HPP, high-pressure processing

HPP Keeps Food Safe, While Extending Shelf Life

By Mark Duffy
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HPP, high-pressure processing

Research shows the global high pressure processing (HPP) food market to be worth $14 billion in 2018. By 2023, the market will reach an estimated $27.4 billion and will grow to $51.1 billion by 2027, according to Visiongain, a UK-based business intelligence company. This growth is a result of many factors, including consumer trends, food safety and food industry demand.

One of the biggest consumer food trends is the clean label movement. Consumers are more attentive to what they eat and drink than ever before, requesting more information about the products they buy and consume. For instance, 73% of U.S. consumers agree it is important that ingredients on a food label are familiar and would be used at home, according to Innova Market Insights, a market research firm for the food and beverage industry.

Consumers want fresh, convenient and less processed foods and beverages. Shoppers, especially millennials, are willing to spend more money to receive better-for-you products, and they are also more willing to research production methods before making purchases.

HPP, high-pressure processing
An employee loads meat, sealed in its package, into the HPP canister where it will be subjected to isostatic water pressure (300 to 600 Mpa or 43,500 to 87,000 psi – five times stronger than that found at the bottom of the ocean – for typically one to six minutes. Pressures above 400 MPa / 58,000 psi at cold (+ 4ºC to 10ºC) or ambient temperature inactivate the vegetative flora (bacteria, virus, yeasts, molds and parasites) present in food, extending shelf life and ensuring food safety. All images courtesy of Universal Pure

On the industry side, due to an increasing concern over food safety and the rise in foodborne illness, food producers and retailers are seeking reliable food safety and preservation methods that will help ensure the best product quality. Not only do they want to keep their customers safe, they also want to ensure their brand is protected.

Food waste and sustainability is also important to consumers and industry. In the 2017 Nielsen Global Sustainability Survey, 68% of Americans said that it is important that companies implement programs to improve the environment; 67% will be prioritizing healthy or socially-conscious food purchases in 2018; and 48% will change their consumption habits to reduce their environmental impact.

Companies want to be responsible and make sure good food does not go to waste. Longer shelf life decreases a product’s chance of ending up in a landfill. Additionally, the longer a product lasts, the further it can be safely distributed and sold.

What is HPP?

High pressure processing (HPP) ironically isn’t really processing at all. HPP is a unique food preservation method that utilizes cold water and extreme pressure (up to 87,000 psi) to inactivate foodborne pathogens and spoilage organisms.

The effectiveness of the HPP process depends on the amount of pressure applied, vessel holding time, temperature, product type and targeted pathogens and spoilage organisms.

Unlike chemical and thermal treatments that can compromise flavor, vitamins and nutrients, HPP is a non-thermal, non-chemical process. Without the use of heat, the product’s original qualities remain intact. Also, because water pressure is applied uniformly in all directions, HPP foods retain their original shape.

HPP, high pressure processing
HPP equipment on a plant floor. Food, already sealed in its package, is loaded into these gray and yellow canisters and sent through the HPP vessel behind them where water and high pressure are applied to inactivate foodborne pathogens.

Current and New Applications for HPP

One of the most popular uses for HPP is for proteins, including roast beef, chicken, pork and ground meats like turkey, chicken and beef. Other uses include premium juices, dips, wet salads, dairy and seafood, as well as pet food.
Some of its newer applications are in the preservation of baby food, premium juices, plant-based protein drinks, cocktail mixers, nutrient dense shots, coffee and tea selections and bone broth. HPP is widely used for ready-to-eat meats, dips, guacamole, salsa and hummus. Raw pet food, which has been affected by Salmonella and other pathogenic outbreaks in recent months, is also a growing market for HPP. Just like for their own food, pet owners are demanding fresh, non-processed foods for their pets. HPP is a proven means of creating a safe, clean-label raw pet food.

While food safety is still the number one reason for HPP, many manufacturers and retailers also cite shelf-life extension as a major benefit. Table I is a breakdown on the type of food, shelf-life extension and key benefits of HPP.

Food Type Applications Shelf-Life Extension Key Benefits
RTE (Ready-to-Eat) Meats Sliced, cooked meats: chicken, turkey, ham and beef; uncured ham and sausage Greater than 2X Extends shelf life while addressing common vegetative bacterial concerns. Allows manufacturers and retailers to offer reduced sodium products.
RTC (Ready-to-Cook) Meats Ground meats such as turkey, chicken and perhaps beef. 1.5X to 2.5X Increase food safety while extending product shelf life.
Guacamole, Wet Salads, Salsas, Dressings & Dips Guacamole, salsa, chicken salad, seafood salad, dressings 2X–6X Extends product shelf-life and reduces vegetative bacteria issues.
Juices and Smoothies Super premium juices, juice blends & smoothies 20–60 days HPP is a natural way to deal with microorganisms and extend shelf life without the use of heat ,which can negatively affect color and flavor.
Dairy Yogurt & yogurt-based dressings, cream, sour cream, cream cheese and milk. 2X–10X In yogurt-based products and milk, HPP is believed to give a creamier product consistency.
Seafood Oysters, lobster, crab, shrimp, mussels 2X–4X Meat extraction (yield) is better than by hand shucking or steam methods. Labor savings in this manner makes the HPP’ing of shellfish a great application. The shelf-life extension is also significant.
Table I. A breakdown on the type of food, shelf-life extension and key benefits of HPP.

Cost

The cost of HPP varies depending on the size of production runs, fill efficiency of the product within the HPP vessel and the HPP process parameters. The good news is the cost may be offset by other price reductions that HPP enables such as eliminating food additives. While HPP can be performed in-house, many companies outsource their HPP needs so they do not have to allocate significant capital expenses or disrupt production efficiency with an HPP batch process, allowing them to focus on their core competencies.

A Bright Future for HPP

HPP’s future is bright, with new uses on the horizon. These new uses have already resulted in new market opportunities that increase revenue. As its awareness grows among manufacturers, retailers and food service companies, and with additional education about its benefits, more companies will embrace HPP as part of their food safety program and for its shelf-life benefits. With consumer demand for fresh foods and beverages showing no signs of stopping, HPP will lead the way in helping to produce fresh, safe food and beverage products for all to enjoy.

HPP: Achieve High Standards of Food Safety Without Compromising Food Quality

Challenge

Three of the Most Common Maintenance Challenges In the Food And Beverage Industry

By Bryan Christiansen
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Challenge

Food and beverage professionals will agree that food manufacturing is a sector with conditions like no other. The industry is highly regulated because its products are for human consumption. Any deviation from strict control can lead to contaminated products with the possibility of outbreaks, illnesses and lawsuits.

Thus, maintenance managers in food manufacturing must contend with several unique challenges that come with multiple regulatory bodies, keeping highly automated and complex equipment running, and ensuring workers’ safety, all while producing hygienic goods.

This article will review three of the most common maintenance challenges being experienced in the food and beverage industry and some recommendations on how to deal with them.

1. Maintaining Complex Equipment

A typical food and drink processing plant today would be fitted with an array of complicated and highly sensitive equipment. From peeling machines to refrigeration plants and very complex packing machinery, every component demands constant attention.

Each one of these assets is part of a fast-moving production line that require specialized skills to monitor and keep in peak operating condition. In addition, this industry is under constant pressure to both improve and modify existing machinery, while also adopting new technology (especially automation).

Many food processors need to run their production 24/7 to stay competitive. It is apparent that the maintenance team has a lot to handle under such conditions,

To maintain the highly automated systems and keep equipment running optimally, food production and maintenance managers must stay on top of new techniques. They need to research, provide ideas and adopt newer and better maintenance strategies. Although it’s expected that there would already be some maintenance schedule in place, just any old routine will not work.

Imagine trying to run such a sensitive system on reactive maintenance alone where components are left to fail before repairs are carried out. Downtime would be disproportionately high and the enterprise runs the risk of shortening the lifespan of their assets. Instead, it is advisable to switch from reactive to preventive maintenance or look to implement any of the other proactive maintenance strategies like predictive maintenance or reliability-centered maintenance.

A proactive maintenance strategy is the most straightforward way to improve overall maintenance operations that will keep downtime and the associated stress of loss of revenue to the minimum.

2. Extremely Hygienic Workplace

Because they make products for human consumption, food and beverage manufacturers must enforce hygienic practices and maintain their equipment under the highest standards of food safety.

Failure to do this can lead to many serious problems like producing contaminated food, product recalls, foreign material complaints, lawsuits, outbreaks and infections (botulism, E. coli, Listeria, etc.).

To avoid the above, food and beverage manufacturers should pay attention to the following:

  • Pest control. Adopt pest detection, monitoring and control with or without the use of chemicals. Where chemicals are used, there should be extra care to avoid food and drink contamination.
  • Cleaning. Constant cleaning and disinfection is necessary to maintain high hygiene standards and reduce any risks of foreign materials complaints and foodborne illnesses outbreak. Cleaning also helps prevent injuries to workers particularly in the processing and packing areas where the risk of slips, trips and falls increases due to wet floors. Wet floors alone account for the second highest cause of injuries in the food industry, according to Health and Safety Executive.
  • Personal hygiene. Establish written and strict protocols for personal cleanliness of staff that include the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Waste management. Prompt removal of waste materials to control odor and deter pests and rodents.
  • Overall maintenance. Adopt proactive maintenance schedules for the entire plant and all food processing machinery.
  • Staff training. Employees should be educated and trained for their own safety and to preserve the integrity of the plant and its products. This is vital for success because procedures will only be as good as the team that will implement them.

3. Compliance With Regulatory Standard

Manufacturers of edible products are subject to the regulations imposed by the relevant authorities in every country in which they operate. This means food and beverage manufacturers must:

  • Deal with a wide range of regulations regarding food safety.
  • Ensure strict enforcement with policies and procedures that could vary from country to country.

For example, manufacturers in the United States are subject to USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulations and those of the FDA. Food and drink processors in the UK are regulated by the Food Standards Agency.

Officials from these agencies are authorized to carry out unannounced routine inspections or complaints-based inspections. There are some critical food safety non-compliance issues they typically look out for. Maintenance managers must be aware of them and they include:

  • General cleaning. To minimize the risk of food contamination.
  • Machine safety. Machinery must be safe to use, all electrical faults should be corrected quickly, and any safety guards must be in place. Safety breaches in this regard can lead to serious injuries. An example is this 2014 case involving food giant Henz and a maintenance engineer where the employee lost an arm in an unguarded potato peeling machine.
    Food Safety. Machinery must run efficiently, be clean, keep food and drinks at the right temperature, be free of rust, etc.
    Pest Control.

To thrive in this industry, organizations need to be fully aware of the regulations appropriate to their kind of business and the risks under which they operate. The risk of contamination is ever-present but unfortunately, the nature of the business means this risk can not be completely eliminated.

One route for managing these challenges is a proactive and well-implemented preventive maintenance strategy supported by a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) and properly trained staff. CMMS is designed to help you schedule, monitor, and automate your proactive maintenance work which enables you to stay in complete control of your maintenance operations at all times.

Such a well-maintained plant will be cleaner, last longer, run smoothly and generally perform more efficiently.

Food Fraud

Food Fraud: How Chemical Fingerprinting Adds Science to the Supply Chain

By Sam Lind, Ph.D.
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Food Fraud

You would be forgiven for thinking that food fraud is a sporadic issue but, with an estimated annual industry cost of $50 billion dollars, it is one currently plaguing the food and drink sector. In the UK alone, the food and drink industry could be losing up to £12 billion annually to fraud.

As the scale of food fraud becomes more and more apparent, a heightened sensitivity and awareness of the problem is leading to an increasing number of cases being uncovered.

Recently: Nine people contracted dangerous Vibrio infections in Maryland due to mislabeled crabmeat from Venezuela; food fraud raids have been conducted in Spain over fears of expired jamon re-entering the market; and authorities seize 1 ton of adulterated tea dust in India.

Spurred by the complexity of today’s global supply chains, food fraud continues to flourish; attractive commercial incentives, ineffective regulation and comparatively small penal repercussions all positively skew the risk-reward ratio in favor of those looking to make an extra dollar or two.

The 2013 horsemeat scandal in Europe was one such example, garnering significant media attention and public scrutiny. And, with consumers growing more astute, there is now more onus on brands to verify the origin of their products and ensure the integrity of their supply chains.

Forensic science is a key tool in this quest for certainty, with tests on the product itself proving the only truly reliable way of confirming its origin and rooting out malpractice.

Current traceability measures—additives, packaging, certification, user input—can fall short of this: Trace elements and isotopes are naturally occurring within the product and offer a reliable alternative.

Chemical Fingerprinting for Food Provenance

Like measuring the attributes of ridgelines on the skin of our fingertips as a unique personal identifier, chemical fingerprinting relies on differences in the geochemistry of the environment to determine the geographic origin of a product—most commonly measured in light-stable isotopes (carbon, nitrogen, sulphur, oxygen, hydrogen) and trace elements.

Which parameters to use (either isotopes, TEs or both) depends very much on the product and the resolution of provenance required (i.e. country, farm, factory): Isotope values vary more so across larger geographies (i.e., between continents), compared to smaller scales with TEs, and are less susceptible to change from processing further down the supply chain (i.e., minced beef).

The degree of uptake of both TEs and light isotopes in a particular produce depends on the environment, but to differing extents:

TEs are related to the underlying geochemistry of the local soil and water sources. The exact biological update of particular elements differs between agricultural commodities; some are present with a lot of elements that are quantifiable (“data rich” products) while others do not. We measure the presence and ratio of these elements with Inductively Coupled Plasma—Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) instrumentation.

Light Isotopes are measured as an abundance ratio between two different isotopes of the same element—again, impacted by environmental conditions.

Carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) elements are generally related to the inputs to a given product. For example, grass-fed versus grain-fed beef will have a differing C ratio based on the sugar input from either grass or grain, whereas conventionally farmed horticulture products will have an N ratio related to the synthetic fertilisers used compared to organically grown produce.

Oxygen (O) and hydrogen (H) are strongly tied to climatic conditions and follow patterns relating to prevailing weather systems and latitude. For ocean evaporation to form clouds, the O/H isotopes in water are partitioned so that droplets are “lighter” than the parent water source (the ocean). As this partitioning occurs, some droplets are invariably “lighter” than others. Then, when rainfall occurs, the “heavier” water will condense and fall to the ground first and so, as a weather front moves across a landmass, the rainfall coming from it will be progressively “lighter”. The O/H ratio is then reflected in rainfall-grown horticultural products and tap water, etc. Irrigated crops (particularly those fed from irrigation storage ponds) display different results due to the evaporation, which may occur over a water storage period.

Sulphur (S) has several sources (including anthropogenic) but is often related to distance from the sea (“the sea spray effect”).

Analysis of light isotopes is undertaken with specialist equipment (Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry, IRMS), with a variety of methods, depending on product and fraction of complex mixtures.

Regardless of the chemical parameter used, a fingerprinting test-and-audit approach requires a suitable reference database and a set of decision limits in order to determine the provenance of a product. The generation of sample libraries large enough to reference against is generally considered too cost prohibitive and so climatic models have been developed to establish a correlation between observed weather and predicted O/H values. However, this approach has two major limitations:

  1. The chemical parameters related to climate are restricted (to O and H) limiting resolving power
  2. Any model correlation brings error into further testing, as there is almost never 100% correlation between measured and observed values.
    As such, there is often still a heavy reliance on building suitable physical libraries to create a database that is statistically robust and comprehensive in available data.

To be able to read this data and establish decision limits that relate to origin (i.e., is this sample a pass or fail?), the parameters that are most heavily linked to origin need to be interpreted, using the statistics that provide the highest level of certainty.

One set of QC/diagnostic algorithms that use a number of statistical models have been developed to check and evaluate data. A tested sample will have its chemical fingerprint checked against the specific origin it is claimed to be (e.g, a country, region or farm), with a result provided as either “consistent” or “inconsistent” with this claim.

Auditing with Chemical Fingerprints

Chemical fingerprinting methods do not replace traditional traceability systems, which track a product’s journey throughout the supply chain: They are used alongside them to confirm the authenticity of products and ensure the product has not been adulterated, substituted or blended during that journey.

A product can be taken at any point in the supply chain or in-market and compared, using chemical fingerprinting, to the reference database. This enables brands to check the integrity of their supply chain, reducing the risk of counterfeit and fraud, and, in turn, reducing the chance of brand damage and forced product recalls.

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Food Packaging

Food Packaging: Roles, Materials and Environmental Issues

By Abhijeet Shah
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Food Packaging

Recent advances in food processing and food packaging play a key role in keeping the U.S. food supply chain one of the safest in the global circuit. Quite simply, packaging extends the lifespan and shelf life of food products long after the process is complete, allowing the foods to be transported over long distances from their point of origin and still remain edible at the time of consumption.

Food is one of the few products consumed at least three times a day. Consequently, food packaging accounts for almost two-thirds of all the total packaging waste by volume alone.

The Role of Food Packaging

Preservation. Food packaging helps in retaining the benefits of food processing and preventing the deterioration of food products, increasing the safety of food. Packaging is designed to protect against the following classes of external physical and biological influences.

Biological protection provides a barrier against microorganisms, insects, rodents and other animals, which prevent spoilage and disease.

Physical protection safeguards food from damage and provides a cushioning against any shocks and vibrations faced during distribution.

Containment and Food Waste Reduction. Any assessment of food packaging’s impact on the environment must take into consideration the positive benefits of reduced food waste throughout the supply chain. Inadequate preservation, storage and transportation have been cited as the main causes of food wastage.

Marketing and Information. The packaging is the face of the product and is usually the only product exposure that most, if not all, consumers will experience prior to purchasing. Consequently, innovative or distinctive packaging can differentiate your product from the competition and enhance your product image.

Traceability. Most food manufacturing companies apply unique codes such as barcodes onto the package labels of their products, allowing them to track their products through the distribution, processing and production process.

The following are some materials used in food packaging:

Glass. It is advantageous to use glass in food packaging applications as it is inert and odorless. Glass maintains product freshness for longer, because it is impermeable to vapors and gases.

Metal

  • Aluminium Foil. Aluminium foil is one of the best barriers in the flexible packaging industry and is used to wrap and package food in stand up pouches as well as the thicker foil used to make trays.
  • Laminates and Metallized Films. Laminated packaging is typically used to package high-quality foods such as spices, herbs and dried soups. A less expensive alternative to laminated packaging is metalized film. The individual components of laminates and metalized films are technically recyclable.
  • Tin Plate Films. Tinplate is ideal for containers of different shapes and sizes. Tinplate is generally used to form flour or sugar-based confections, aerosols and processed foods and cans for drinks.

Plastics

  • Polyolefins. Polyolefins is a collective term for polyethylene and polypropylene.
    There are basically two categories of polyethylene: Low density and high density. High-density polyethylene used to make retail bags, trash bags, margarine tubs and bottles for water, milk and juice. Low-density polyethylene is resistant to moisture, easy to seal, tough, strong and flexible.
  • Polyethylene Terephthalate. Polyethylene terephthalate provides a good barrier against gases and moisture. It also has good resistance to acids, solvents, mineral oils and heat. It is fast becoming the packaging material of choice for a lot of food products such as mineral waters and beverages due to its glass-like transparency, light weight and shatter resistance.
  • Polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is used as a replacement for glass in products like large refillable water bottles and sterilized baby bottles due to its clear, durable and heat-resistant qualities.
  • Polystyrene. Polystyrene, an addition polymer of styrene, is clear, hard and brittle with a low melting point. The usual uses are for food trays, bottles, plates, cups, lids, disposable cutlery and egg cartons.

Paper and Cardboard

  • Paper
    • Kraft Paper. Kraft paper is produced in different forms such as bleached white, heavy duty, unbleached and natural brown. The natural kraft is the strongest of all paper and is used for wrapping and bags.
    • Greaseproof Paper. Greaseproof paper is made through a process known as beating and is used as food packaging to wrap snack foods, cookies, candy bars and other oily foods.
  • Paperboard. Paperboard is thicker than paper with a higher weight per unit area and is usually used to make containers for shipping.
    • White Board. White board is generally used as the inner layer of cartons and is made from numerous thin layers of bleached chemical pulp.
    • Solid Board. Solid board has multiple layers of bleached sulfate board and is used to package soft drinks and fruit juices.

Three Ways to Solve Environment Issues

  1. Waste Prevention. Waste prevention reduces the amount or toxicity of the waste generated by manufacture, purchase or use of the original materials and products as well as by change of design. Waste reduction techniques generally include the designing of more durable products, less packaging and the reuse of materials and products.
  2. Recycling. Recycling involves reprocessing materials into new products. A recycling program usually encompasses collecting, sorting, processing, manufacturing, and the sale of recycled products. To make recycling economically feasible, recycled materials and products must have a market.
  3. Composting. Composting involves arranging the organic materials into piles and providing sufficient moisture for aerobic decomposition by microorganisms, which leads to the creation of humus which is a soil-like matter that can also be used as natural fertilizer.

Sanitizing Food Manufacturing Equipment a Big Responsibility

By Kathy Avdis
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How much work you have to do to clean up after you prepare a meal at home depends on how many people you served. The more people you served, the more dishes you have to wash, generally speaking. You may only need to load a couple of dishes into your dishwasher, or you may need to roll up your sleeves and spend some time scrubbing pots and pans at your sink. Now, consider how much work it takes to clean up for the average food manufacturing or packaging facility, which produces enough food to serve hundreds, if not thousands, of people every day. Cleaning up at the end of the day for these manufacturers and packagers is more involved than running a dishwasher or getting out the sponges and brushes.

Sanitizing food manufacturing equipment is a much bigger responsibility than washing up after preparing a meal at home, as well. That’s because manufacturers and packagers have an enormous responsibility to keep their equipment clean. The potential for foodborne illnesses is something that all manufacturers and packagers need to guard against at all times. Meaning, they must follow strict food safety protocols that include cleaning and sanitizing all equipment every night. This is essential not only because it keeps them compliant with food safety regulations, but also because consumers put their faith and trust in them. An outbreak of foodborne illnesses that originates at one of these manufacturers or packagers means that trust is violated, resulting in severe consequences beyond the legal repercussions they may suffer. For these companies, keeping their equipment clean is more than a matter of good hygiene — it’s also good business.

Food manufacturers and packagers must follow a detailed, complicated series of steps to ensure that every component and element of their equipment will be safe to use in the next day’s production cycle. However, because of the complexity of the process, it can be difficult for employees to adhere to the process every time. Sometimes, certain steps may be forgotten or overlooked, which is why it’s necessary to keep a reminder of the proper protocols around at all times.

The following checklist details all of the necessary steps food manufacturers and packagers should follow to stay in compliance with food safety requirements. The responsibility they have is immense, so there’s no margin for error.

The following infographic is courtesy of Meyer Industrial.

Augmented Reality

A New (Augmented) Reality

By Paul Ryznar
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Augmented Reality

At a time when advances in virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) have begun to move from the pages of science fiction onto the floors of factories, boardrooms and businesses—and even the hands of consumers—it is easy to see how and why innovative new technologies are being viewed as game-changing breakthroughs.

One of the most exciting technology frontiers is the field of augmented reality (AR) technology, not only for the intriguing potential that AR solutions represent, but for the practical applications that are already transforming the face of industries as diverse as automotive, healthcare and aerospace. AR is changing the way products are made and tested, the way personnel are trained, and even the way factories and facilities are designed and run. It seems clear that when it comes to AR, the future is now.

The same AR-based technology solutions that are streamlining and error-proofing manufacturing and assembly processes, and making workplaces safer, smarter and more efficient, have the potential for an equally transformative impact in food production and food service environments. From food production facilities to restaurants, AR technology can improve speed, quality and consistency in any operation. Taking a closer look at some existing examples of AR applications can provide a better sense of how AR tech can help brands and businesses in the food and beverage space effectively address persistent challenges and capitalize on emerging opportunities.

Nuts and Bolts

While the platform specifics vary from one application to the next, the basics of AR remain consistent: An emerging constellation of systems and technologies designed to provide real-time audio and visual guidance, offering hands-free functionality that is both interactive and adaptive. Regardless of the industry, the ultimate goal is to ensure tasks are completed safely, correctly and efficiently.

Augmented Reality
At National Restaurant Association Show, a “smart bar” concept allowed attendees to whip up a cocktail using their AR-guided technology.

Some AR technology solutions utilize a digital operating “canvas” as a kind of virtual overlay. This digital overlay can be projected directly into almost any workspace and onto almost any work surface. This allows AR solutions to provide prompts, pacing and direction with unprecedented clarity and specificity. It also allows AR platforms to be extremely flexible and customizable, capable of being deployed to meet the unique demands of a virtually unlimited range of scenarios, processes and work environments. The inherent flexibility of today’s rapidly expanding suite of AR tech solutions is hugely important for restaurant and food industry applications, where kitchens and workspaces vary from one facility to the next. That flexibility even extends to real-time adjustments. The best AR platforms are fully programmable, giving operators the ability to select preset sequences, programs or processes with the push of a button.

Quality and Efficiency

The promise of AR is not just the pursuit of perfection as an abstract ideal, but the potential to take substantive and meaningful steps that get far closer to an optimized, error-free operation than has ever previously been possible. AR technology can help build the perfect pizza; brew the perfect cup of coffee; cook, plate and serve extraordinary food with zero errors and higher productivity; and even ensure the right amounts of the right products are labeled, packaged and shipped correctly.

Something as simple as a lighted visual indicator projected directly onto a pizza showing exactly where every pepperoni should be placed can make a tremendous positive difference. This ensures that the right quantity is used, that every pizza looks great, and even allows those preparing each pie to move a little faster and more efficiently. Reducing waste, boosting efficiency and improving quality and presentation all in one.

Similar projection technology can ensure precise slicing and portions for a wide range of ingredients and prepared foods. In the process, workers can do away with a number of more cumbersome tools and intervening steps. Virtual solutions saving a few seconds at each step can add up to some significant time savings by the end of a shift.

The range of tools that can be integrated into an AR system is virtually unlimited. From laser tracking to precise scales, the possibilities are exciting. In the chaos, confusion and pressure of a working kitchen, anything that allows cooks, servers and other food service professionals to move faster and more efficiently is a welcome addition. Many AR systems feature integrated no-faults-forward functionality that will not allow the user to move forward to the next step if the previous steps have not been completed correctly. This virtually eliminates human error, and goes a long way toward boosting the quality and consistency of the finished product. In both a food production and a food service context, that is enormously significant.

A similarly substantive impact can be realized upstream in the food production process, as well. Part picking and sequencing technology can ensure the right products and ingredients are packed, stored and delivered correctly, allowing warehouse and delivery personnel to move faster and make fewer mistakes. Similarly, inspection and quality control processes can be more comprehensive and effective, all while taking less time.

Traceability

Traceability is a high priority in food production and preparation. Whatever the path from farm to table, knowing exactly where each ingredient was sourced is important not only in terms of food safety, but also loss control—ultimately making production and preparation processes more efficient.

AR solutions can not only help increase efficiency and facilitate error-free productivity, but they can also help identify, diagnose and correct procedural pain points. Detailed procedural records and digital imagery of each food item produced ensures that potential issues can be traced not just to individual food workers, but to the exact step in the process where things went awry. The “digital birth certificates” that can be generated through AR’s advanced and accessible tracking, monitoring and verification capabilities make it possible to quickly identify bottlenecks and other challenges, and ultimately implement improvements that streamline operations.

Training and Integration

AR technology is also extremely valuable as a training tool. In the food service industry, where relatively high turnover rates are a common challenge, systems and software that can deliver a training experience that is standardized, effective and fast, are a game-changer. Eliminating training variation and ensuring that every new employee learns the same information, in the same way, is something that can have a dramatic and sustained impact on consistency, productivity, and, ultimately, the bottom line.

The kitchen of the future will also need to interface more effectively with back office systems (BOS), and AR tech solutions show great promise here, as well. Connecting detailed data feeds with a BOS in real time allows managers and other decision-makers to make more informed and strategic decisions about everything from operations and logistics, to seating and food preparation.

Efficiency Boost (Productivity)

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of introducing AR tech platforms into the food production and service industries is that the technology has the potential to address all three major priorities that brands and businesses face: Quality, productivity and traceability. And at a time when many restaurants are addressing large-scale structural challenges like rising wages, the potential to significantly bring down costs by being more productive and having greater throughput is an appealing proposition.

To understand just how dramatic the efficiency improvements can be, we need not look further than industries where AR tech already has a substantial foothold. Studies have consistently shown that, even with experienced operators, AR platforms lead directly to significant—and in many cases dramatic—improvements in productivity. A 2017 article in the Harvard Business Review cited a Boeing study that showed AR improved productivity in assembly processes by 25%. GE Healthcare saw even more dramatic results, with workers completing tasks 46% faster. Factoring in additional examples, the “average productivity improvement” was 32%, with error rates approaching zero. Extrapolate those types of results in food production and food service environments, and it’s easy to see how and why AR technology is generating so much excitement. More than just a culinary trend or fad, AR tech has the potential to spark a fundamental restructuring of the operational backbone of food service and production facilities.

magnifying glass

Avoiding Total Recalls: Regulatory Labeling for the Food and Beverage Industry

By Josh Roffman
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magnifying glass

In recent memory, no time has more effectively demonstrated the challenges facing the food and beverage industry than spring 2018. In addition to a widely publicized recall of romaine lettuce, several other companies have instituted noteworthy product recalls. For example:

While demoralizing for food and beverage manufacturers, these recalls may also be an unavoidable part of doing business. Plants are grown outdoors, livestock lives outdoors, and no method of sterilization or disinfection is perfect. This is why regulations exist, such as FSMA or EU 1169, so that when recalls do occur, companies can efficiently find and eliminate their contaminated products, and then find the point in the supply chain where the contaminants were introduced.

Despite their necessity, food labeling and packaging regulations represent a huge challenge for food and beverage (F&B) manufacturers—and these challenges don’t exist in a vacuum. The labeling and packaging process is already a huge challenge, which includes customer requirements such as branding, cultural and linguistic localization, 2-D barcodes, and more. How can F&B companies enmesh their regulatory requirements with these existing challenges without adding to the complexity and expense of the entire undertaking?

Challenges of the Regulatory Environment

Since 2011, FSMA has been changing the way that F&B manufacturers produce, package, ship and sell food. In a departure with previous tradition, government inspectors no longer form the first line of defense against contaminated or mislabeled food. Rather, food producers and manufacturers themselves must bear the responsibility to implement procedures that prevent foodborne illness.

In short, FSMA will force F&B manufacturers to implement full transparency and traceability within their supply chains. Artwork and product labeling must be used to support these endeavors—ideally, one would be able to scan the barcode on a food package to instantly determine its origin as well as the chain of distributors that it passed through in order to reach your hands. Right now, the industry standard is well below this benchmark.

Right now, a seven-day timeline is the best-case scenario for traceability throughout the F&B supply chain. Although the endpoints of the supply chain—grocery stores and restaurants—may use modern digital records, you’ll find growers and transportation companies still using Excel and paper records.

In the meantime, a new European Union regulation known as EU 1169 went into effect in December 2016. It made a number of changes to food labeling laws, creating a uniform standard for nutritional facts information. Manufacturers must meet minimum standards for legibility, attain a minimum font size, and notify consumers about potential allergens.

Purely by coincidence, a new FDA food labeling law has also recently gone into effect. Announced in May 2016, this rule will update serving sizes found on most food packaging, alert consumers to added sugars, and more. Although these rules were originally slated to take effect in 2018, they’ve been delayed to 2020 for companies with more than $10 million in revenue, and delayed to 2021 for smaller F&B manufacturers.

To encapsulate, F&B manufacturers must now adjust to the following factors:

  • The FDA is becoming much more serious about preventing foodborne illnesses
  • To this extent, it’s begun to demand instant traceability from F&B manufacturers
  • In addition, the EU will force manufacturers to update their nutritional labeling
  • Manufacturers must update their nutritional labels in the United States as well—but differently

Barcodes and labeling already pose a complicated challenge for manufacturers, causing product recalls and packaging write-offs. Putting additional regulation on top of that solves problems in one sense, by making recalls less likely, but also creates problems in another sense—by putting pressure on artwork and labeling departments that are already overworked. After all, regulations alone aren’t the only sources of change and challenge when it comes to labeling and packaging.

Other Stressors on Labeling and Packaging within F&B Manufacturers

Changing consumer tastes, changing marketing methods, and changing technologies all play their role in adding stress to the job of labeling and packaging within the F&B manufacturing industry.

  • New Branding Needs. Packaging drives 36% of purchase decisions, which means that new and eye-catching label designs are always a must. Good design is subjective, however, and tastes change. For example, most Americans are now driven towards brands that are driven towards social and environmental causes. In other words, many F&B manufacturers may soon reorient their product artwork design to reflect this new concern.
  • International Expansion. If EU 1169 is a concern for you, it probably means that you’re selling into countries where English isn’t the only language. It’s easy to make missteps in this realm. For example, it’s possible to accidentally approve poorly translated copy, or to approve copy that’s in the wrong language entirely.
  • New Technologies. In addition to the UPC, many brands are now incorporating 2-D barcodes (such as QR codes), which provide product information when scanned by a smartphone. Although these codes are supposed to provide more information to consumers, only 34% of consumers actually scanned them as of 2014. The challenge for the labeling department is to make these codes more useful and user-friendly.

These new techniques, regions and branding requirements pose challenges. Think about the possibility of approving the right logo for the wrong country, approving out-of-date artwork, or substituting an FDA-compliant label for one that should comply with EU-1199. These things will happen, and they will necessarily lead to recalls. Here’s the question: How do you structure your artwork and labeling departments to minimize these risks?

Minimize Risks with Standardized, Centralized Labeling and Artwork Management

The secret to producing compliant labeling with up-to-date branding and correct localization is to create a system that gives you as little choice as possible. In other words, you should not find yourself wandering through a nest of file folders wondering which asset is the most up-to-date or find yourself developing separate label templates for each separate region you sell into.

Instead, your labeling and packaging artwork should be able to integrate with other business applications and content libraries to ensure your accessing the correct, most up-to-date approved content and assets. In an ideal world, if you start creating a label and select “Spain” as your target market, your labeling solution would immediately retrieve the relevant content for that target market. With the right kind of integrated, dynamic, data-driven solution you can be confident that you’ll only be dealing with complete with approved Spanish-language content for your packaging and your labeling. You would have peace of mind that your solution would generate an EU 1199-compliant nutrition label template, auto-populated with the appropriate nutrition facts. Additionally, if this label is intended for food sold only by a particular supermarket chain, you would feel confident that your solution would retrieve all of the correct content, images and barcodes required for that brand.

Improve Traceability by Replacing Sources of Confusion with Sources of Truth

To ensure accuracy and consistency, your labeling solution should integrate with your “sources of truth,” namely your ERP systems, but also potentially including your manufacturing execution systems, warehouse management systems, and more. You should be able to leverage existing business processes and vital data sources to drive labeling—to avoid replication of data and potential error, and instead automate and streamline your processes.

Recalls may be a fact of life, but using the right labeling and packaging solution will let you narrow their scope—and trace contamination to its source within a much faster window. The fastest solve for this problem involves creating a true “closed loop” for artwork and labeling—a comprehensive, integrated and automated solution to provide accurate and consistent labeling.

Eurofins Technologies, Gold Standard Diagnostics

Eurofins Technologies, Gold Standard Diagnostics Enter Strategic Partnership

Eurofins Technologies, Gold Standard Diagnostics

This week Eurofins Technologies announced a strategic partnership with Gold Standard Diagnostics (GSD), a developer and manufacturer of fully-automated diagnostic instruments and assays for various test methods. The agreement unites Gold Standard’s ELISA-based instruments and Eurofins Technologies rapidly-expanding diagnostic test kit portfolio for  food, environmental and animal health testing.

Gold Standard Diagnostics will be the standard platform for Eurofins Technologies ELISA-based food testing kits including food pathogens, allergens, mycotoxins, veterinary drug residues, and animal health kits.

What To Consider When Developing A Facility Food Safety Plan

By Adam Serfas
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No two facilities will have the same food safety plan, as each should address the specific needs of that facility. Before beginning your draft, there are several critical factors to consider. Use the guide below as a checklist to review before starting or revisiting your own food safety plan—the following tips can be applied to all food and beverage processors and manufacturers.

1. Review current legislation that applies to your industry

The food safety sector evolves rapidly. Keep your finger on the pulse of updates and changes, whether current or forthcoming, to ensure that your plan is current and up to code. You can quickly familiarize yourself with guidelines and regulatory bodies dealing with your industry with a handful of excellent resources. Generally, we recommend starting with the FDA website, and from there you can navigate to resources that are specific to your industry. We also recommend you make use of the FDA’s Food Safety Plan Builder to assist you in meeting requirements for Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventative Controls for Human Food regulation.

2. Identify current potential risks in your facility

Once familiar with your industry requirements and inspection standards, the next step is to identify any current potential food safety risks specific to your facility. Be sure to incorporate employees at all levels while detailing these potential hazards or concerns. Oftentimes, employees at the management level will make note of things different than employees working on the plant floor. And the delivery truck driver’s perspective will vary from those of your janitorial team. Aim to build a comprehensive list, noting everything from obvious high-risk areas, to what might be trivial or unlikely facility hazards. The more robust the list, the easier your food safety plan will be to form later on.

3. Consider your facility layout

Your facility’s physical layout often determines what type of food safety plan is necessary. Ask yourself:

  • Does your facility have natural zones?
  • Is it comprised of multiple buildings?
  • Are certain defined areas more high-risk than others?
    If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’ll most likely want to incorporate a zone-based color-coding plan as a part of your food safety plan to ensure that all of your tools remain in their proper location and are used correctly.

4. Review the quality of your current tools
Take stock of your current tools, that includes everything used to make or process your product and everything required to clean the facility itself. Consider the tool quality—are these presentable and acceptable for an inspector to see? Do your brushes have loose bristles? Has your mop seen better days? Tools that are made of low-quality materials or are not in top shape present potential risks for a food-safe environment. Note which tools need to be replaced and perhaps consider incorporating color-coded tools if you have not yet done so, as they are a great way to step up your food safety practices and safeguard against cross contamination.

5. Review and communicate the food safety plan and training procedures

Review your current employee training materials –in particular, your cleaning and sanitation measures and food handling procedures–and hold a meeting to go over current training protocols with your team. Consider the following questions:

  • Are the expectations made clear?
  • Are there references to procedures that are no longer up to date?
  • Is there appropriate signage that can be readily referenced?
  • Is information available for non-native speakers?
  • Are the appropriate channels in place for employees to voice concerns about these training procedures?

Be sure to take notes on each of these items that need to be addressed. One of the most important pieces of a food safety plan – and something inspectors pay close attention to – is that it is properly communicated to all employees. Taking detailed notes as you discuss these procedures will be helpful in documenting your training methodology for the food safety plan and, of course, will help you to ensure that the training procedures themselves are the best they can be.

6. Consider the documentation requirements for your industry.

Your industry might require certain specific documentation for your food safety plan, which can include facility policies, procedures, safety review records, maps and more. Additionally, some governing bodies require that the food safety plan is completed by a certified individual who doesn’t necessarily need to be an employee of the facility. Review all necessary requirements to ensure that you satisfy all of these standards for your next inspection.

Should you have any questions when getting ready to start on your plan, we suggest you reach out to a company that specializes in color-coding tools, as they have experience in creating plans to accommodate all kinds of identified risks and can be a great resource.

Megan Nichols

Important Restaurant Food Storage Safety Tips You Need to Know

By Megan Ray Nichols
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Megan Nichols

Safety is a priority when handling food. Don’t think of it as a chore to appease the health inspector. Food storage and safe handling can prevent your customers from getting sick. Whether you’re a veteran of the industry or just starting out, reviewing these tips can improve your restaurant’s operations and keep your guests safe.

Remember FIFO

FIFO, first in first out, should become your mantra when using stock. This rule governs stock rotation and use. When you receive a delivery, place the new stock behind the existing stock. Doing so reduces waste as you won’t have goods stored past their expiration dates. Use the stock at the front to always make use of the oldest products first.

Wood pallets, food storage
When receiving a new delivery, remember: FIFO. Image courtesy of Pixabay

Train your employees to track the expiration dates on all the goods in storage. A sheet listing the expiration of new and existing products easily shows this information. Stress the importance of using goods before their best by date for optimal safety and quality.

Keep Storage Dry and Dark

Dark, dry storage areas maximize the storage time of foods. Whether it’s dry goods in pantry storage or cold products in a refrigerator or freezer, the ideal conditions are out of direct sunlight. This helps control the temperature and prevent the food from degrading. Products with vitamins A, D, K and E, which are fat-soluble, can also break down in sunlight.
The humidity levels should stay lower than 15% to help preserve product quality. Moisture-proof packaging and air conditioning can maintain the appropriate levels. Keep a hygrometer in your storage areas to verify the humidity levels remain consistent. To protect food from contaminants and vermin, place shelves so food is at least six inches from the floor and walls, and one foot from the ceiling.

Storage Temperatures Are Key

Depending on what you store, temperatures may range from freezing to 140° F. Maintain dry storage temperatures between 50° and 70° F. Freezers must keep food frozen solid with an internal temperature of 0° F at most. Keep temperatures between 32° and 40° F in refrigeration units to prevent bacterial growth. Hot storage must keep food at a minimum of 140° F.

Temperature
Holding to temperature ranges are critical to prevent food poisoning. Photo courtesy Pixnio

These temperature ranges are critical to prevent food poisoning. Track temperatures and discard any food stored at the wrong temperature. Consider installing alarms tied to the thermometers in your storage units to alert your employees of critical temperature changes that could affect food safety and quality.

Store Based on Cooking Temperature

Did you know the temperature you must cook foods will determine which shelf you store them on in the refrigerator? The lower the finished temperature of cooked food, the higher a shelf you store it on. Ready-to-eat and cooked foods need to stay on the top shelf, wrapped tightly to prevent cross-contamination. Any ready-to-eat meats and cheeses go on the shelf below. Again, keep them tightly covered or wrapped.

Raw foods go on the bottom three shelves. The third shelf from the top should hold foods cooked to 145° F. including raw fish and shellfish. Below that shelf, keep raw pork, beef and veal. These include cuts and steaks but not ground meat. These have a cooked temperature of 155° F. The bottom shelf holds ground meat and whole eggs. These must cook to an internal temperature of 165° F.

Foods that need cooking thoroughly must stay in enclosed pans or on non-absorbent shelving. Use airtight containers where possible to store food. This protects the food from drying out, preserving its quality. Additionally, the food will stay free of contamination from other foods in the storage unit. This is especially important for refrigerated foods, which may still harbor liquids that can get onto other foods.

Label and Check Foods in Storage

While you should label unopened foods, it’s even more important to label opened foods. Use all foods before the type expires. For instance, summer sausage stays fresh for only three weeks after opening in the refrigerator, but it stays good up to three months unopened. If in doubt, throw the food out. It’s better to stay safe than sorry.

Prevent Cross Contamination During Cooking

During cooking, you can prevent contamination of fresh foods by raw foods through regular hygiene practices. All employees should thoroughly wash their hands with 110°-F water and soap. Despite hand washing, gloves must be worn at all times to protect consumers further.

Cutting boards
Never use the same cutting boards for raw meats and ready-to-eat foods. Photo courtesy PicJumbo.

When cooking, never use the same cutting boards for raw meats and ready-to-eat foods. Juice from undercooked meat could contaminate salad ingredients, sickening those who eat the salad. Also, use a cooking thermometer and always cook foods to the appropriate internal temperature based on the type of food. Reheat previously cooked dishes to an internal temperature of 165° F to stop bacteria growth.

When storing foods, place them in airtight containers that you can easily identify. This prevents things such as milk and cream from accidentally getting replaced with each other. It also ensures every item gets stored correctly. Correct labels on containers also help with preventing mix-ups.

Food Safety Starts With You

Food safety is critical to your restaurant’s operations. Improper storage can shut down your business from a food poisoning outbreak or a bad inspection from the local health inspector. Don’t let these happen to you. Follow these guidelines to ensure the food you store and serve remains safe and high-quality.