Tag Archives: audits

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Addressing Today’s Food Safety Challenges: Food Safety Consortium Brings Networking, Discussion and Education to New Jersey

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The 10th Annual Food Safety Consortium will take place in person October 19-21 in Parsippany, New Jersey. The 2022 program features panel discussions and breakout sessions that address key issues, challenges and opportunities for food safety and quality professionals.

Keynote “Leading with Science at FSIS” – Dr. Denise Eblen, Assistant Administrator, Office of Public Health Science, USDA, Food Safety & Inspection Service

The three-day consortium will open at 1:00pm on October 19. The keynote address and Q&A with Dr. Eblen of the USDA FSIS will be followed by panel discussions on the State of the Food Safety Industry, moderated by Dr. Darin Detwiler, Director of the Master of Science in the Regulatory Affairs of Food and Food Industries, Northeastern University, and Food Safety Culture: Communicating to the C-Suite, moderated by Deb Coviello, founder of Illumination Partners, followed by an opening night networking reception.

Days two and three feature panel discussions covering food safety culture, technology, supply chain and reformulation challenges and compliance concerns, as well as a presentation by Frank Yiannas, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response. Attendees can join the faculty of more than 25 top-level food safety and quality professionals to discuss:

Food Safety & Quality 4.0: Data Analytics and Continuous Improvement: Jill Hoffman, Senior Director, Food Safety and Quality, B&G Foods, Gina Kramer, Director Partnerships & Learning, Center for Foodborne Illness & Prevention, OSU, and Steven Mandernach, Executive Director, AFDO

Quality & Manufacturing Efficiency: How Does Quality Show Value to the Organization? Gary Smith, Vice President of Quality Systems, Gourmet Foods and Gift Baskets, 1800FLOWERS.COM and John Butts, Founder & Principal, Food Safety By Design

Food Defense & Cybersecurity: Jason Bashura, Senior Manager, Global Defense Pepsi Co.

Diversification of Supply Chain Capacity: Trish Wester, President, Association for Food Safety Auditing Professionals, and Allison Milewski, Sr. Director, US Brand Quality, Mondelēz International

COVID-19 & Food Supply (Research Presentation): Presented by Dr. Donald Schaffner, Rutgers University and Dr. Ben Chapman, North Carolina State University

Product Reformulation Challenges: April Bishop, Senior Director Food Safety TreeHouse Foods, Peter Begg, Vice President Quality and Food Safety, Hearthside Food Solutions and Ann Marie McNamara, Vice-President Food Safety and Quality for Supply Chain, US Foods

Blending Employee Culture with Food Safety Culture: Melody Ge, FSQA Director, StarKist, Co., Mitzi Baum, CEO, STOP Foodborne Illness and Elise Forward

The Crossroads of Strategic, Tactical and Operational Planning in Food Safety Culture: Jill Stuber and Tia Glave, Co-Founders Catalyst

Biggest FSQA Challenges: Shawn Stevens, Attorney, Food Industry Counsel, Jorge Hernandez, VP, Quality Assurance, The Wendy’s Company, and Elise Forward, Founder & Principal Consultant, Forward Food Solutions

FSQA Technology: How Far is Too Far? How to properly analyze new FSQA technology before you sign the purchase order. Gary Smith, 1800FLOWERS.COM, Jorge Hernandez, The Wendy’s Company, and Peter Begg, Hearthside Food Solutions

Risk Assessment: Peter Begg, Hearthside Food Solutions, and Melanie Neumann, EVP & General Counsel, Matrix Sciences International

Audits: Blending in-person with Remote: Laurel Stoltzner, Corporate QA Manager OSI Industries, and Trish Wester, Association for Food Safety Auditing Professionals

Preparing the Next Generation of FSQA Leaders: Dr. Darin Detwiler, Northeastern University, Ann Marie McNamara, US Foods, and Dr. Don Schaffner, Rutgers University

View the full agenda.

Don’t miss out on opportunities to network with other food safety and quality professionals during the opening night reception, networking lunches and coffee breaks, and the Women in Food Safety cocktail reception on October 20.

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

Event Hours

  • Wednesday, October 19: 1:00 pm – 6:30 pm (ET)
  • Thursday, October 20: 8:00 am – 7:00 pm (ET)
  • Friday, October 21: 8:00 am – 12:30 pm (ET)

Register today at foodsafetyconsortium.org.

 

Food Safety Consortium

Registration Open for 2022 Food Safety Consortium

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Food Safety Consortium

EDGARTOWN, MA, March 10, 2022 – Registration for the 10th Annual Food Safety Consortium, which will take place October 19–21 at the Hilton Parsippany in New Jersey, is now open.

The program features panel discussions and breakout sessions that encourage dialogue among mid-to-senior-level food safety professionals. The event kicks off with an FDA Keynote and Town Hall, followed by a panel on the State of the Food Safety Industry and where it is going, led by Darin Detwiler of Northeastern University. Day One closes out with “You Talkin’ to Me?”, an interactive dialogue about c-suite communication, moderated by Deb Coviello, founder of Illumination Partners and host of The Drop in CEO Podcast. Other agenda highlights include:

  • Digital Transformation of Food Safety & Quality: Quality 4.0, Data Analytics and Continuous Improvement, led by Jill Hoffman, Director, Global Quality Systems and Food Safety, McCormick & Company
  • Quality Helping Improve Manufacturing Efficiency: How Does Quality Show Value to the Organization?, led by Gary Smith, Vice President, Quality Systems, 1.800.FLOWERS.COM (Harry & David)
  • What Days FSQA Folks Fear the Most, led by Shawn Stevens, founder, Food Safety Counsel, LLC
  • Product Reformulation Challenges due to Supply Chain Challenges, led by April Bishop, Senior Director of Food Safety, TreeHouse Foods
  • A Consumer-Centric Food Safety Conversation, led by Mitzi Baum, CEO, STOP Foodborne Illness
  • Employee Culture, with Melody Ge, FSQA Director, Starkist Co. and Elise Forward, Founder and Principal Consultant, Forward Food Solutions
  • FSQA’s Role in Worker Rights and Conditions, led by Trish Wester, Founder, Association for Food Safety Auditing Professionals

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

Event Hours

  • Wednesday, October 19: 12 pm – 6:30 pm (ET)
  • Thursday, October 20: 8 am – 5:45 pm (ET)
  • Friday, October 21: 8 am – 12 pm (ET)

Tabletop exhibits and custom sponsorship packages are available. Contact Sales Director RJ Palermo.

Food safety professionals interested in the cannabis market can attend the Cannabis Quality Conference & Expo, which begins on Monday, October 17– Wednesday, October 19. The event features three tracks: Regulations & Policy, Safety & Quality, and Business & Operations. “The CQC is a business-to-business conference and expo where cannabis industry leaders and stakeholders meet to build the future of the cannabis marketplace.”

About Food Safety Tech

Food Safety Tech is a digital media community for food industry professionals interested in food safety and quality. We inform, educate and connect food manufacturers and processors, retail & food service, food laboratories, growers, suppliers and vendors, and regulatory agencies with original, in-depth features and reports, curated industry news and user-contributed content, and live and virtual events that offer knowledge, perspectives, strategies and resources to facilitate an environment that fosters safer food for consumers.

About the Food Safety Consortium

Food companies are concerned about protecting their customers, their brands and their own company’s financial bottom line. The term “Food Protection” requires a company-wide culture that incorporates food safety, food integrity and food defense into the company’s Food Protection strategy.

The Food Safety Consortium is an educational and networking event for Food Protection that has food safety, food integrity and food defense as the foundation of the educational content of the program. With a unique focus on science, technology and compliance, the “Consortium” enables attendees to engage in conversations that are critical for advancing careers and organizations alike. Delegates visit with exhibitors to learn about cutting-edge solutions, explore three high-level educational tracks for learning valuable industry trends, and network with industry executives to find solutions to improve quality, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the evolving food industry.

GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

GFSI Conference Returns In-Person, in Barcelona

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

Returning for its first in-person conference in two years, the GFSI Conference kicks off March 29 in Barcelona with key insights from the world’s largest multinational food organizations. GFSI leadership will discuss its current agenda within the scope of global food supply chain challenges, as well as the connection between food safety and sustainability. During the event, subject matter experts will participate in panel discussions that address recall readiness, audits, building capabilities, multi-stakeholder efforts in the public and private sectors, trust and transparency, innovation across the food safety ecosystem, sustainability and GFSI’s strategic priorities.

The full program, along with registration, speaker and partnership information, is available on GFSI’s website.

Alert

Family Dollar Recall Highlights Need for Sound Pest Management Plan

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Alert

After finding evidence of rodent infestation during an inspection of a Family Dollar distribution facility in Arkansas, the FDA warned the public of usage and consumption of products purchased at certain stores from January 1 through present time. The affected products, which include food, were distributed to Family Dollar stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

“Families rely on stores like Family Dollar for products such as food and medicine. They deserve products that are safe,” said Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, FDA, Judith McMeekin, Pharm.D. in an agency press release. “No one should be subjected to products stored in the kind of unacceptable conditions that we found in this Family Dollar distribution facility. These conditions appear to be violations of federal law that could put families’ health at risk. We will continue to work to protect consumers.”

The FDA inspection followed a consumer complaint and found both live and dead rodents, rodent feces and urine, and evidence of rodent presence, along with dead birds and bird droppings, throughout the facility in West Memphis, Arkansas. After fumigating the facility, 1100 dead rodents were recovered. FDA’s review of company records also revealed a history of infestation, with more than 2300 rodents collected between March 29 and September 17, 2021.

Among the range of hazards associated with rodents include Salmonella.

Family Dollar, Inc. initiated a voluntary recall of the FDA-regulated products that were stored and shipped from the infested facility. The company states that it is unaware of any reports of illnesses related to the recall.

COVID-19 has not slowed down pests, and the last thing a company needs is a failed audit due to preventable pest issues.

 

Eric Weisbrod, InfinityQS
FST Soapbox

Quality in the Cloud: 5 Tools to Remedy Food Safety Fears

By Eric Weisbrod
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Eric Weisbrod, InfinityQS

The food and beverage industry has seen a big push for digital transformation over the past several years. Consumers and regulators alike are demanding increasingly high levels of safety and traceability across the global supply chain—driving food manufacturers to modernize their approach to quality control.

Now, many are looking to retire outdated software or inefficient paper-based systems that limit visibility across their production lines, plants and supply chains. They are exploring modern tools that enable proactive quality and safety monitoring. And fortunately, cloud technology is making this shift easier than ever.

Cloud-based quality management solutions offer simple deployment, rapid scalability and low up-front costs—breaking down many of the barriers to digital transformation. Food manufacturers gain anytime, anywhere access to critical resources needed to maintain product quality, ensure compliance and drive continuous improvement across their organizations.

To make it all possible, food manufacturers should select a cloud-based solution that offers the following features and tools.

1. A centralized data repository for improved visibility, compliance and collaboration

In a traditional manufacturing environment, quality and process data are locked away in paper files, Excel spreadsheets, or on-premises software. These data silos prevent manufacturers from monitoring enterprise-wide quality performance, and inhibit data sharing with external parties across the supply chain.

But the cloud can break down those silos. Cloud solutions provide a single, unified data repository where food manufacturers can standardize and centralize quality data—from all processes, production lines, and sites in their enterprise, as well as from suppliers, co-packers and third-party producers.

The resulting “big picture” view of quality enables food companies to:

  • Perform enterprise-wide analyses to pinpoint problem areas, identify best practices, and prioritize resources—ultimately improving quality and compliance across the entire organization.
  • Verify ongoing regulatory compliance and enforce accountability for all required checks and tests.
  • View supplier data in real time to prevent food safety issues and ensure incoming ingredients meet quality standards before they are ever shipped. Only the highest-quality ingredients get accepted and incorporated into products.
  • Monitor supplier performance to better manage suppliers and prevent supply chain disruptions.
  • Collaborate with contract manufacturers and packers to make sure they uphold quality standards and protect the brand.

2. Real-time SPC for proactive response on the plant floor

A preventative approach to quality and safety just isn’t possible when using manual methods for data collection and analysis. Operators spend valuable time recording data with a pencil and paper, then sift through page after page of control charts—on top of all their other daily responsibilities. It’s easy to see how mistakes could be made and production issues could be missed.

Quality teams are also at a disadvantage, reviewing old data about products that have already come off the production line. Overall, everyone operates in “firefighting” mode. They try to fix one issue after another, but it’s often already too late. Some problems may not be spotted until final inspection, if even caught at all. Manufacturers end up dealing with defective products, wasted resources, and damaging recalls.

The cloud transforms how food manufacturers collect and analyze quality data. Cloud-based statistical process control (SPC) software can automatically collect measurement values from a variety of data sources, then monitor processes in real time. When the software detects specification or statistical violations, automated alarms instantly alert key personnel. The appropriate teams can take immediate action to correct any issue before it gets out of hand.

In addition, food manufacturers can put up further safeguards on the plant floor with “workflows.” Essentially, these are prescriptive guides for responding to quality issues, predefined in the cloud-based quality solution. They help all employees respond consistently and effectively to specific problems, and then document the corrective actions taken. These responses can then be analyzed across an entire company, allowing manufacturers to spot trends and prevent reoccurring issues.

Ultimately, operators and quality personnel can stay on top of potential problems and prevent unsafe or defective goods from reaching customers—without having to manually monitor every line, in every plant, around the clock.

3. Timed data collections to keep everyone on the same page

Routine sampling and quality checks are critical for food safety and compliance with regulatory and industry-specific standards. But how can manufacturers ensure required checks are completed according to schedule? After all, the plant floor is a busy place and where it’s easy for operators to get sidetracked tackling other issues.

Here, cloud-based quality systems can help. These solutions enable manufacturers to set up timed data collections, which send automated notifications to remind operators when it’s time to perform HACCP, CCP, and other critical quality and safety checks. Operators can stay focused on production, without having to watch the clock or worry about missing a check. Plant supervisors also get alerts if a data collection is missed—no matter where they are working—so they can keep everyone on top of compliance.

4. Digital reporting to make audits a breeze

Every manufacturer dreads the auditing process. It is time consuming and resource intensive, adding another layer of stress and complexity to the already complex nature of food production. Those that rely on paper records and spreadsheets usually struggle to piece together and produce auditor-requested information. And failed audits can have major consequences.

Instead, quality records and other compliance documentation can be digitized, stored and made quickly accessible via the cloud. This makes it easy for food companies to pull historical data for specific timeframes. Reports can be produced in just minutes to complete regulatory, third-party certification, or internal audits—rather than the days or weeks it would typically take to put together a report from a complicated trail of paper.

5. Lot genealogy for improved traceability and recall response

Recalls are another big source of stress for food manufacturers. After all, food quality or safety incidents that result in a recall not only hurt profits and brand reputation, but also put the health and lives of consumers at risk. Fortunately, recalls can be mitigated or avoided through better traceability.

Cloud-based quality solutions can help food companies trace raw ingredient lot codes through the manufacturing process and supply chain. With all quality data stored in that centralized cloud repository mentioned earlier, manufacturers can generate genealogical “trees” showing the relationship between incoming ingredients and outgoing products.

This information in critical for preventing and responding to product recalls. If a safety issue is found within a specific ingredient lot, for example, manufacturers can quickly identify output lots where those ingredients were used. They can prevent those finished lots from being released, or in the worst-case scenario, remove those lots from store shelves in a swift, targeted recall.

A Tactical Approach to Digital Transformation

Looking at the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint, it’s clear to see that the industry at large is heading towards a new digital age. Food manufacturers shouldn’t wait to take the first steps, and cloud-based quality can get them on the right path.

While any big change comes with hesitancy, a tactical approach can help ease any fears. Some food manufacturers have started with small-scale projects, deploying cloud-based quality solution to monitor a single process or production line. Leadership teams and employees alike can see how quality in the cloud benefits everyone at all levels of their organization—and then deploy the solution on a wider scale. It is a great way to successfully introduce new digital technology and lay the foundation for future transformation.

FDA

FDA Offers Help to Companies with Supply Chain Disruptions

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

FDA has given an update on its resources to provide the industry with continued assistance as it struggles through the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic.

Dallas Henderson, RizePoint
Retail Food Safety Forum

Does Your Ghost Kitchen Have Skeletons in Its Closets?

By Dallas Henderson
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Dallas Henderson, RizePoint

At the beginning of the pandemic, restaurants were hit hard. Fine dining sales dropped by more than 90%, casual dining was down 75%, and fast casual decreased by 65%. Nearly two years later, the restaurant industry is still reeling. Most restaurants experienced huge financial losses, and many couldn’t survive. Our industry continues to deal with supply chain disruptions, rising prices, skyrocketing rent, labor shortages and other major challenges. To make matters worse, new COVID variants and surging cases has consumers on their couches watching Netflix and avoiding dining out.

Back in March 2020, delivery orders surged by 67%, and now 60% of American consumers order takeout or delivery at least once a week. Online ordering is growing 300% faster than in-house dining. And operators are discovering a colossal opportunity: Ghost kitchens.

Ghost kitchens allow operators to utilize commercial kitchens without the overhead (and expense) of a full restaurant space and staff. They focus solely on prepping and cooking “to go” orders, and don’t have the option of onsite dining.

While the business model may have shifted, ghost kitchens still need to prioritize food safety and quality, just as traditional restaurant kitchens do. As such, they should:

  • Embrace digital tools. Tech tools make food safety and quality assurance much easier to manage. Use digital tools to elevate food safety checklists and audits, track ingredient lists, manage allergen information, spot trends, etc. These solutions can help staff manage food safety processes, quickly, easily, efficiently and accurately.
  • Use sensors. Install digital sensors to check equipment. For instance, these tools can alert the team if a refrigerator or freezer door is accidentally left open, or if temperatures drop below a certain level. Digital thermometers are also essential to check food temps and to ensure foods are cooked properly.
  • Use tech tools for ongoing training. All workers must be trained in food safety, not just upon hiring, but throughout their tenure. Use tech tools to provide regular training and safety reminders. Send small “chunks” of information right to employees’ phones and provide online resources so they have valuable information right at their fingertips. Communicate regularly with employees, sending updates on COVID protocols and other important safety information.
  • Be transparent. Food safety practices used to happen “behind the scenes.” Restaurant guests just assumed that employees were taking proper safety precautions. Today, though, everyone’s demanding safer practices, and they want to see staff wearing masks, more frequent sanitation of high touch surfaces, proper social distancing, etc. Since ghost kitchens are a virtual business, you’ll have to proactively spotlight the safety and quality protocols you follow to reassure customers (and prospects) that you take safety very seriously.
  • Use social media to spotlight your safe practices. Traditional restaurants display health inspection letter grades and reports in their dining areas or storefront windows. Since ghost kitchens don’t have storefronts or dining areas, you’ll need to find new ways to spotlight your commitment to safety. Post information on your website and social media platforms about your meticulous attention to safety and quality to make customers feel safe ordering from you.
  • Audit differently. Pre-COVID, restaurants and other commercial kitchens had third-party auditors come onsite occasionally to inspect their facilities. Now, food businesses—including ghost kitchens—must audit differently, especially when travel restrictions and other COVID-related disruptions make in-person auditing unfeasible. Use a combination of regular self-assessments, remote auditing, and onsite inspections (when possible) to ensure safety protocols are being followed, the facilities are spotless, equipment is working properly, etc. Previously, in-person audits were often viewed as punitive, with the Big, Bad Auditor coming onsite to point out a company’s mistakes. Now, teams are more engaged and invested in the process, making these inspections more collaborative and cooperative. Also, operators are conducting more frequent remote audits and self-inspections, rather than annual or bi-annual onsite audits, which is a great way to identify (and fix) infractions before they become liabilities.
  • Prioritize food safety. Even though your business model may have changed from a traditional restaurant to a ghost kitchen, your focus on food safety must remain top-of-mind. Follow food safety protocols: Cook to proper temps, store foods properly, don’t cross-contaminate, accommodate food allergies, etc. In addition, be sure everyone on your team follows COVID protocols: Frequent sanitation of high-touch areas, frequent hand washing, social distancing, masking and not working when ill.
  • Only work with vendors that prioritize food safety. Be aware of your vendors’ food safety policies. Only work with suppliers that adhere to the strictest safety and quality standards, and make sure that they’re properly certified. New software solutions allow you to easily manage and track supplier certifications.
  • Accommodate food-allergic guests. Train your staff about food allergies. Have a knowledgeable manager carefully oversee meal prep (and answer questions) for food-allergic customers. Designate an allergy-friendly prep area where foods can be prepared without contamination risk. Use clean and sanitized utensils to prepare allergy-friendly foods. Mark food-allergic guests’ meals with a frill pick or special colored container. Put allergy-friendly meals in separate containers for delivery so there’s no risk of cross-contamination.
  • Deliver foods safely. Delivery-only concepts must ensure that foods are kept safe from their kitchen to their customers’ homes. Your drivers should have equipment to keep foods at proper temperatures—hot foods hot, cold foods cold—during delivery. Drivers should also sanitize their hands frequently, including after they touch doorknobs, doorbells, money, pens, etc.

Ghost kitchens are an exciting new chapter for our industry. It has been wonderful to see savvy operators pivot to this new business model to accommodate increased consumer demand for “to go” meal options. While ghost kitchens operate without the overhead and infrastructure of traditional restaurants, they still must prioritize food safety every day, for every shift and every meal.

Waylon Sharp, Bureau Veritas
FST Soapbox

You Are What You Eat: Meeting the Demand For Sustainable Practices and Transparency

By Waylon Sharp
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Waylon Sharp, Bureau Veritas

A very volatile sector, there are always new trends, opportunities and challenges in the food space, as a multitude of factors—including global climate and geopolitical challenges—can cause supply chain disruptions. Sustainable audits are heightening in demand, in order to validate company claims and provide consumers with peace of mind, as the industry continues to evolve with new ingredients, processes and technologies in play.

Consumers Today Demand Sustainable Practices and Transparency

The shift towards sustainability has further been accelerated by COVID-19, as the pandemic has made for more ethical and conscious consumers. According to research from Forrester, 68% of highly empowered consumers plan to ramp up their efforts to identify brands that reduce environmental impact. While there are numerous audits to measure sustainability and social responsibility, trending focus areas in the food space today are around sustainable packaging, water usage and food waste.

Three Ways Food Processors and Manufacturers Can Reduce Their Footprint

Key players across the food industry are stepping up to the challenge and finding innovative ways to minimize their environmental impact. The following are three ways food processors and manufacturers can reduce their footprint.

  • Use Environmentally Friendly Packaging: Food packaging is a major source of waste and pollution. In fact, containers and packaging make up a major portion of municipal solid waste (MSW), amounting to 82.2 million tons of generation in 2018, according to the EPA. Unfortunately, most packaging is designed as single-use, and is typically thrown away rather than reused or recycled. Given the impacts of packaging on the environment, more manufacturers are looking into packaging options that reduce waste and boost sustainability, including wood- and paper-based alternatives. Other manufacturers are developing innovative alternative packaging from biodegradable materials. The same rings true for takeout and grocery delivery, as the demand for home consumption grows, retail and foodservice companies are considering utilizing more sustainable packaging or reduce the use of virgin plastics to offset their impact.
  • Increase Energy and Water Efficiency: Food processing and manufacturing are energy- and water-intensive. In fact, according to the World Resources Institute, the 1.3 billion tons of wasted food annually also includes 45 trillion gallons of water. Water conservation methods can be implemented throughout the entire food chain—from selecting more efficient crops, to using less water within processing facilities and ultimately reducing food waste on the backend of the chain.
  • Reduce Food Waste: According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), nearly one-third of food produced for human consumption gets wasted each year. In fact, the carbon footprint of food waste is greater than that of the airline industry. This also includes the waste of resources used to produce the food including water, soil, transportation and labor. By improving processing and manufacturing efficiencies, we can reduce waste and better manage resources. Implementing systems to categorize and assess food waste can help identify areas for improvement and enable your team to develop a plan to correct.

Value-Add of Sustainability

Sustainability provides benefits to the consumer, the manufacturer and society-at-large. The consumer feels better about making a purchase that is not only better for the planet, but that may also provide health benefits to themselves and their families. The Organic Trade Association’s 2021 U.S. Organic Industry Survey highlights this trend, as organic food has the reputation of being better for your health and more sustainable for the planet. Organic food sales were up 12% in 2020, the highest growth rate in this category in over a decade.

Intrinsically, manufacturers with sustainable programs in place feel better about the work they are doing, knowing that they are supporting a better world. Companies that publicize their green programs and back them up with the applicable certifications can also attract top employees, despite today’s talent wars. Employees are zeroed in on corporate social responsibility and desire to work for a company that aligns with their purpose.

As it relates to the bottom line, the common misconception is that the sustainable choice will cost more. However, as sustainable supply increases due to consumer demand, companies are able to source sustainable inputs more affordably. Furthermore, they can communicate their commitments via certification bodies, through public forums and by labeling products based on their certifications. These approaches help reach and educate consumers at different levels—from their initial research of products to purchases from the store shelves.

Key Certifications and Auditing Technology

To reduce their environmental footprint throughout the value chain and implement more sustainable business practices, food companies can move toward a circular economy business model. By renewing, reusing and recycling materials at every stage of the food supply chain, companies can preserve the critical resources that allow their business to flourish.

There are a wide range of services help food producers make the transition to a more sustainable business model. This includes the GHG emissions verification, and management system auditing and certification or training to standards like ISO 14001 (Environmental Management System), ISO 24526 (Water Efficiency Management System), AWS (Alliance for Water Stewardship), ISO 50001 (Energy Management System) and SA8000 (Social Accountability standard), as well as SMETA (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit) audits. There are also a range of food sustainability-related product certifications including Organic, MSC, ASC and RSPO.

Auditing technology supports a range of requirements and helps teams set achievable targets. It can be used to analyze packaging materials, categorize and assess food waste, and monitor water usage. Newer auditing technology is now blockchain enabled to assess raw materials and packaging, and to ensure third party partners are also socially responsible. This information is packaged into a blockchain solution so that food companies can be confident that the auditing information is correct and secure. Furthermore, this technology provides the added visibility into their network should they have a recall.

How To Initiate or Ramp Up Your Sustainable Programs

For companies interested in kicking off a sustainability program, or branching into new levels of sustainability, a great place to start is training, in order to understand the audit standard. Early on in this process, ensure all parties are onboard and aware of the certification process and related costs—from managers who will be implementing the program daily to board level executives providing the final sign off. Doing this helps allocate sufficient time and resources and avoids surprises down the road.

It’s helpful to work with a third-party consultant through this process, as they are able take a birds-eye-view look to identify gaps in the program and help you achieve specific certification requirements that meet your unique food product needs. If your team works with a consultant to put together a plan that includes auditing, testing, inspection and certification, the right partner can verify that the program meets all the requirements necessary for the certification.

To keep your program running efficiently, arrange regular trainings for employees to stay up to date on the latest requirements and fill any gaps. For more specialized programs, it’s also a good idea to set aside standalone training sessions to avoid information overload.

As the industry continues to innovate, there will be more ways to reduce waste throughout the entire supply chain and build more efficient business models that are better for the company, consumers and the planet. Looking ahead to next year and beyond, the trend towards sustainability and transparency will press on. Ultimately, companies that take the extra steps to be more sustainable are setting a higher standard for industry and supply chain partners and building a pathway for long-term success.

Kari Hensien, RizePoint

Ask the Expert: Now Is the Time to Modernize Audits to Reduce Risk & Audit Fatigue

Kari Hensien, RizePoint

Q: Why would a company think about changing auditing methods if their current process is working well?

Kari Hensien: Simply put, you don’t know what you don’t know. Many companies believe they have a strong auditing program because they have not yet seen a problem. However, that doesn’t mean that an unsafe or noncompliant behavior hasn’t happened, it only means that it hasn’t surfaced.

Problems may arise that are more difficult to catch in an audit. Factories are tired from repeating the same audit for multiple clients, auditors are exhausted from long days and doing the same work twice, and this type of audit fatigue can lead to audits being rushed or errors being introduced in data entry.

Companies have gotten comfortable with more manual auditing processes – clipboards, spreadsheets, binders – as they’ve evolved over several decades. Any change to the status quo will cause some degree of discomfort, so there’s an understandable reluctance to make a change without a major catalyst.

In this case though, the catalyst may not have been within a company, but rather changes to the industry the company operates in. Regulations are stronger than ever, supply chains have become more complex, and suppliers and brands are asking more questions about where their food comes from and how it’s processed. Further, standards bodies have begun the process of requiring digital audit submission for better tracking and that trend is likely to continue.

These changes are happening because manual or traditional auditing creates blind spots in the quality, safety, and risk management program.

  • Data collected manually is difficult to aggregate, which makes spotting trends difficult and delays catching potential issues before they become problems.
  • Manual audits create audit fatigue because results can’t be shared across certifying bodies or inspectors, and suppliers must complete the same audit for each customer.
  • Corrective actions become time consuming and difficult to track without automation.

Q: What options are available to strengthen audit programs?

Hensien: Companies should not have to give up an auditing program they like to adopt new technology. In fact, having a strong process is an advantage when looking to improve the process already in place. This means bringing in technology will be additive rather than disruptive.

Companies that are looking to modernize their quality and risk auditing programs have a variety of options. Digital auditing solutions run the gamut from simple online forms to full enterprise platforms. Here are some of the features companies may find in modern auditing solutions.

  • Digital auditing forms. These are one step above the manual process. Auditors can input data directly into the form and skip the step of then having to transcribe results.
  • Comprehensive reporting. Holistic, timely reporting is a key advantage of moving away from manual audits, and more enterprise quality management platforms will include it. A centralized data warehouse of audit data makes it easy for companies to have visibility into whatever matters most.
  • Data integration. For companies monitoring large supply chains, complex business structures, and external quality indicators, integrating multiple data sources gives a comprehensive look at the factors that contribute to quality and safety. Data integrations bring in information from partners, third-party auditors, and more to get a full view of critical information.
  • Automated corrective actions. Mistakes are inevitable, but how they are handled can make or break a business. Having corrective actions, and their follow up, automated when something is out of compliance takes the guesswork out of whether it’s been handled effectively.

What matters most is that any company looking to improve their existing model take the time to identify what risks exist and how new technology can help mitigate those. For example, not every company needs to bring in data from external sources. But if a standards body they work with recently began requiring digital audit submissions, then digital forms are a logical choice to avoid any audit-fatigue related errors when transcribing data into the submission portal.

Finding the capabilities available to reveal the blind spots that existed in the manual auditing process reduces the friction and fatigue in auditing. Administrators are able to better see and understand all parts of quality and safety management, auditors can spend more time thoughtfully working with those being auditing, and suppliers and factories can share digital audit results with multiple customers rather than repeating the same audit many times.

Learn more about how audit fatigue affects the effectiveness of quality and safety management programs, and how to fight audit fatigue in this free whitepaper.

 

Kari Hensien, RizePointAbout Kari Hensien

As president of RizePoint, Hensien is championing a new continuous quality initiative. Since travel and interpersonal interactions have been devastated by COVID-19, it’s been challenging for businesses to obtain regular third-party audits, which are integral to access and analyze key data and ensure safety compliance across the enterprise. Hensien is facilitating an increased self-assessment auditing model, where businesses and their locations can use RizePoint’s digital platform themselves, resulting in more frequent audits and broader visibility during the pandemic and beyond.

Content sponsored by RizePoint.

Stephen Dombroski, QAD
FST Soapbox

Recent Recalls Emphasize Need for Quality Management Systems in the Food and Beverage Industry

By Stephen Dombroski
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Stephen Dombroski, QAD

Last month, federal authorities enacted a recall process for all Real Water brand products from AffinityLifestyles.com Inc., as a result of a fatality and multiple illnesses that might be linked to the product. In addition to the recall, there are a number of court orders being enacted to retrieve records, documentation and other information from the company. The product in question is bottled water that is chemically treated to enhance its “benefits.”

Over the last 20 or so years, as with many other food and beverage categories, the bottled water market has exploded. It began with Natural Spring Waters, then emerged into what was termed “purified waters.” Over time, carbonation and flavors, both natural and imitation, were added to enhance the products’ appeal to different demographics and to capture market share. The trend has continued to illustrate how both SKU proliferation and catering to the changing needs of the consumer has complicated the industry and made it increasingly complex. Complexity, of course, adds risk.

The Real Water situation brings to light potential issues both for the bottled water segment and for the food and beverage manufacturing industry on the whole. Beverage and food products often utilize additives to enhance flavor, add nutritional benefits, etc. In addition to these additives, many food and beverage products are produced with “reactionary” processes that claim to supercharge, enhance, and/or re-engineer something to a so-called better state. Government regulators monitor these processes to ensure that they do not cause health risks. Enhanced and more stringent labeling laws were enacted at the end of the Obama era and just recently, President Biden signed the FASTER Act that requires manufacturers to list sesame on their labels, as it is now a known allergen. In addition to additives, regulatory agencies monitor the new chemical and reactionary processes used in producing products to ensure that the integrity and safety of these products are not put at risk.

Lessons Learned from the Real Water Recall

Where does the industry go from here, and what lessons can manufacturers take away from the Real Water incident and from the increasingly complex state of food and beverage manufacturing? First, we know regulations will continue to increase, especially as incidents become more commonplace. The industry has been on high alert since the outbreak of COVID-19. Governments and industry will continue to try to determine if the virus can in fact be transmitted through food or food packaging. As food manufacturers experiment with plant-based food alternatives, employ new technologies and react to recalls, they should prepare for continued scrutiny and regulations which will impact how businesses are run.

The question that needs to be answered is: What should food and beverage manufacturers do to prepare for future changes to regulations and prevent potential safety issues?

The answer is: They should implement a quality management system and related business processes and systems tailored for the unique challenges of their industry.

F&B Manufacturers Can Improve Quality Systems to Prepare for Future Regulation and Safety Changes

Many manufacturers already have parts of this system and the processes in place, but it is surprising how many have not integrated them with their other systems. If we use the Real Water issue as a case study, there are a number of things that a manufacturer needs to do from a quality perspective in terms of processes, procedures and systems.

Traceability. Accuracy and timing is critical in the face of any recall. Track and traceability functionality built into the central manufacturing and/or quality system is an absolute must. Technology is available to visually track and trace every lot that goes out the door, whether from a company facility or a co-packer, and note where in the market it has been distributed.

Document Control. The government demanded that AffinityLifestyles.com Inc. turn over all documentation related to its products’ ingredients, processes, etc. Manufacturers need to ensure their document management systems include food safety precautions and that all process and product information needs to be in place.

Product and Process Change Management. Integrating inspection processes with control plans ensures that inspection requirements stay connected during change management. This coupled with non-conformance creation based on inspection failures results in reductions in the cost, time and complexity of change management.

Audit Processes. To comply with ever-changing regulations, effective internal audit programs must be implemented to drive compliance and continual improvement. A closed-loop system should address product, process and system audits to help manage any findings of non-conformance prior to external audits and to allow for corrective actions to be implemented before an issue arises.

Supplier Quality Management. Food safety issues can often be due to a material or food ingredient issue. Monitoring all activities with suppliers by requiring and instituting best practices can help ensure supplier conformance.

Ensuring Ongoing Success and Profitability for F&B Manufacturers

All businesses operate to make money. Food and beverage manufacturers are no exception. But, when the products being made are consumables, the top priorities have to be safety, quality and food integrity. The food and beverage market is changing and evolving. Due to increasing customer demand, consumer preferences, sustainability initiatives and government regulations, manufacturers face more pressure to improve quality. These market changes have resulted in faster life cycles, shorter lead times, and the need for manufacturers to deliver more products faster than before, which puts pressure on the entire organization. Manufacturers in the food and beverage industry are under intense scrutiny to consistently produce safe food. Occasionally, issues occur that are out of a manufacturer’s control, but the producers of food and beverage products still have a responsibility to ensure that all precautions are in place to meet the safety needs of the end consumer. Efficient processes and systems to manage food safety not only meet the required compliance requirements but are a huge step in ensuring ongoing success and profitability.