pure Food and Drugs Act. These Acts (along with their successors) formed the basis of a national food safety policy which has fed our nation for more than a century.

And, one need only read the latest news stories and blogs to understand that the rules, regulations and policies that have been issued since continue to feed – in many ways – our regulatory and trial lawyers today. Thus, both lawyers and pathogens continue to persist.

So, what does this mean for the food industry? Well, despite creating one of the safest food supplies in the world, we will continue to be confronted with new and emerging challenges relating to food safety and naturally occurring pathogens. New challenges will trigger enhanced scrutiny, more regulation and additional laws. And, where there are laws, there will always be lawyers.

Recognizing there is no easy way to eliminate pathogens and attorneys (and the unique challenges they create), we will instead embrace our synergies, and work together to help you provide food that not only passes the scrutiny of the most astute consumer, but also the most obnoxious lawyer.

Next column: the Food Safety Modernization Act for Dummies – Compliance made simple.

Stay tuned!

Shawn K. Stevens, Food Industry Counsel
Food Safety Attorney

The Food We Eat

By Shawn K. Stevens
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Shawn K. Stevens, Food Industry Counsel

The politics of food safety often leads to new rules and regulations driven mostly by passion and emotion rather than science and reason.

Our collective survival depends, quite literally, on the food we eat. Indeed, the safety of our food directly impacts our individual health, the well-being of our families, and (if we work in the food industry) the success and longevity of our careers. For this reason, each one of us, no matter what our own individual role, has an interest in making sure that the food we produce is as safe as it can be.

To date, the food industry has done an excellent job. Each year the U.S. food industry proudly distributes approximately 328.5 billion safe meals – and countless more safe snacks – to American consumers. Despite industry’s best efforts, however, the existence of naturally occurring pathogens in many foods remains a real part of our business and lives. Given limitations of science and, in no small part, consumer behavior, no one is immune. Every month, an estimated 4,000,000 Americans develop some type of food-borne illness; another 10,000 individuals will be hospitalized, and nearly 250 will die.

And, no matter how much we care about food safety, we must also recognize that foodborne illnesses will continue to thwart scientists and industry for a very long time. Additionally, given recent and substantial improvements in national foodborne illness outbreak surveillance, more foodborne illnesses are being identified, and more outbreaks are being reported. By extension, more outbreaks are being associated with an increasing number of foods, and more companies are – either directly or indirectly – being affected. Thus, if your company has not yet been associated with an emerging outbreak, faced a catastrophic foodborne illness claim, or announced a voluntary recall, chances are in the future it will.

Such increases in reported outbreaks and recalls, coupled with negative and frenzied media coverage, have also affected public and governmental perceptions of food safety. We now find ourselves operating in a world where the politics of food safety often lead to new rules and regulations driven mostly by passion and emotion rather than science and reason. And, as an increasing number of companies prove they are unable to accomplish the impossible (by guaranteeing, for instance, the removal of all pathogens from all products), we will continue to see more adverse media coverage, more governmental regulation and, by extension, more frustration. Just imagine, for a moment, a dog chasing its own tail.

With that said, however, there are things we can do break this cycle. We can and should embrace a robust food safety culture, closely monitor each of our suppliers, continuously refine our own GMPs, SSOPs and written food safety (or, HACCP) plans, and aggressively test incoming and outgoing product.

And, we need to stay apprised of new legislation and comment with a unified voice on the resulting regulations. Whether such initiatives involve adopting new requirements under the Food Safety Modernization Act, mandating new interventions, regulating additional in-plant validations, or requiring enhanced traceability from feedlot to fork, the ultimate success of industry (and, by extension, the consumer) will depend upon a commitment to stay both informed and actively engaged.

I look forward to working with FoodSafetyTech to provide timely insight on emerging trends in food safety, commenting on new laws and regulations, and offering expert counsel on what we can all do to anticipate new challenges, reduce risk and decrease regulatory exposure.

Ultimately, from an industry perspective, broader knowledge, thoughtful planning and aggressive engagement will be critical when it comes to ensuring – not only another safe meal – but our own collective survival.

Rick Biros, President/Publisher, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC
Biros' Blog

Two New Proposed Rules. In about a year, it’s HACCP for everybody!

By Rick Biros
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Rick Biros, President/Publisher, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC

Some of the most boring press conferences are when coaches face the press after a game. Most of the questions coming from the press corps are not well thought out. It’s like they are just asking questions just because they can. While the coaches are required to be accessible to the press, I appreciate it when they put some personality and thought into their answers. One time, former Chicago Bears coach Mike Dikta confronted a reporter with “What’s the difference between a three-week-old puppy and a sportswriter? In six weeks, the puppy stops whining.”

The reason some of us watch these press conferences is for the remote possibility the coach actually says something interesting or even better, when they break down under the weight of all the really stupid questions. There was a Coors Light commercial series with coaches completely losing it. Football fans might remember former Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Mora whining “Playoffs?”  See video 

Bill Parcells, former head coach of the New York Giants was classic. Parcells had no patience for stupidity and used to yell at reporters, “That’s a really stupid question. Next question!”

Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner and Michael Taylor, Deputy Commissioner from FDA held a press conference Friday, January 4 announcing two new proposed food safety rules that I had the pleasure of attending. Hamburg said “This is a very big step in direction of creating a comprehensive prevention-based food safety system.”

The first rule proposed would require makers of food to be sold in the United States, whether produced at a foreign- or domestic-based facility, to develop a formal plan for preventing their food products from causing foodborne illness. The rule would also require them to have plans for correcting any problems that arise. A.K.A. HACCP. 

In the past, FDA enforced HACCP in seafood and juice. USDA enforced HACCP in meat and poultry. In about a year, it’s HACCP for everybody! Here’s the link to the rule: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FSMA/ucm334115.htm

The second proposed rule proposes enforceable safety standards for the production and harvesting of produce on farms. FDA is targeting the five pathways of microbiological contamination: water, worker hygiene, soil materials, animals and packing houses – http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FSMA/ucm334114.htm

We are now in a 120-day review period for the two proposed rules. Taylor said, it typically takes the agency about a year to review the comments and issue the final rule.  So, we are looking at HACCP being the law of the land in all segments of the food industry in 2014.

The question food companies need to ask is not what will FDA’s HACCP rule look like in 2014, but how good is our HACCP plan now? Hamburg said the preventive controls rule is basic common sense food safety. Use 2013 as the year to revisit your HACCP plan. When was it last revised? What type of records are you keeping? Simply, if you have a good HACCP plan in place now, regulatory compliance should not be difficult. 

In the press conference, Hamburg said that additional rules to follow soon include new responsibilities for importers to verify that food products grown or processed overseas are as safe as domestically-produced food, and accreditation standards to strengthen the quality of third-party food safety audits overseas.

Unlike many coaches after a game, Hamburg and Taylor did a good job communicating their points. However, it was the consumer press with their questions that brought to mind how well composed Hamburg and Taylor stayed handling questions such as “How many foodborne illnesses will be prevented if these rules are carried out,” “How much does this cost,” and the best one, “How will FDA make sure farms will prevent wildlife from contaminating fields?” They remained cool and politely answered the questions. I guess they have more patience than me.

That last question made me think, how would Bill Parcells answer that? Picture this old grouchy guy who doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him rephrasing the question: “You want me to tell you how my agency will make sure farms are preventing wildlife from walking through or flying over the fields?? Next question!”

FST Soapbox

The Fiscal Cliff’s Impact on Food Safety Management and FSMA

By Timothy Lozier
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One of the key areas that stands to lose in the fiscal cliff lies in food safety. We may be looking at a food chain that is less safe in 2013 that it is now.

The fiscal cliff is a series of tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year. It also would mean that spending cuts would take effect, which would have an impact specifically on Food Safety in the United States.

One of the key areas that stands to lose in the fiscal cliff lies in food safety. If we indeed fall off this fiscal cliff, there will be an 8 percent cut in spending for plant and animal health inspections, equaling about $70 million in cut funding. The Food Safety and Inspection Service agency could stand to lose about a billion dollars from their budget. We are also looking at about $3 million in spending cuts on inspectors. This means less food inspectors in the field, and as a result, less inspections. We are looking at a food chain that is less safe in 2013 that it is now.

FSMA: Still alive?

The other question that comes into play is whether the ever-delayed Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is going to continue its path to law. We all know the delays that the FSMA has encountered since its introduction and passing in 2010. Now that the election is over, the administration seems more committed to the law than ever before.

However, this does not mean that we will see much movement in the coming year. The Office of Management and Budget has stated they plan to release the rules of the FSMA in early 2013, with a 60 day period of public comment. Once that is completed, FDA will take about a year or so to incorporate any public’s comment into the final rule. After that, other agencies will need to review these rules and approve them to actually make it into law.

So, it’s a year for FDA, and a year for other agencies – provided we don’t have any issues (which we will), we’re looking at 2015. More realistically, we’re looking for 2016-2017 timeframe for the FSMA to become a law.

That’s if we don’t see cuts stemming from a fiscal cliff disaster. The Obama Administration seems committed, stating “…We are working as expeditiously as possible to implement the food safety legislation we fought so hard for. When it comes to rules with this degree of importance and complexity, it is critical that we get it right.”

Law or not, food manufacturers are acting now

But whatever the result of government legislation and laws to be enacted for Food Safety Management, organizations are taking the necessary steps today to build processes that foster safer and higher quality food management. The Global Food Safety Initiative’s various schemes (BRC, SQF, IFS, etc.) are currently the gold standard for food safety in the industry today. Companies that are implementing these schemes are taking a proactive stance on food safety, and demonstrating a commitment to promoting safe quality foods in their operations.

Look at Canada

Canada seems to be on the right track these days. Just last month the Canadian government passed their food safety bill into law, which is a sister bill to the FSMA. The new law, which comes in the aftermath of a massive E. coli outbreak at a local farm, has many similar elements to what the U.S. is trying to do with the FSMA. The “Safe Food for Canadians” Act entails:

  • Better traceability in the food system, making it easier to recall products if safety issues arise somewhere in the food chain.
  • New record-keeping requirements for regulated facilities and more powers for inspectors to compel the production of documents in usable formats.
  • Tougher penalties for those who violate established safety standards, increasing maximum fines from $250,000 to up to $5 million, or even higher at the court’s discretion.
  • Registration for all importers, to add a greater degree of certainty to the food safety system.
  • More authority for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to certify exporters, if required by other countries to facilitate trade.

There’s obviously more to the bill, but the highlights emphasize a tighter control and enhanced visibility to an organization’s Food Safety Management System, and their supply chain.

Take aways

Food Safety is under threat in the United States – spending and budget cuts are going to make a harder environment for promoting Food Safety;

The FSMA is still alive, but there’s a long road before we see any results on the dinner table;

GFSI still remains the key compliance area holding Food Safety processes together; and

Canada has made some movement into promoting Food Safety at the Federal level.

I sincerely hope that 2013 gives us a better view on Food Safety Management than it seems to be right now. But if not, it’s up to the producers to promote their continued commitment to adhering to the compliance standards that help them to operate a safe environment and produce the safest possible products for the food and beverage industry.

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The Private Food Label Dilemma

By Barbara Levin
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Prevention-based food safety and quality assurance technologies have a good return on investment, and may be critical to the ongoing financial health of the food private label industry.

Tuesday morning I had my typical breakfast while running out the door – Trader Joe’s almond butter on a toasted whole grain waffle. Good, and good for you, as my mom likes to say. Then of course I got to my desk, looked through my daily FSQA news feeds, and saw that the peanut butter recall was expanded to almond butter – and to other brands besides Trader Joe’s from the supplier, Sunland!

Well so far so good – I’m healthy and not in a high risk group, but it did make me think once again about the problem for food retailers that – in the need to remain competitive for shelf space in their own stores – have turned to private labeling for more and more products store-wide.

I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s.  I buy a lot of their private label brands – everything from almond butter, to tomato sauce to olive oil. And they did a good job of aggressively getting the tainted nut butters off of their shelves.

But it does make one think of the added challenge for those manufacturing and selling private label goods – where a manufacturer problem can create a huge negative impact on your private label brand. Obviously in cases such as the Sunland nut butters, the ability to trace where the product had gone was key for recalling it. And while that ability is critical – the initial damage to the private label brands is done. Now, it’s just a matter of how extensive the damage is and how much it will cost to repair: loss of inventory, loss of sales, loss of consumer confidence and of course the cost of illness and related lawsuits which have already begun to follow.

And this doesn’t count the non-direct costs – such as advertising to eventually get those customers back – those who may now be “private label shy” and go back to the brand names under the perception that they may be safer.

We challenge the industry to look not just at reactive measures – but proactive, preventative measures as well. How are you leveraging food safety and quality technology? Are you using technology only to trace back once a problem has already occurred? Or are you also using technology to help prevent contaminated ingredients from going into production – and non-compliant finished goods from being labeled and shipped – in the first place. Are you as retailers putting this extra pressure on your manufacturers to take not just the reactive steps but the proactive ones as well?  

Prevention-based food safety and quality assurance technologies have a good return on investment, and may be critical to the ongoing financial health of the food private label industry. Have a thought on this topic? Join the conversation by posting a comment below.

FST Soapbox

Hey You – Get On to My Cloud!

By Barbara Levin
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Adoption of cloud-based technologies for food safety and quality assurance: It’s going to happen. It has to happen. It should happen.

There’s been a lot of chat in the blogosphere recently about adoption of cloud-based technologies for food safety and quality assurance (FSQA). When it comes to uncertainty about the cloud, the Food and Beverage industry needs to – and I truly say this with no offense intended – get over it! It’s going to happen. It has to happen. It should happen.

  1. FSQA compliance is only going to get more complex – with testing and audit trails required by law, non-regulatory standards and by customers. This means that all participants in a supply chain are going to have to be connected to get information collected, analyzed and reported in realtime.
  2. It’s not practical, and probably not feasible – particularly in a global food supply chain – to connect participants using ERP-type solutions that are expensive, take a lot of time to deploy and many, many dollars to maintain. 
  3. Most emerging food safety and quality solutions are cloud-based for just that reason. They make it easy to connect suppliers, manufacturers and services/retail customers – without expensive hardware installations – and with affordable, fast to deploy and easy-to-use solutions that have actual hard-dollar return on investment.

So what’s the fuss?

Most concerns seem to be centered around security, so let’s consider some industries which represent the most prominent users of cloud solutions today. Two of the largest are banks, who heavily promote online banking including international cloud banking, and human resources departments of large companies, who rely on cloud-based employee portals for open enrollment, paystub viewing and more. We are talking about some of the most sensitive information out there: individuals’ personal information, social security numbers, salaries, bank accounts, etc. And cloud adoption is growing rapidly in other industries too – like insurance, healthcare and more.

Early cloud adopters in the F&B industry know what industries like banking and human resources know:

  1. There’s as much security in cloud-based solutions as there are in non-cloud technologies – and cloud security is highly configurable to fit the specific needs of individual users. If you want, for example, downstream customers to see only COAs and not see failed FSQA tests – then that’s how your vendor will configure your solution. If you want full transparency you can have that too. And for information that you don’t want anyone to see – like recipes – that is also a part of the security. 
  2. Cloud solution vendors generally exceed government and customer security requirements because they go the extra mile to ensure customer confidence and confidentiality.
  3. And as much as everyone thinks participants in a supply chain will balk about using a cloud system to send/receive FSQA information – the reality is that it makes it easier for everyone to work together – speeding throughput and preventing non-compliant products from coming in or going out. 

So I encourage you to talk to your vendors. Learn more about their cloud security. And, to paraphrase Mr. Jagger, Hey you – get on to my cloud!

Rick Biros, President/Publisher, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC
Biros' Blog

Food Safety Supply Chain Quality Assurance

By Rick Biros
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Rick Biros, President/Publisher, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC

Both the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) have certainly raised the awareness of food safety in the supply chain.  The subject has been covered extensively by Food Safety Tech with articles such as the Taylor Farms Unnecessary Recall, and Product Tracing.  Earlier this year, at Food Safety Tech’s Supply Chain Vulnerabilities Conference we learned about many supply chain threats to food companies.

Last month, Food Safety Tech Editorial Advisors David Acheson, Jennifer McEntire and Jerry Roberts met with Tom, Beth and me in Philadelphia to discuss the next Food Safety Supply Chain Conference.  After an lively conversation over lunch, David commented that the topics we were proposing for the next conference were so numerous that we were looking at an eight day conference, thus, the conference series was established!

Food safety in the supply chain is certainly immense and overwhelming topic.  Through the conference evaluation forms we learned it’s one thing to learn about the problems, it’s another to know what the solutions are!

Food Safety Tech has taken steps to help the food industry tackle these challenges by developing a Food Safety Supply Chain Conference series and premiering the Supply Chain Resource Center.  Both will inform you on the threats to your company from the supply chain, but equally, if not more importantly, how to deal with these threats with best practices and technology solutions.

The October two day Food Safety Supply Chain Conference in Philadelphia focuses on:

  • Food Safety Supply Chain Quality Assurance
  • Traceability
  • Recall Management Strategies
  • Legal Liabilities

You will learn not only the vulnerabilities in the supply chain that you need to protect your company from, but also learn of best practices and technology tools to help you reduce your company’s exposure to food safety recalls as a result of your suppliers and improve profitability.  Simply, the goal is to provide practical information that after attending the conference you can begin implementing what you learn at your company immediately.

The Supply Chain Resource Center, sponsored by SafetyChain Software is a microsite within FoodSafetyTech.com that is a central point or repository of food safety supply chain news, articles, white papers, case histories, videos, archived webinars and more.  The Resource Center is more than just didactic content.  You can become an active member of the industry by participating in the interactive poll.  “Food for Thought” allows you to voice your opinion and thoughts.  “More Resources,” on the lower right are helpful industry links and the “Safety Chain Learning Center” is content posted by the sponsor.  We encourage you to bookmark the page and visit the Resource Center on a weekly basis to review most current news on food safety supply chain quality assurance in one convenient spot.

Later this year, we plan to roll out more Resource Centers on topics such as Traceability, Recall Management, Food Safety Audits, Food Microbiology, Food Forensics and Food Safety Training.  Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in contributing content or are interested in the sponsorship opportunities.

Both the Food Safety Supply Chain Conference and the Supply Chain Resource Center demonstrate Food Safety Tech’s belief that while many food companies have a good handle on their own food safety programs, their exposure to food safety incidents is getting higher with the larger, more global food supply chain and it is our job as a trusted information provider to educate the industry on the vulnerabilities as well as the solutions to these challenges.

All the best!

Rick Biros