Jim Jones, FDA
Food Safety Think Tank

Unifying Human Food Regulation: A Conversation with Jim Jones

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Jim Jones, FDA

In September, Jim Jones, former EPA employee and member of the Reagan-Udall Expert Panel for Foods, became the first FDA Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods. He is tasked with reorganizing the agency to develop better coordination among the multiple departments involved in the regulation of human foods in the U.S., as well as allocating resources to better protect consumer.

At the EPA, Jones was a principal architect of the 2016 overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act and was also responsible for decision-making related to the regulation of pesticides and commercial chemicals. He also led several national sustainability programs, including the EPA’s Environmental Preferable Purchasing Program and the Presidential Green Chemistry Awards Challenge. Here, he shares his vision and goals for a unified Human Foods Program (HFP) and why he pursued the opportunity to lead this new program.

What are your goals in your new position and what attracted you to the role of deputy commissioner for human foods?

Jones: People often want to know why I came to the FDA. I had a long career in government service and after some time in the private sector, I missed being involved in really meaningful work that affects the life of every American. I also came to the FDA because I believe in Commissioner Califf’s proposal for a unified Human Foods Program. Having been part of the Regan Udall Foundation’s evaluation of the foods program, I had the opportunity to understand what was working, and what was not working at the FDA. During this evaluation we realized that fundamentally the challenges within the agency were structural and not attributed to staffing. Our job, therefore, is to improve our internal structure so that we better utilize the talent we have to carry our mission more efficiently and effectively.

The proposal for a unified Human Foods Program focuses on the wellness of U.S. consumers by recognizing that access to safe, nutritious food is key to improving the health of our nation. This proposal is a major reorganization of how our food programs are structure and how they will function day to day. Over the long term, we believe it will support the transformation of how the FDA regulates food.

As the first Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods, I am deeply committed to upholding and executing this vision. As we work to implement the proposed HFP, I am committed to building on the vision laid out in the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. Through our reorganization we will be elevating the importance of nutrition, strengthening state partnerships, and embracing innovative food and agricultural technologies that will allow us to supply the nation – and the globe – with ample safe and nutritious food in the decades ahead.

But we can’t do this alone. In fact, one of my main objectives that I want to carry throughout my tenure at FDA is strengthening our relationships across the many groups that we work with. I am starting this process off by meeting with as many of our stakeholders as I can. I have made a commitment to listen and learn from those who grow, produce, manufacture, and sell foods, from our state regulatory partners, and also those in academia and consumer and health advocates. Leveraging the expertise across our stakeholders is how we will make progress. I am encouraged by the work that has already been done—and I am excited about the possibilities for building on this foundation to bring about broad, systematic changes to how we protect the food supply and help improve the nutrition of consumers.

During your work on the Reagan-Udall panel, what were some of the challenges of the current FDA system that surprised you and that you felt could be most readily addressed?

Jones: We’ve heard time and time again that the current structure is too fragmented, and that the agency needs clearer decision-making and priority-setting pathways over its human food activities. Consolidating human food activities under a single leader who reports directly to the Commissioner unifies and elevates the program while removing redundancies, enabling the agency to oversee human food in a more effective and efficient way. We’ve also heard that the program is challenged since it doesn’t have authority over inspectional resources. Our plan will give the HFP clear authority over resource allocation so it can best prioritize risks and manage foods resources.

The report mentioned lack of a clear vision and mission for human foods program; what is the vision and mission you would like to adopt and instill in the program to guide its work?

Jones: We want to move forward with an approach that puts prevention at the heart of what we do. As I laid out in my statement earlier this year, to protect public health we have prioritized preventing foodborne illnesses, enhancing food chemical safety, and improving nutrition. To help prevent foodborne illness outbreaks, we are removing structural barriers and supporting integration across the agency’s food programs. This will enhance our ability to identify contaminant risks earlier and intervene more quickly and in a more targeted way.

To improve nutrition in our proposal, our dedicated Nutrition Center of Excellence will centralize coordination and provide strategic leadership. This will elevate, strengthen, and expand our nutrition work. We also are proposing to have one office dedicated to food chemical safety, dietary supplements, and innovation. This dedicated office will create a framework for our post-market safety review of previously authorized chemicals used in food to complement our robust premarket safety evaluations.

Based on your experience with the EPA and now the FDA Human Foods Program, what are some of the benefits to having distinct public agencies overseeing specific areas of public health, and where do we need more collaboration to better protect the public?

Jones: There are skills developed in regulatory agencies with a public health orientation that are very transferable. For example, understanding that meaningful public engagement before you decide how to regulate leads to more informed and timely decisions, but also sustainable decisions. You also understand the critical role played by Congress, as well as how to manage issues within the Executive Branch. These are all very important in getting work done and aren’t unique to any one Agency.

Elevating the importance of nutrition is a key focus of the proposed HFP model. What are some of the current challenges in fulfilling the dual role of ensuring safe food while also ensuring or providing better access to nutritious food?

Jones: If you think about the overall goal of having a food supply that supports health and wellness, our food safety and nutrition initiatives go hand in hand.  We want to prevent illnesses that can occur due to contamination as well as those that occur because of poor nutrition.

Most people in the U.S. do not eat enough fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, and healthy oils, and consume too much saturated fat, sodium and added sugars.  Our goal is to ensure U.S. consumers have greater access to healthier foods and nutrition information to identify healthier foods more easily.  This work supports public health by reducing preventable illnesses through improved nutrition is among our highest priorities because it has the greatest potential to reduce diet-related chronic diseases that are the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S.

In order to elevate and strengthen the FDA’s nutrition portfolio, the HFP includes a proposal to create a Nutrition Center of Excellence that will enable the FDA to focus even more strategically on nutrition policies and initiatives.

We have a food safety system that encompasses many agencies on the federal, state, tribal nation, and county levels, do you see areas for improvement in helping all these agencies work more cooperatively.

Jones: Food safety is a shared responsibility that involves food producers, distributors, manufacturers, and retailers. Close coordination among the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and international, state, local, tribal, and territorial regulatory partners, public health, and agriculture departments is crucial to finding, stopping, and preventing foodborne illness outbreaks.

To foster the health and wellness of all U.S. consumers, the proposed HFP will continue to expand upon tools to enhance our food safety work. For example, we will prioritize partnerships through the proposed new Office of Integrated Food Safety System Partnerships, which will be a one stop shop for local, state, tribal, and territorial food safety partnerships.

Each of the agencies above have mentioned challenges in attracting and nurturing new food safety professionals, including auditors and inspectors. Do you see opportunities to improve recruitment and retention in the profession through the Unified Human Foods Program?

Jones: As always, the FDA is eager to recruit and retain talented federal employees. With the reorganization of the new HFP, along with available resources, we hope to attract top talent to assist with our food safety goals.




Prasant Prusty and Arundhathy Shabu

Effective Root Cause Analysis for CAPA Management

By Arundhathy Shabu, Prasant Prusty
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Prasant Prusty and Arundhathy Shabu

Businesses often overlook the power of well-executed, competent complaint-handling systems in boosting business growth. Data from ABa Quality Monitoring Ltd revealed nearly 70% of customers are more likely to stick with a company if their complaints are resolved, and this figure jumps to an impressive 95% if complaints are addressed immediately.

Every company faces distinct operational challenges that can result in missed deadlines, product holds, supply chain disruptions and customer complaints. Each of which can impact the quality of the enterprise’s product or service.

This is why the ability to conduct a comprehensive root cause analysis (RCA) to identify the origin of concerns and formulate and execute remedial processes, such as corrective and preventive actions (CAPA), is essential for food companies. Root cause analyses reduce the risk of future nonconformances and complaints and help streamline business operations and protect your bottom line.

An Overview of CAPA and Root Cause Analysis

Corrective and Preventive Action, or CAPA, is a methodical system used across industries to identify, rectify and avert issues, errors or noncompliance in processes, products or systems. Corrective actions fix existing problems, while preventive actions stop their recurrence.

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) encompasses various problem-solving methodologies, permitting teams to identify the fundamental reasons behind issues. It goes beyond just detecting the main problem to determine contributing factors, implement corrective and preventive measures, and foster continuous improvement in business processes.

Conducting a Root Cause Analysis

A CAPA management system’s success hinges on the RCA strategy’s efficiency. Whether businesses are facing a manufacturing defect, a customer complaint, a safety incident or any other problem, conducting an RCA is instrumental in identifying the underlying reasons and implementing effective solutions. Rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all approach, RCA should comprise a highly adaptable toolkit of techniques, and methods. Here are the basic steps for performing a root cause analysis:

Step 1: Understand the Issue

Initiate the process by clearly defining the problem or incident that must be examined. Ensure that the problem statement is specific, measurable and well-documented, enabling a precise understanding of what needs investigation.

Step 2: Collect Information

Aggregate all available data related to the issue, which may include incident reports, witness statements, photographs, process documentation and any other pertinent information. The more data you collect, the better your grasp of the problem.

Step 3: Identify Root Causes

Recognize the immediate or proximate factors that directly contributed to the problem. These are the most visible elements that directly played a role in the incident. Beyond these immediate causes are the contributing factors, often systemic, which may have indirectly influenced the problem. Thoroughly investigate and unearth the foundational reasons behind the issue using appropriate RCA techniques or methods.

Step 4: Develop Corrective and Preventive Actions

Once the root causes are uncovered, brainstorm and assess suitable corrective and preventive actions. Prioritize these solutions based on their practicality, impact and cost-effectiveness, and put the chosen solutions into effect.

Step 5: Establish a Coordinated Plan

Be sure to establish a plan for carrying out the corrective and preventive actions. This plan should include details about the required resources, the assignment of responsible individuals for task execution and an evaluation of the potential risks associated with these corrective measures.

Step 6: Monitor and Verify

Continuously monitor the situation to ensure that the problem does not reoccur. This may involve ongoing training, regular audits or process improvements.

Methods for Root Cause Analysis

Each root cause analysis method offers a unique approach to uncovering the root cause of a problem, providing a systematized way to investigate and address issues. Following are root cause analysis techniques that are adaptable for standalone or combined use, determined by the issue’s intricacy and the particular objectives of the RCA.

  • The 5 Whys: This technique involves asking “why” multiple times to dig deeper into a problem. Repeatedly questioning the cause behind a situation helps uncover the underlying issues. The goals is to identify the fundamental reason and avoid assumptions.
  • Fishbone Diagram: This visual tool organizes potential causes of a problem into categories, such as people, processes, equipment, environment and materials. It’s great for exploring multiple factors contributing to an issue.
Fishbone RCA diagram
Example of a fishbone diagram with sample categories to consider, and sample causes.
  • FMEA (Failure Modes and Effects Analysis): This method evaluates potential failure modes and their impacts before they occur. It helps in identifying failure points and assessing the existing controls to address these issues.
  • DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control): A data-driven improvement cycle, dividing the problem-solving process into five steps: defining the problem, collecting data, analyzing root causes, putting solutions into action and establishing controls for sustained improvement.
  • Pareto Analysis: Based on the Pareto Principle, it suggests that a significant portion of issues (80%) can be linked to fewer causes (20%). This tool helps prioritize efforts and resources for problem-solving by focusing on the vital few causes.
  • FTA (Fault Tree Analysis): This deductive method works backward from an undesirable event, using graphical representations to analyze relationships between various events and their causes. It uses boolean logic to determine root causes.

Tech-Enabled Solutions to Optimize RCA Processes

In a world where time-consuming manual tasks can hinder productivity, embracing CAPA management and root cause analysis process technology can drive excellence across your enterprise. By digitalizing CAPA processes, organizations can seamlessly manage the entire lifecycle of complaints, holds and deviations.

Digital systems and software for RCA and CAPA management can enable food companies to centralize and automate the recording and tracking of customer complaints, product holds and deviations from established standards, which will evidently lead to faster response times, improved data analysis and better communication across departments. These digital tools aid in identifying recurring issues for swift remediation while preventing similar problems in the future by facilitating real-time monitoring and reporting.

An ideal CAPA management solution will possess the following digital functionalities to revolutionize the process:

Configurable Record Templates. Customized templates for recording complaints, deviations, holds and CAPA can be created or tailored flexibly, allowing users to accommodate differing data requirements to solve a problem. This helps standardize and streamline the documentation processes involved in RCA and CAPA procedures, as these templates help in the consistent recording of incident details, root causes, corrective actions and preventive measures, simplifying the generation of auditable records. Not to mention, they would play a significant role in reducing data entry errors and saving time, consequently supporting a proficient CAPA management system.

CAPA Workflow Automation. CAPA management tools are designed to facilitate the automation of various stages of CAPA, from incident reporting to the review and approval process. By automating tasks such as routing for reviews, approvals and monitoring deadlines for corrective actions, workflow automation significantly reduces the need for manual intervention, saving time and minimizing the potential for human error within the workflow. As a result, the entire CAPA process becomes less resource-intensive and more refined, ensuring a more seamless journey from identification to resolution.

Investigation & Root Cause Analysis. Digitalization ushers a thorough investigation process by collecting documentary evidence in an organized manner, enabling a quicker and more accurate determination of root causes and leading to more efficient corrective and preventive actions to prevent recurrence.

Integrated systematic RCA models into the digital system expedites the root cause analysis process while amplifying its efficacy. Through continuous data gathering from machinery and processes, advanced analytics platforms identify patterns and anomalies, aiding in pinpointing the root cause of failures or issues. Visualization tools provide clear insights into complex relationships among various factors, aiding in understanding causality and devising adequate solutions.

Collaboration is also substantially improved through digital platforms, allowing multidisciplinary teams to collaborate seamlessly regardless of their locations. These tools help structure the RCA process, ensuring tasks are assigned, progress is monitored, and deadlines are met, thus driving the investigation into a more optimal and exhaustive RCA analysis.

Non-Compliance Management. Well-defined planning and implementation of noncompliance action items become possible through digital tools by assigning corrective and preventive actions to respective stakeholders for prompt rectification, compliance maintenance and future risk mitigation. Furthermore, evaluating and validating the effectiveness of corrective and preventive actions is a critical step in RCA. Ensuring the successful closure of the CAPA process by reviewing and confirming the resolution of nonconformances becomes more efficient with digital solutions.

Notification & Alerts. CAPA management systems can be configured to send timely notifications and alerts to relevant stakeholders and responsible parties involved in the CAPA process. These notifications serve as unique reminders, ensuring that individuals are promptly informed about their tasks and impending deadlines. By doing so, the risk of missed actions or delays is considerably mitigated. This real-time communication not only keeps everyone on track but also supports a more responsive and accountable approach to handling corrective and preventive actions.

Reporting & Trend Analysis. Digital CAPA management tools also empower organizations to generate customized reports and analyze data trends. These serve as a window into the performance of the detection, rectification and thorough review of outliers within CAPA processes, providing invaluable insights for informed decision-making and continuous improvement initiatives.

In essence, the transformative power of digital tools is instigating a monumental shift in technology adoption, heralding a new era in establishing efficacious root cause analysis for successful CAPA management. By harnessing these tools, organizations can unlock avenues for enhanced efficiency, elevated quality standards and fortified regulatory compliance. This paradigm shift is paving a path toward sustained progress, where proactive problem-solving becomes the cornerstone of organizational growth and resilience. 

Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine

Sanitary Design: Finding the Right Conveyor Belt System

By Emily Newton
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Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine

Sanitary or hygienic design supports food safety by ensuring that the equipment you bring into your facilities does not pose a risk to the food you produce and that it can be properly maintained and sanitized. When it comes to purchasing a new conveyor belt system, there are several considerations, as well as standards and regulations, that can and should guide your decision.

Current Standards and Regulations

The food safety standards that apply to conveyor belts may differ depending on where your company operates. Here’s a closer look at some geographic specifics as well as standards recognized worldwide.

The United States. In the U.S., the FDA does not directly certify conveyor belts. Instead, the agency focuses on Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs). These are overarching regulations covering virtually all aspects of a food processing facility. In addition to equipment, CGMPs extend to sanitation, plant design, production, process controls and more. The FDA also has additional CGMPs for infant formula, acidified foods, low-acid canned foods, bottled water and dietary supplements.

The FDA maintains a list of approved food contact substances (FCS) and materials deemed safe and not technically affecting consumables. A food-grade conveyor belt’s materials must be on the FDA’s list to comply with U.S. regulations.

Europe. The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) combines 34 European countries’ standardization bodies. It includes, but spans far beyond food to cover consumer appliances, health care, construction, chemicals and much more. Different CEN standards apply based on how and where the conveyor belt will be used. For example, CEN/TC 153/WG 9 is for equipment used to process cereals, while CEN/TC 153/WG 2 relates to meat processing infrastructure.

Less broadly, the 1935/2004 regulation applies to conveyor belts used in the European Union (EU). It concerns all articles or materials that touch food. The regulation also mentions 80/590/EEC, which established a symbol designating safe materials. Moreover, it emphasizes that food producers must maintain traceability and verify the sources of any food-grade materials.

International Third-Party Certification Systems. In addition to abiding by country or regional standards, food processing professionals may wish to pursue internationally recognized certifications. One example is Food Safety System Certification 22000 (FSSC 22000). It covers food safety and quality management for manufacturing, packaging and storage. Another is the BRCGS Global Food Safety Standard, adopted by many of the top food manufacturers as well as retailers and restaurants.

These third-party certifications are optional. However, they can strengthen a company’s worldwide reputation and increase consumer confidence.

There are no third-party certifications specifically for conveyor belts used in the food industry. However, the Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association (CEMA) website offers research and technical information that can help guide purchasing decisions as you investigate products and suppliers.

3-A Sanitary Standards (3-A SSI). The 3-A Sanitary Standards (3-A SSI) cover design methods and principles to support proper sanitation by making equipment easier to clean. Standard 3A 39-01 covers pneumatic conveyors for dry materials, while 3A 41-03 is for mechanical conveyors that move dry items. These are voluntary standards developed for food processing plants and facilities associated with the dairy industry.

Conveyor belts that comply with the 3-A standards are made with nontoxic, food-safe materials. They must also tolerate repeated and ongoing exposure to cleaning products. The 3-A standards also include details about construction of the conveyor belt to prevent areas where food could get caught. This includes making systems with smooth surfaces and no sharp corners.

Moreover, 3-A standards require designers to consider methods of cleaning. For example, must the cleaning occur in the production area, or can the conveyor system be moved to another area for cleaning and sanitation?

Considerations When Choosing a Conveyor System

A food processing plant’s environment presents several key considerations when selecting conveyor belts. For example, many belts include nonflammable materials so they can be used near high-heat areas. Moisture in the air can also affect the belt. Too much wetness could cause some materials to stretch or break, while too little moisture can cause other materials to crack or shrink.

Companies must think about the processing that occurs as food moves along the conveyor. Does it require cutting, washing or exposure to oil? Consider each stage the products go through, from raw to complete. Each step could introduce new considerations for your food-grade conveyor belt. Take potatoes, for example. Processing often involves immersion in a boiling oil bath and seasoning, and each processing step causes potential temperature changes and chemical exposures.

Following are additional considerations when investigating a new system:

Food Characteristics. Aspects of the food itself could affect how well a conveyor belt works or how long it will last. Sugar and salt are two examples of non-synthetic preservatives that double as ingredients. Their abrasive textures can cause premature wear on conveyor belts not designed to handle them. Look for options with special polymers that encourage the food with sticky textures to come off cleanly and not cling to the belt. Consider overall weight of the foods on the belt at a given time as well.

Cleaning Methods and Products. Manual cleaning methods are time and labor-intensive, but they’re cost-effective for small operations. Plus, they work well for removing bacteria and/or biofilms from hard-to-reach places. Automated options usually rely on motorized brushes and sprayers that move along a belt’s surface. Dry ice blasting and dry steam cleaning also help to remove dried or stuck-on materials.

Consult the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions to identify chemical agents that will work best for the belt’s materials as well as those that you should avoid. Using inappropriate cleaning products could cause the belt material to break down, creating food safety and contamination risks. One best practice is to choose a washdown-rated food-grade conveyor belt that can tolerate many different cleaning methods as well as high temperatures.

Many modern conveyor systems also have quick-release parts that make cleaning easier and reduce the amount of time that the equipment is out of commission.

Optional Accessories. Many conveyor belts can be customized as needed before or after purchase. These optional accessories may include cleaning-in-place (CIP) modules or automated container-filling systems. Some companies now offer plug-and-play CIP modules that can be attached to any conveyor belt without expensive retrofitting.

The Desired Length. A conveyor belt’s length is an important consideration, but companies need not worry if they realize they need to add length. Food-grade fasteners allow you to extend the belt to meet your facilities’ needs. Splice presses can be even more efficient, especially with air-cooled designs that offer splice times of under 10 minutes, providing maximum flexibility for manufacturers.

Maintenance and Warranty Considerations

When investigating options, sales representatives can help you choose the correct model and optional features for your needs. Once you’ve identified a few suitable options, ask about maintenance and warranty options. Even short periods of downtime can be extremely disruptive in the food industry, so you need to understand how to contact customer support and how quickly they can respond to requests for service.

Warranties can vary in length, the specific components they cover and can affect the final cost. Read the fine print to make sure you understand circumstances, such as changes in the manufacturing process or environment, that may void the coverage as well.

Purchasing a new conveyor belt system requires planning and a thorough investigative process. Consider these points as you research options and reach out to peers in the industry to get their input on trusted products and manufacturers.

Nicole and Scott, NSF

Leveraging Cloud-Based Technology in Supply Chain Management

By Nicole Keresztes James, Scott Arnald
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Nicole and Scott, NSF

In today’s fiercely competitive food and beverage industry, managing tight margins and shifting consumer preferences present major challenges. Add to this the growing incidences of food fraud, increased regulations—including the FSMA Final Food Traceability Standard—and complex supply chains and keeping an eye on the big picture becomes an almost impossible task. From primary producers to manufacturers, retailers and restaurants, companies are seeking ways to innovate and modernize their supply chains while strengthening food safety and quality, adhere to mandatory regulations and audits, and reduce operational costs. Embracing cloud-based technologies and digital solutions can help businesses adapt to new challenges and regulations, while increasing profits and growth.

Going Digital with Supplier Requirements

The FDA’s Food Traceability Final Rule, set to be enforced by 2026, highlights the urgency for industry to streamline its practices and establish digital solutions that collect and quickly provide information in the event of a recall. Supplier and compliance management digital solutions reduce administrative overhead with proactive supplier management. They direct suppliers to use an online portal to register, upload documents, complete questionnaires and communicate with businesses. By implementing these digital solutions, suppliers can also gain access to intelligent compliance engines that detect potential issues by comparing supplier information against company requirements. This data can be used to assess risks and analyze trends and performance of suppliers so businesses can prioritize continuous improvements, allocate resources to the appropriate sectors and make data-driven decisions. Digital solution’s counterpart—manually collecting and analyzing supplier data—poses greater risks for human error and potentially costly operational setbacks.

Additionally, supplier portals aid in supplier-business collaboration and allow for improved communication and consistency among assessors. They also provide access to historical documents and information. Companies transitioning to more sophisticated digital supplier management tools will likely notice a reduction in data errors and misinterpretation of requirements, ensuring the reliability of the information being recorded.

Cloud-Based Quality and Compliance

Cloud-based solutions that offer multiple modules, such as Supplier & Compliance Management, Product Specification and Artwork Management, Issue Management, and Audit Management, can aggregate multiple supply chain processes into a single platform. These solutions are versatile, cost-effective and can adapt to many kinds of businesses in our industry; companies simply choose which module offerings fit their business needs and then have the option to add additional modules when applicable.

Cloud-based solutions also expedite data, documents and records collection in real-time during audits and assessments, allowing for effortless delivery when program documentation is requested or required. With live synchronization of information, including statistical process control data and critical food safety data, cloud-based technologies enable results to be shared among users both onsite and around the globe. They also provide users with a collation of assessment results and corrective action responses vital to the decision-making and review processes.

Protecting Supplier and Client Data

The escalating threat of data breaches—Malwarebytes reported a 607% increase in cyberattacks on food and agriculture companies in 2020—underscores the need for stringent security measures. Therefore, it is crucial that companies choose software tools from a provider that ensures built-in information protection with encryption to maintain cybersecurity and confidence in daily supply chain operations. Looking for digital solutions that adhere to international security management standard ISO/IEC 27001 is a good starting point. Platforms with this high-security certification provide assurance against data loss and offer firewalls and virus and malware protection.

Safeguarding in Today’s Environment

As our industry adapts to new regulations, technology innovations and supply chain risks, we must protect every facet of operations, from food fraud prevention to cybersecurity, with the collective goal of protecting consumers. Utilizing leading digital solutions and technologies, including cloud-based resources, simplifies historically complicated supply chain processes and reduces the risk of errors in supplier management.

While traditional software includes the potential risk of data and security breaches, our industry is safeguarded with leading technologies that are compliant with ISO-IEC 27001 information security management standards, ensuring sensitive information remains protected, and our complex supply chain endures.

Gitte Barknowitz

Technology and Farming: An Essential Relationship as Pesticide Restrictions Impact Agriculture in the EU

By Gitte Barknowitz, Ph.D.
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Gitte Barknowitz

Pesticides and other chemical compounds are widely used in agriculture because they protect crops and improve the efficiency of food production. However, it is necessary to identify what type and how much chemical residues are in food, water and soil as these residues may pose a potential threat to human health as well as the environment. Reducing pesticides in food will result in a lower toxic chemical burden entering the body and accumulating in the tissues and organs, but it will take a concerted effort.

The European Union (EU) member states are implementing extensive policy changes to improve soil quality and ultimately improve the quality of crops. Among them is a “proposal for a new Regulation on the Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products, including EU wide targets to reduce by 50% the use and risk of chemical pesticides by 2030.” In July 2023, the European Commission also “adopted a package of measures for a sustainable use of key natural resources, which will also strengthen the resilience of EU food systems and farming.”

Reducing the use of chemicals is an important step to ensuring enough safe food for the growing human population. This challenge comes at a time when arable land is being lost, the demand for food is increasing and the world population is expected to increase to 9.7 billion in 2050, according to the United Nations. This will require food growers and processors to implement more sustainable growing practices often referred to as Integrated Pest Management (IPM). While the benefits of natural pest control are already well understood—clean water, healthy soil and improved biodiversity—reducing reliance on synthetic pesticides will require increased analysis, and as a result, generating a lot of data.

It all begins with the analysis of chemical residues found on crops.

Naming the Culprits

With more than 1,000 pesticides in use around the world, it is important to know the properties and toxicological effects of each. A group of pesticides commonly used to curb weeds is herbicides. Glyphosate, (N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine), a widely-used, broad-spectrum, systemic herbicide and crop desiccant, has in the recent years come under scrutiny as the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization, classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

In the coming years, more data will be gathered on pesticides in the EU, with part of that information coming from control measures and agricultural practice reviews. A large part will come from laboratory measurements to meet data requirements mandated by the new regulations. Compiling consistent, accurate data depends on the equipment that produces it. This is particularly important for food safety.

As technologies advance and more information can be obtained, including residues on food, the requirements for the type of data are also changing. For example, quantifying how much of a predetermined pesticide residue is in a sample is a narrow parameter. Identifying all of the compounds that can be found will provide more data to characterize the sample. Ideally, collecting both will provide the most complete answer to the question, “How much and what kinds of pesticides remain on our food?”

Once that information is available, it is possible to choose appropriate remediation steps. But it takes sensitive laboratory equipment to both identify and quantify residues.

Connecting the Dots Between Pesticides and Food

The most common technology currently used to monitor pesticides is liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). First, the sample (e.g., soil, water, fruit or vegetable) is injected onto the liquid chromatograph (LC). The LC separates the complex mixture based on the chemical properties of the individual pesticides before being analyzed by the mass spectrometer (MS). MS instruments analyze samples based their masses—or more correctly their mass-to-charge ratio—in a very accurate and precise manner. MS/MS instruments also break apart the pesticides and are able to look for these fragments. These are used to quickly determine if a specific compound is present and in what amount, known as identification and quantitation.

Amadeo Rodríguez Fernández-Alba, professor in analytical chemistry at the University of Almeria and head of the European Reference Laboratory for Pesticide Residues, has valued the benefits of using LC-MS/MS for pesticide residue analysis for years. Over time, the technology and methods have evolved to identify and measure the amount of chemicals in food plants and soil.

In his recent work, Fernández-Alba showed the analysis of 30 compounds of emerging concern (CECs) in soils irrigated with simulated reclaimed water on trial farmland using a targeted MS/MS approach. An accumulation of 13 pesticides and 5 pharmaceuticals could be found at different rates, highlighting the importance of increased analysis for reclaimed water testing.

Regarding the testing method, the authors pointed out that, “a modified QuEChERS method showed the best results in terms of extractability and accuracy. The extraction procedure developed provided adequate extraction performances (70% of the target analytes were recovered within a 70–99% range), with good repeatability and reproducibility (variations below 20%) and great sensitivity (LOQ < 0.1 ng/g in most cases). No matrix effects were observed for 70% of the compounds. Finally, the analytical methodology was applied in a pilot study where agricultural soil was irrigated with reclaimed water spiked with the contaminants under study. Of the 25 CECs added in irrigation water, a total of 13 pesticides and 5 pharmaceutical products were detected…”

Reduction in pesticide usage needs to be monitored in both field and food samples for a wide range of analytes including unknown substances to build confidence in the food system. Using mass spectrometry can provide that data.

Glyphosate, mentioned above, is one of the most widely used agrochemicals in the world and also one of the most difficult to detect. In Europe, EFSA has proposed MRLs for a wide range of commodities for glyphosate. Monitoring this kind of highly polar, small-organic pesticide in food and water from diverse sources can be complex, time-consuming and expensive. NofaLab, a sampling and testing lab in the Netherlands, collaborated with SCIEX to create a high throughput method using LC-MS/MS to test for as many polar pesticides in a single analysis as possible.

The final method utilized the sensitivity of QTRAP technology and was “found to be considerably more robust and sensitive than other approaches described in various publications and have achieved the target limits of detection required to meet existing and proposed future regulations.” In addition, the “ion chromatographic approach to the analysis of polar pesticides offers the ability to include multiple analytes in a single injection without derivatization…allowing high-throughput laboratories to manage samples efficiently and minimize running costs.”

Targeted MS/MS analysis has long been the gold standard for pesticide analysis in the industry, but advanced high-resolution MS systems enable even greater accuracy and confidence, helping to identify more contaminants, even unknowns. The ZenoTOF 7600 system uses electron activated dissociation (EAD) to create a higher number of fragments as compared to collision induced fragmentation (CID), which is traditionally used in targeted MS/MS analysis on other systems, allowing for highly confident identifications of pesticides in food samples. The ZenoTrap technology additionally enhances sensitivity, which is needed in pesticide analysis to meet regulatory limits. Regardless of the type of sample, whether taken from the soil in a field or from harvested crops, mass spectrometers can identify the type and amount of chemicals present in a sample within several minutes of run time and analyze hundreds of samples in a day.

Streamlining Data Review and Adhering to Data Standards

In an effort to standardize pesticide use, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) established standards for pesticide residues and developed international standards for food products. This framework for providers at various points in the food supply chain can help reduce the risk of contamination and toxicity.

In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishes tolerances, also known as maximum residue limits (MRL) in other countries, for the type and quantity of pesticides that can remain on food. The agency sets these to ensure pesticides can be used with “reasonable certainty of no harm.”

Producers adhering to these guidelines must handle and present extensive data sets from test results, and any new future regulations will require robust data to track the success of the initiatives and effectively enforce their use. Reviewing and understanding data in order to make decisions is tricky and labor-intensive. It can take laboratories hours every day to process, interpret and manage the data. Software enables fast data processing and fast review by exception flagging, which is valuable in food safety laboratories that typically see a high turn-around in samples every day.

Maintaining resilient food systems will be rooted in data-driven decisions that improve food safety, including limiting pesticide and other chemical uses. By using modern mass spectrometry technology, researchers can be more confident that their food analyses will lead to better-informed policies, more sustainable agricultural practices, and healthier food for future generations.

Benjamin Hottel

Rodent Control Challenges for Organic Facilities

By Benjamin Hottel, PhD, BCE, PCQI
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Benjamin Hottel

 As a business owner, you have a multitude of challenges to contend with, but one of the most insidious and damaging threats to your facility operations might be lurking in the shadows: rodents. These stealthy intruders not only jeopardize the integrity of your property but can also carry diseases that pose serious risks to your employees and public health. In organic facilities, rodent control can be a balancing act between implementing control measures to help remedy the problem of rodents and maintaining your “organic” status.

While post-pandemic activities have helped reduce the amount of public rodent sightings, their threat to public health hasn’t decreased. Rodents can spread dozens of harmful diseases directly and indirectly—including salmonellosis, leptospirosis and hantavirus—in addition to contaminating food products and potentially causing structural damage in buildings. Left untreated, rodent sightings within a commercial facility can lead to ongoing infestations and eventually, failed inspections and stalled operations—a costly blow to your bottom line.

Knowing how to spot rodent activity is essential to helping stop it early and prevent a larger issue for your business. If you notice the following signs around your facility, you might have a rodent problem:

  • Capsule-like droppings
  • Rub marks along walls and other hard surfaces
  • Shredded packaging, insulation or fiber like materials
  • Damaged food products and gnawed hard surfaces

There are some factors that can make rodent infestations more likely in a facility. For example, poorly maintained walls, foundations and roofs can create entrances for these pests along with improperly sealed openings such as doors and windows. In addition, standing water, left out food, cluttered spaces and overgrown landscaping can also attract rodents.

Common Types of Rodents

If you suspect you may have a rodent problem in your facility, it is important to correctly identify the species you are dealing with and report any sightings to your pest control provider. Here are some of the most common rodent species you may encounter in a commercial facility:

  • House Mouse: The house mouse is a small mammal named for its propensity to live within human habitats, including food plants. Next to humans, the common house mouse is one of the most prevalent mammal species in the world. Between five to eight inches long, these rodents can produce 50-60 offspring per year.
  • Norway Rat: Norway rats are easily identifiable by their coarse brown fur and large size, measuring up to 19 inches long including their tails. These rodents may be difficult to spot during the day, as they are nocturnal. However, droppings and gnaw marks are telltale signs that these pests may be present.
  • Roof Rat: More slender and agile with even longer tails than the common Norway rat, roof rats present a unique set of challenges for food processors. These pests are known to build nests at higher elevations, making them more difficult to catch in warehouse and processing facilities with large roof spaces.

Protecting Your Organic-Certified Facility

To learn more about specific requirements and rodent management strategies for organic-certified facilities, view our on demand webinar “Rodent Control and Organic Certified Facilities.” 

Organic-certified facilities maintain a variety of measures to ensure they meet all USDA standards. Contamination of non-organic products and substances is a real concern for these highly regulated facilities. As mentioned, rodent control is crucial to maintaining a safe environment in commercial facilities but can threaten to spread diseases and contaminate organic products. Fortunately, there are many organic-certified rodent control methods that these facilities can use to maintain their certification while helping to lower the risk of pests:

  • Preventative Measures: Sanitation and exclusion efforts should be some of the first actions taken before moving on to other control measures. Sanitation will help eliminate food sources for rodents while exclusion work will help prevent rodents from getting into the facility in the first place. Exclusion work should be focused around doors, loading docks, utility penetrations and holes in walls.
  • Mechanical Measures: Rodents can be controlled through a variety of devices including glue boards, snap traps and multi-catch traps.

If either of these two methods are not successful in controlling a rodent problem, work with your pest management provider to determine which approved products (e.g. baits and conventional treatments) can be applied. You can reference the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for a full list of substances that may not be used in organic facilities.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Rodent Control

By implementing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, you can help keep pests at bay and work together with your provider to come to the best solution. IPM programs focus on preventive techniques like exclusion, sanitation and maintenance to keep pests where they belong: outside your business.

Most organic food processing facilities have customized IPM programs in place, especially if they undergo regularly third-party food safety audits. These programs are implemented by qualified pest control technicians in collaboration with a facility’s food safety and quality assurance team to help deter pest activity and prevent infestations without losing organic certifications.

Now that you know how to spot signs of rodent activity around your facility and tips you can implement to reduce their impact on your business, don’t forget to review your IPM plan with your pest control provider. Rodent activity fluctuates with the seasons and a reliable pest control provider will regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your IPM plan to make sure food safety remains a top priority. If you don’t have an IPM program in place or a reliable pest control provider, now’s the time to implement one before you have a costly rodent issue that impacts your business reputation or the health of your employees and customers.

Prasant Prusty and Arundhathy Shabu

Food Safety Culture Is the Key Ingredient To Prevent Foodborne Diseases

By Arundhathy Shabu, Prasant Prusty
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Prasant Prusty and Arundhathy Shabu

Culture is not an initiative but rather the enabler of all initiatives, as observed rightly by Larry Senn, who is considered the Father of Corporate Culture.  Similarly, food safety culture (FSC) is the solid foundation that enables organizations to ultimately minimize food safety risks. This is why the simple idea of food safety culture emerges to be a powerful concept in reducing the global burden of foodborne diseases.

Let us consider some facts:

  • Employees working in food enterprises worldwide are required to be well-trained in food safety practices
  • A vast amount of food safety research is conducted around the world to improve and enhance food safety management
  • Companies are required to follow elaborate food safety regulations that include mandatory testing and inspections

It is quite contradictory that food safety remains a major public health threat. One way to understand why this happens is that just because something has been done in a specified manner for a long duration does not necessarily mean it is being done the right way. Hence, there must be a missing ingredient fundamental to preventing food safety incidents, which many have concluded relates to lack of a strong food safety culture.

The Importance of Food Safety Culture in Simple Terms

The behavior of your staff and leadership demonstrates whether each employee understands and is committed to ensuring your products are safe to consume and of good quality. In short, food safety equals behavior. This is the core notion Frank Yiannas talks about in his book, Food Safety Culture: Creating a Behavior-Based Food Safety Management System.

One of the most well-known outcomes associated with lack of a strong food safety culture was the PCA (Peanut Corporation of America) outbreak in 2009 when peanuts contaminated with Salmonella caused nine deaths, 11,000 to 20,000 illnesses, and a recall of 4,000 products. A proactive food safety culture that is centered on rigorous testing, quality control protocols, sanitation and traceability measures could have detected and prevented the spread outbreak, saving lives and money.

Companies are investigating and/or implementing food safety culture training and practices because no matter what we say or document regarding food safety, we cannot make progress unless we actually put these words into practice.

A systematic review of the scientific literature on food safety culture (FSC), published by the FDA in 2022 views food safety culture as a scientific concept. In conducting the study, FDA aspired to present food safety culture as a valid subset of science, rather than just a slogan, and use the knowledge obtained to provide tools that stakeholders can use to develop and assess their own food safety culture. This review is considered the primary groundwork for FDA’s efforts to uplift food safety culture in the industry, among consumers, and in regard to the present regulatory oversight.

Challenges and Barriers to Accomplishing a Strong and Effective Food Safety Culture 

The predominant challenges and barriers to creating, promoting and evaluating a strong and effective Food Safety Culture, as presented in the review, include:

Over-reliance on food safety management systems (FSMS)

FSMS plays a non-negotiable role in every food enterprise. Nevertheless, FSMS tend to be process focused and thus do not affect how human attitudes influence food safety. This is where a behavior-based FSMS is beneficial to forge a well-built FSC, as it offers a total system approach based on scientific knowledge of human behavior, organizational culture, and food safety.

Prioritization of cost-saving and money-earning

A profit-focused mentality is often the main barrier to implementing a positive FSC. Compromising food safety principles to save costs is never a good strategy. It can even be counter-productive as a negative FSC can eventually lead to a food safety incident, generating tremendous economic losses for the organization. An ideal FSC ensures that an obligation to food safety exists throughout the firm that outweighs all other company goals and practices.

Frequent staff turnover

Continuous staff turnover is a common phenomenon in the food sector. High staff turnover requires constant training and supervision to ensure employees’ understand the risks and other essential criteria needed for an adequate food safety climate. It also is challenging to ascertain the commitment and accountability of employees with temporary contracts.

Optimistic bias

Though it is said ‘experience is the best teacher, and the worst experiences teach the best lessons,’ it is always better for employees to realize that they are not immune to food contamination before experiencing a vulnerability to food safety. Every member of a food enterprise should know that they cannot afford optimism bias in terms of food safety, and that it is imperative to be prepared—and on the look out for—worst case scenarios.

How Digitalization Can Assist in Developing and Sustaining a Solid Food Safety Culture

Ideally, a commitment to food safety begins with management and permeates through the organization at all levels. Digital tools, particularly those used to manage the supply chain, can help. By establishing a network platform that integrates the online and offline worlds, digitalization connects all facets of the food production and processing chain. Let us break down how digital tools can be implemented throughout the food industry to enhance supply chain processes while nurturing a strong food safety culture.

1. Setting Expectations 

Digital tools allow for the efficient creation, distribution and maintenance of food safety policies, procedures and protocols. By utilizing digital systems, organizations can document and disseminate clear expectations regarding food safety practices. This includes defining standard operating procedures (SOPs), hygiene protocols and compliance guidelines. These digital resources can be easily accessed by employees, ensuring that everyone is aware of the established standards and expectations.

2. Communication & Training 

The next step is to properly communicate the established strategies among the employees and enforce them. This is where learning management systems and digital employee training platforms come in handy, as they engage and educate employees by conveying information and instructions related to various aspects of the organization. These tech-enabled solutions can also play a vital role in authorizing employees to collaborate via more efficient communication channels, address food safety compliance concerns and initiate appropriate corrective and preventive actions when necessary.

These tools allow companies to create training programs that utilize interactive modules, visual content, videos and quizzes to enhance employee learning and retention, while accommodating diverse learning styles such as flexible self-paced or group training. The training courses can be scheduled and assigned to individuals or groups according to the configured training types. Alerts and notifications can be promptly delivered to relevant personnel to inform them about critical updates and send reminders regarding their training courses. They also help companies track and manage training assignments, ensuring that employees complete required training within specified timeframes. Overall, they empower organizations to propagate information efficiently, advance knowledge transfer and ensure compliance with training requirements, thereby fostering a well-informed and competent workforce.

3. Monitoring 

Scheduling features of tech-enabled solutions offer a valuable means to successfully plan and monitor regular inspections, maintenance tasks and quality checks. Digital task assignment empowers employees to be accountable, confirm that responsibilities are clearly communicated, eliminate ambiguities in executing food business operations and track the progress and completion of each process, elevating the overall transparency of the supply chain process.

Notifications can be automatically generated to alert employees about upcoming inspections or any deviations from standard procedures. It is also possible to maintain an audit log, capturing and storing a detailed record of all food industry activities, actions and events. Another component that can be advantageous for monitoring efforts is a change log, which becomes useful for tracking modifications made to procedures, allowing for traceability, accountability and assistance with regulatory compliance efforts.

4. Reporting 

Digital tools typically include robust dashboards that can provide real-time insights into the supply chain. These intuitive interfaces can display data such as key metrics, compliance rates, inspection results, incident reports and corrective actions taken. Moreover, advanced filtering and drill-down capabilities enable users to delve deeper into specific data segments, facilitating in-depth analysis and comprehensive reporting.

Trend analysis tools can be employed to identify patterns and highlight areas that require further attention. They often incorporate predictive analytics and forecasting models, aiding businesses in predicting demand, optimizing inventory management and reducing waste. Furthermore, employee key performance indicators (KPIs) can be accessed through reporting mechanisms, and trend analysis features, which allows management to gauge employee contributions in upholding a food safety culture.

Tech-savvy solutions, such as food safety management software, are gaining significant traction in the market as they help food enterprises streamline their operations, optimize efficiency, promote transparency and accountability, and ensure compliance with food safety and quality regulations. All of which ultimately serve to instill a responsibility for food safety throughout your organization.


Ransomware: Lessons Learned from One Food Company’s Experience

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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In fall 2021, G&J Pepsi-Cola Bottlers Inc, came face-to-face with a potential ransomware attack and was able to avert it. We spoke with G&J’s enterprise infrastructure director, Eric McKinney, and cybersecurity engineer, Rory Crabbe, to learn more about how they detected and responded to the attack, the steps they have taken to strengthen their cybersecurity, and what advice they have for other food companies in the wake of the near catastrophe.

What happened to G&J back in 2021, and when did you realize something was wrong?

McKinney: Around Labor Day of 2021, we received a really weird call. The callers were acting as if they were friends looking out for our best interest, and they alerted us to the fact that there may be compromises to our system. They showed us a spreadsheet of usernames in our active directory to verify that they were in our systems, and they said we could pay them to prevent an attack. We did not engage with them further—and we think they may have been part of it—but we believed that something was happening.

Eric McKinney
Eric McKinney

We went through all of our servers—we don’t have a large footprint, because we are a cloud first organization—but we did detect some software that should not have been installed on a couple of our servers. We removed that immediately, but we were unable to find the beacons that they leave behind that act as triggers to start encrypting your files.

We made the decisions that if anything happened, we were not going to negotiate, we were not going to try to get our systems back, we were going to shut everything down and roll back. I put myself on call and sure enough I got a call two days later at 3:00 a.m. from one of our people. He was logging in remotely to a server and he said, “Something don’t look right.” I go to his screen and I immediately see the locked files and realize this is really happening.

The thing that saved us ultimately is we use native platform backups. We use Microsoft Azure. So we immediately shut everything down and started rolling back our systems as far back as we could go. Those backup files were not compromised because we don’t leverage backups that tie to a file system within a server. The only way you can touch them is if you have our Cloud credentials, which are all multi-factored.

How did this affect operations?

McKinney: The net impact was our critical systems were down for about seven to eight hours, and we were recovering PCs for almost a week—there were 100 to 150 PCs that were impacted as it continued to move laterally through our organization, and we had to get them all flushed out. We had to roll the system back two weeks, so we lost two weeks of data. That impacted the accounting team the most.

We did experience an event—it was not an almost event. But we never lost a single case of sales and we never paid a single dollar. We took everyone’s computers and blew them away, handed them right back to them and said you’re starting fresh. Fortunately, this only affected employees’ files. They could still get their emails and the things that were in OneDrive.

The things that really worked in our favor were our Cloud-first strategy and getting away from a legacy client architecture. We were still able to communicate. We could send emails, we could set up Teams and we had all the tools to coordinate and get out of this and recover as quickly as we did. The second thing was having those native platform-based backups.

How did this change your digital and cybersecurity strategies?

McKinney: We were doing weekly backups, now we back up every day. And these are full system backups, which means that if you hit restore, the whole system lights back up not just the data but also your operating system that it runs on.

Crabbe: We also reached out to a lot of companies, including Arctic Wolf, who we ultimately began working with to help us figure out what we didn’t know. We worked with them to go through our environment and come up with ideas on how to improve. We are a big Microsoft shop, and we started utilizing a lot of the native tools that we already had such as Defender for Endpoint and the security portal. This addressed a lot of the low hanging fruit, such as automatic updates and not allowing outside vendors to contact us without going through a vetting process.

Rory Crabbe
Rory Crabbe

Arctic Wolf went through our system and sent us a list of recommendations, and a lot of what we did involved utilizing the native tools that we already had, shoring up our defenses, making sure the backups work and creating a disaster recovery plan.

McKinney:  We quickly went from being a business of convenience, where we said, “let’s allow USB drives,” to changing all of our technical policies by turning on all of our attack surface reduction rules. We blocked all logins from outside the U.S. and brought in new team members dedicated to cybersecurity.

I have some self-confidence issues due to this attack because your failures are put on display, and there is a feeling that if you were doing a better job this would have been prevented. But we were a very small team and we were responsible for cybersecurity, ERP (enterprise resource planning) initiatives, development initiatives, support and infrastructure initiatives and data initiatives. When you’re wearing all of these hats things do get missed, and in the end it ended up being one application update. One application patch was exposed, which set all of this off. in terms of where we’ve gotten better, we signed up with an MSP (managed service provider) to monitor our environment 24 hours a day seven days a week. In addition, these companies assist your team by keeping them up to date with the latest techniques and providing proactive communication on things that we should be doing to secure and protect our environment.

We’ve taken a lot of steps over the past two years and we still have a long way to go. We will never stop or become complacent.

There is a concern among some people that the Cloud is less secure, and it’s better to control your own servers. Is that a misconception?

Crabbe: When it’s on premise it is your responsibility. If something happens to your infrastructure, you’ve got to be on call and wake up to deal with that. So not only is the Cloud a reduction in personnel work; it’s also peace of mind. Microsoft has its own team of engineers, and they have physical security in place as well. The Azure building is protected by armed guards to protect the data from physical hackers. It’s a lot easier to apply security policies to something that’s in the Cloud because Microsoft can give you options for all kinds of things that you didn’t even know you needed. This makes it easier to visualize where you are and where you need to go.

McKinney: These are also publicly traded companies that have to follow all of the controls that come with being publicly traded. They’re going to do a better job than the one or two individuals that you have at your company who cannot work 24/7 365 days a year.

I appreciate you guys talking openly about this, because one of the issues that comes up in food defense and cybersecurity is people aren’t necessarily sharing information that could help others recognize vulnerabilities. Is it difficult to share this information?

McKinney: We didn’t want to talk about it for a long time. It’s hard to put your failures—or at least what is perceived as a failure—out there. But when you look around, you realize this can happen to anyone. It happened to MGM with all their resources. And one issue that isn’t discussed very often is, behind the business implications is an incredibly stressed out IT team that really is traumatized by an event like this.

In talking with others who have been through this, it’s often the most stressful thing that’s ever happened in their lives. It certainly is the most stressed out I’ve ever been. You’re thinking, I just cost my company millions of dollars. I shut down my business. We may not be able to get product to our people. So many things flash through your mind, and you really don’t want to talk about it or advertise it. Luckily for us, we had the right systems but most importantly we had really great executive support and great team members to help us recover.

When it comes to access management, companies have to balance convenience for their employees with the need for stringent security. Were employees understanding of the changes you had to make, and how did you communicate these changes in processes?

Crabbe: There was a lot of frustration with people saying this worked before, why can’t we do it now? One of the benefits of being a family-owned company is that we are a fairly small group, so we were able to deal with it on almost a case-by-case basis. We have an internal system that people can submit their issues or requests through, and we review them. For example, if somebody needs to move a device to a USB stick to take to an external vendor, we can look at that and say what alternatives do we have? Can we use OneDrive or another native tool to share that information? Does it have to be a USB stick? Or, if someone is going on vacation in Mexico, they can submit a ticket and we can allow them remote access from a specific country for a specific amount of time so they can log-in. We can tell them yes or no on a case-by-case basis and explain why we made the decision.

McKinney: This event also made us ask questions like, do we even need USB sticks? There are so many other tools we can use. A lot of the changes involved looking at more modern ways to collaborate. And a lot of that revolves around retraining and catching your workforce up with the new tools that we have available.

Based on your experience, what advice would you offer other companies?

McKinney: The IT spend in the food and beverage industry is typically small compared to industries like insurance or banking or health care. You need to capture all the signals from all your systems—emails being sent, open, received, etc.—and you must monitor those. Then you need the right algorithms and the right people to make sense of that data. If you are not able to maintain a large enough in-house team, investigate an MSP. They can ingest all the signals, funnel them and turn all that data into actionable items. Also, store your backups off site and limit access. Don’t store them with your production data.

Crabbe: Shore up your defenses using your native tools and create a disaster recovery plan. Those would be my two biggest recommendations for any company going forward. Dig deep and utilize what you’ve got. There’s probably a lot more available to you than you realize you have, and don’t be afraid to reach out to third-party vendors for help.


Frank Meek, Orkin

Common Pest Control Misconceptions and Myths for Food Processing Facilities

Frank Meek, Orkin

Guarding the integrity of food processing facilities against pests is a mission-critical endeavor, and misinformation surrounding pest control can lead to costly mistakes, regulatory troubles and even potential health risks.

To ensure a safe and pest-free environment for food production, it’s essential to debunk these common misconceptions:

Pest control for my facility is just spraying pesticides, fogging and placing traps. Pest control plans are unique and specifically created to best fit the needs of the individual facility. Years of scientific research on pests’ behavior and trends by Pest Management Professionals (PMPs), university and industry entomologists, as well as product manufacturers go into the curation of such customized plans. Strategies for pest management are wide-ranging, highly individualized and constantly evolving through ongoing monitoring and maintenance.

Pest infestations do not affect other industries. Without sufficient pest control, many industries would be threatened. The pest control industry plays a vital role in the success of public health, structures and property, animal health and supporting the economy.

Pest control in my facility is the responsibility of my pest control provider. Pest control is an all-hands-on-deck responsibility that requires active participation from facility managers, employees, vendors and customers. To assist in helping keep pests out of your facility, be sure to:

  • Inspect all deliveries to your facility to make sure there are no signs of pest activity including droppings, holes in packaging or bugs stuck in packaging tape. If evidence of pest activity is found in a delivery truck or shipment, isolate the truck and refuse delivery of the contaminated shipment.
  • Avoid creating openings in your facility’s structure that may allow for easy access from pests. Seal cracks in walls and windows, add door sweeps and replace broken ventilation covers and installation weatherstripping that is no longer effective.
  • When it comes to pests, early detection—which often comes from your staff—is the best way to avoid a larger, time-consuming and costly infestation problem. Many pest control providers provide complimentary staff training to explain the signs of pest trouble and where one might look to find them.
  • Create and follow vacuuming schedules, sanitation plans and exclusion methods. Make sure to connect with your provider regarding best practices.

Common Pest Control Myths

Aside from pest control misconceptions in food manufacturing specifically, there are several myths to keep in mind when evaluating your pest control options. They include:

For more information, view our on demand webinar, “Top Misconceptions About Pest Control

Electronic Fly Killer (EEK) devices are illegal. These devices are legal, but restrictions exist around where they can be used within the facility.

An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach is the same as “green” pest control. An IPM approach allows pest control providers to look at facilities holistically to determine the most beneficial plan possible. IPM can be more ecofriendly but can also use more specialized treatments depending on the provider and recommendation.

Fogging must be done routinely to control pests. Fogging is not a technique that needs to be completed many times. If pest issues persist, there are several other strategies a pest control provider could recommend within an IPM program that may not be as invasive.

Total release foggers are the same as fumigating. Fogging and fumigation are distinct forms of pest control using different chemicals and processes. Fumigation is much more invasive but may be recommended depending on the circumstance.

A paper logbook is better than a digital one. While both forms of logging can capture accurate information for your pest control provider, digital logs are much less likely to be damaged. Depending on the facility and provider’s preferences, both forms of logging are effective.

It’s the weapon and not the warrior that fixes pest issues. Without sufficient training of pest control professionals, no tool will be as effective as it could be. Using IPM, providers can better diagnose situations and act accordingly.

There is no innovation in the pest control industry. Pest control is always growing and evolving to create the best and least invasive options for your facility. Innovation is a key pillar of the pest control industry, backed by leading entomologists who study pest behavior and best practices.

What Pest Control Is

Now that you understand some of the common misconceptions and myths of pest control, it is important to establish the fundamental details of pest control and its possibilities for your facility.

IPM is an all-inclusive, ongoing and proactive cycle focused on prevention for your facility. After a thorough inspection, providers will implement the most effective customized pest control measures to benefit the needs of the facility. Providers then continue to monitor the program’s effectiveness and perform check-ins as needed to ensure the facility is cared for.

A successful IPM program:

  • Is environmentally conscious and intentional in its measures.
  • Involves the entire staff in the operation.
  • Keeps detailed records of all pest activity and pest control operations.
  • Educates and partners with facility managers to understand the business operations comprehensively.
  • Addresses pest hot spots inside and outside the facility.
  • Inspects the property and focuses on exclusion techniques that help keep pests out of the building.

For the optimal partnership with your pest control provider, always provide documentation of pest sightings and spotting trends in your facility. Implementing a process for staff to report any signs of pest activity can help keep employees aware. Always maintain open lines of communication with your pest control provider and communicate the importance of preventative measures internally.

Navigating pest control in your food processing facility requires dispelling of common misconceptions and myths to help develop the best possible treatment plan for your facility. By fostering an environment of open communication and trust, you can help safeguard your facility, protect your customers and employees, and preserve your business’s reputation and success.



Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine

6 Ways IoT Asset Tracking Ensures Safe Distribution and Better Traceability

By Emily Newton
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Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine

Internet of Things (IoT) sensors are being used in industries across the spectrum, and their potential is far from being realized. The data provided via IoT asset tracking technologies, in particular, can enhance traceability and product integrity, leading to safer food and reducing costly losses. Following are six ways IoT tracking sensors support food safety, traceability and accountability.

Vendor Compliance

Adulteration occurs more often in the supply chain than any professional cares to admit. Some experts estimate it has a $50 billion annual impact on the food industry. Whether motivated by financial gain or product shortages, opportunistic intermediaries will take advantage of poor food traceability and make substitutions, dilutions or falsifications.

To prevent bringing adulterated products to market and keep consumers safe, manufacturers must hold their third-party vendors accountable at every stage of the distribution process, and IoT asset tracking sensors can help. They have the ability to record shipment movements in real time, so companies can ensure that their products and raw materials arrive and remain in the right places at each step in the chain.

Further, manufacturers can reduce the chances of product tampering by using IoT sensors that alert you when someone damages packaging. Bad actors are much less likely to commit food fraud when they know highly sophisticated technology is monitoring their actions and movements.

Damage Detection

Food products, especially those in the cold chain, can bruise, break and flatten relatively quickly, causing financial losses. For instance, grain loses significant value when damaged due to improper handling. Through a combination of IoT sensors and sensing nodes that can track the condition of products and provide relevant, real-time updates, companies can ensure their shipments stay intact throughout distribution and transportation.

Theft Reduction

Cargo theft is a significant problem that’s relatively new to the food industry. According to the FBI, it costs supply chain vendors and retailers up to $30 billion annually. While thieves have historically targeted electronics or high-cost imports, food inflation is making food products a top target as of 2023.

Industrial IoT sensors improve food traceability by tracking a shipment’s movement through the supply chain. They can provide real-time location data or update food-manufacturing professionals when the product reaches a particular destination. Companies can use this data to pinpoint sources of cargo theft, delays or mishandling, increasing product safety and reducing loss.

Spoilage Detection

Spoilage claims 33% of food products manufacturers produce, resulting in over $1 trillion in losses annually. This figure probably isn’t surprising for professionals working in the cold chain, as transportation condition management is incredibly complex and expensive.

Even if food appears fine for human consumption, undetected issues can be catastrophic down the line. A single recall costs a food company over $10 million on average, not accounting for lost sales or reputational damage.

With IoT asset tracking, industry professionals can monitor temperature, humidity and chemical compounds to improve the integrity of their products and ensure safe distribution. They can place sensors inside their vehicles or in packaging to monitor all changes.

Since these sensors provide a complete temperature and humidity account, professionals can even collect data for future use to forecast potential losses when conditions become abnormal. This allows companies to take action quickly to prevent spoilage, dramatically reducing the chances of a recall.

Enhanced Data Collection

An IoT sensor utilizing radio frequency identification (RFID) can collect a massive amount of data on distribution and transportation conditions that industry professionals can gather and store for future use. This information provides insights into route optimization and/or sources of contamination. With the addition of artificial intelligence, these sensors can maximize food traceability by validating everything passing through a gate.

If retailers wish to make some of this information available to end users, they can publish it or use specialized barcodes. Customers will get to review the origin of the raw materials and products, providing increased awareness of where their food comes from and the path it took to get to their store.

Faster Traceability

One in six people every year become sick due to a foodborne illness. It is up to manufacturers, distributors and retailers to ensure product quality and prevent these illnesses. When outbreaks do occur, it is up to manufacturers—both morally and legally—to trace that product and remove it before others are affected.

Luckily, IoT devices meet all the necessary regulatory criteria. RFID and other technologies can trace products in real time and alert the relevant parties of any significant changes. For example, they could track a perishable produce shipment and notify retailers and manufacturers of an extreme temperature spike.

Since these sensors can send out instantaneous alerts, nearby professionals can immediately respond before product becomes contaminated or spoils. Whether they are alerted to temperature fluctuations, suspected tampering or imminent spoilage, they can move quickly to address the concern.

IoT asset tracking is an innovative approach to common industry pain points. It addresses the food sector’s unique needs, taking perishables, food compliance and adulteration into account. With such significant food traceability improvements, manufacturers, distributors and retailers will have a much easier time coordinating their operations to increase safety, speed to market and the quality of their products.