Tag Archives: communication

Rick Farrell, Plant-Tours
FST Soapbox

Improving Communication on the Food Plant Floor

By Rick Farrell
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Rick Farrell, Plant-Tours

In the food manufacturing industry, a well-trained workforce is essential to maintaining product quality, consumer safety and operational efficiency. In this line of work, everyone must know what they’re doing and be engaged with the task at hand. Yet, ensuring workers are trained, competent, and properly onboarded can be a challenge.

Time is one of the biggest impediments to employee onboarding and training. Most food manufacturers have limited time to offer training before getting new workers onto the floor, and it can be difficult to offer ongoing training in an efficient and effective manner. Part of this is due to the nature of manufacturing work. The production floor is a fast-paced, noisy environment where workers are engaged in time-dependent, manual activities.

Unlike knowledge-based professionals, it’s difficult to train manufacturing workers without interrupting the corporate workflow. Employees can’t be removed from their work for training purposes without disrupting the rest of production or cutting into manufacturing hours.

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This results in high costs and limited opportunities for dedicated training times, leaving many food manufacturers heavily reliant on initial training and onboarding sessions. As a result, employees often complete their onboarding and initial training without fully grasping what they were taught.

In an independent study by the Center for Research and Public Policy (CRPP), workers across the food chain reported not being well-trained. Nearly one third (29.6%) of respondents felt they hadn’t received enough training to perform work safely, 37.2% felt their training was too complicated or difficult to understand, 20.6% said they received too little safety training before doing their job, and only 51.8% reported receiving enough on-the-job coaching.

We can’t onboard new food workers by dumping knowledge onto them during a few preliminary training sessions, then leaving them to work things out on their own. This can result in employees adopting poor work habits from co-workers, becoming disengaged, and leaving the workplace.

How To Bring New Team Members Up to Speed Quickly

Offering only a few information-packed training sessions or learning courses isn’t an effective way to train workers involved in motor skill-based work. Employees trained this way tend to find the information hard to understand, are likely to forget what they’ve learned, and may have difficulty translating theoretical knowledge into practical work tasks.

If you want to get new hires up to speed faster, offer learning that’s action-oriented, continual, and manageable. Employees, especially new hires, also need immediate feedback on whether they’re performing their work correctly. This requires direct, mid-task guidance and corrective observations rather than delayed video training.

After your initial onboarding and training, employees need ongoing training to reinforce initial learning, deepen knowledge, shore up weak spots, and provide updates. This is best done in brief stretches of around five to seven minutes. Longer learning sessions can overload workers, leading them to tune out, lose focus, and forget. Brief, tactical training sessions are far more effective and efficient, and can be used for on-the-spot training and knowledge refreshment.

Supplement these short training programs by placing multimedia training materials, such as videos or recorded reminders, in break rooms, locker rooms, and other areas where workers spend downtime. Offer mobile coaching tools, apps, and handouts for independent learning.

Peer support can be invaluable in onboarding and training new employees. Workers joining a new organization look to their co-workers to understand how things are done and what values are truly upheld.

By incorporating rapid skill acquisition tactics, environmental learning cues, and approved employee partnering or mentoring programs, companies can onboard and train new employees more quickly, while keeping training requirements manageable and efficient for the organization.

How to Keep Workers Safe and Happy

In the CRPP report, 60.5% of food production supervisors and managers felt that lack of training was the primary cause of workplace injuries within their facility. Employees who are well-trained, supported, and socially engaged report higher levels of job satisfaction and happiness. In addition, they are more comfortable letting higher-ups know about potential issues, leading to a safer work environment and end product.

Therefore, companies must consider cultural onboarding that includes constructive communication and social interaction with coworkers and supervisors, in addition to skill-based and protocol training.

Happy and satisfied workers experience high levels of social exchange with their organizations, leaders, and peers. Good communication allows them to share information, integrate into the culture, become more invested in their work, and achieve positive outcomes.

Manufacturers can support a safer, more productive, and happier working environment by facilitating productive communication on the floor.

Tools and Strategies That Support Effective Communication

Quality on-site communication can be achieved through strategically selected channels and technologies. Most organizations already have effective ways to broadcast communications and offer mass learning opportunities. For example, emails with safety reminders, tips, process guidelines, or recommendations can be blasted out to various employee segments. Video displays, posters, and other media forms can be placed around the environment to provide warnings or critical reminders, while apps and online courses can be used to facilitate independent, self-paced learning.

These are all, however, impersonal mechanisms that don’t connect workers with supervisors who can guide, assess, or correct their knowledge. The real challenge for food manufacturing has always been how to train employees while on-the-job.

Common challenges for management include spending enough personal time with new hires, correcting errors spotted from a distance, guiding workers without interrupting workflow and providing ongoing training without removing workers from the production line.

These specific issues can be resolved with technology that allows instant communication at a distance, such as two-way communication headsets. Two-way headsets enable one-to-one or one-to-many conversations, providing clear audio even on noisy plant floors.

Industrial communication devices can be used to facilitate ad hoc, personalized onboarding assistance or coaching from coworkers and team leaders. Trainers can use headsets to remain connected with new hires, provide training as needed, offer instant corrections, and assess entire groups at a time. To further boost onboarding, experienced peers can be offered headsets to guide new workers.

Food manufacturing has always been a tech-forward industry. Safe and efficient operations depend on the effective use of new technologies. By continuing to investigate and adopt new tools and strategies, manufacturers can continue to drive business objectives forward while bolstering on-the-job safety, performance, and employee satisfaction levels.

Melody Ge
Women in Food Safety

Don’t Let the Challenges Distract You

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Melody Ge

Compassion is at the core of food safety, and it is a trait that shines through for anyone who has had the opportunity to meet Melody Ge. As the Director of Food Safety & Quality Assurance (FSQA) at StarKist, which produces nearly 50% of canned food goods on the market, and founder of Women in Food Safety, Ge has devoted her career to helping others—both by protecting consumers and by nurturing young professionals.

We spoke with Ge to learn more about her background, her career and what drives her success as a food safety leader.

What led you to a career in food safety?

Ge: My mom worked for food safety labs, and I knew that she was doing something good that was helping society. After graduating from University of Maryland with a Food Science, Technology and Nutrition degree, I started my job with Beyond Meat in R&D and food safety & quality. During my time there, I was on a business trip with one of my grad school classmates who accidently had a serious shrimp allergic reaction at a restaurant where we ate together during the trip. Even though he emphasized that he is allergic to shrimp to the waiter. This was over 10 years ago, and it still gives me goose pumps. I am always a person willing to help, and to see him go through that was a traumatic experience.

At that moment, I understood firsthand the critical role that food safety plays in society. That experience combined with my own work experience made me want to focus on food safety, and I found my passion. I started to focus my career path on safety and quality by working for GFSI CPOs, EU retailers, manufacturers, and other stakeholders.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced working in food safety and quality assurance?

Ge: I always say that FSQA professionals are heroes because they take a lot of what they do to heart. They put a lot of responsibility on their own shoulders to protect consumers. Often, FSQA professionals are seen as the police of operations. So, communication is one of the challenges: how we can translate the technical knowledge and share the sense of urgency to other department stakeholders within the company so we can achieve FSQA together within the business?

The other challenge is on the technical side. We deal with an evolving environment. For example, what we knew about listeria 10 years ago is different than what we know today. The regulations are always changing. Hence, keep ourselves updated and keep learning are crucial.

Do you have any tips or strategies on how to do that in the midst of doing your day-to-day job?

Ge: My advice would be to use the pieces or fragments of time. You don’t have to devote two hours of your day to learn a new policy, for example, the new FDA traceability rules. Sometimes, while I’m sitting down having my coffee, I am scanning the news, and that’s learning. When I’m having lunch, I try to look at some webinar recordings, and that’s learning. When you have small pieces of time throughout the day, you actually can learn quite amount of new information. Subscribe to the industry publications like Food Safety Tech and Food Quality, and learn from everyone around you. I learn from my team and my coworkers. I also send them to webinars and then we learn from each other.

You mentioned that a lot of people view FSQA as the police of the company. How do you overcome that?

Ge: Being an influencer, proactive communicator and trusted member of the team are keys to success. I find a way to communicate all these important aspects to the team at Starkist. I do feel lucky that at Starkist I am working with people who are aware of food safety and quality constantly. And now with social media and the direct face to consumers it offers, people overall are more aware of food safety and quality. There is a fundamental basic knowledge out there.

I try to use the audience’s language, whether its senior management or production employees. I also stay connected with the line people. Every time I’m in the plant, I walk with them and talk with them. I make them aware that I’m not picking on them; it’s about the products that get produced and consumed. And I am still practicing this every day to be better.

You are also the founder of Women in Food Safety. When did that group start, and what led you to put that together?

Ge: The group started in January 2020 with the intention of helping the younger generations. The initial idea was to provide a resource and a platform for students and industry, and this evolved after I met my committee members. Now we have two missions:  First to pipeline the younger generation and second to help bridge the gap between academia and industry.

We have five focuses:

  • Diversity in Culture. We really focus on supporting people who are coming from different cultures to help them adapt within their companies.
  • Adventure Starts. This is for the students and early first and second year professionals in the industry
  • Leadership. Believe it or not, there were a lot of females stuck in at the manager level for over eight years, and then it’s very hard to move up. This focus is to help them climb that ladder to eventually become an executive in the industry.
  • Boots on the Ground. One of the challenges in food safety is how we work with the line people at the plants to communicate food safety and how to adapt our working style in the manufacturer environment.
  • Work and Life Balance. This is not just for women who are having children; it’s also about how to take your breaks in life, enjoy your downtime and your family, and still stay up to date and come back to the industry as a new leader or professional at any time you are ready again.

How can people get involved in Women in Food Safety?

Ge: We have a LinkedIn group. You do need to be approved to get in just to keep the group focused on the mission and the industry needs, and keep it from being diluted into a commercial group. The group now has around 900 members. With our two—almost three—years partnership with Food Safety Tech, we have more and more influence. We now hold in-person events at the Food Safety Consortium and also at IAFP with the students. We also have a website, and it’s free to subscribe.

If you could turn the clock back to when you were just starting in the industry, what would you tell your younger self and would you have made different decisions?

Ge: I would say, “You are on the right path! Don’t let the difficulties and challenges happening in your career distract you or change you. You know who you are and you know what you’re doing.”

I don’t regret any of my decisions because they all made me the Melody I am today. In some cases, I chose to leave a very good boss for a better career, which was very hard for me. Those decisions and challenges still make me sad till today but I don’t regret those moves.

When people ask me, “How did you get such a wide variety of experience?” It is because I stepped out of my comfort zone, even though it was scary. I made decisions for myself that long-term I knew were going to help my career.

What advice would you offer professionals who are just starting their careers in food safety?

Ge: Try different things and say yes. Just say yes! Every time I get the question, “Can you do this?” I say, “Yes!” and then I figure it out. Don’t hesitate when there are new opportunities, and learn from anything you do at the moment. When I first started, I worked for three years in customer service. I answered emails and phone calls from suppliers who had technical questions. Was it a really fun job? Maybe not. But it helped me so much even up to today when I’m implementing any GFSI CPOs, I remember the details of the clauses. So, enjoy what you do—that is the foundation of doing a job well. Be patient, and keep in mind that nothing you do will be wasted. It’s all part of your own puzzle, and those pieces will eventually all come together.

What’s your opinion on mentors and mentorship?

Ge: One thing about mentoring I do want to share is that it is not a matter of saying, “I need a mentor so I’m going to go out and find myself one!” Mentoring is a concept. It’s a chemistry that naturally happens between two people learning from each other. You know this person will help you; or maybe it’s their style that influences you, and you don’t feel awkward to be vulnerable in front of them. There are many professionals in the industry who are my mentors—sometimes they might not know it. I learn from them and translate what I learn in a way that I can maintain based on my personality, so it’s sustainable.

What’s the main driver that keeps you in food safety?

Ge: Every day is a different day. I am not a person who likes doing things according to a preset list, meaning when you walk into the office you know exactly what you’re going to do that day. I enjoy investigating and identifying problems and finding solutions. That’s what keeps me in FSQA.

Another thing is this is a very friendly industry. I really like the people who work in food safety and quality. We are open to each other. We share best practices and knowledge. We ask questions and we share knowledge. We are like friends and family.

What are some of your hobbies or interests outside of work?

Ge: I try to learn something new every year. Each January, I set a personal goal for myself for the year. For example, in the past, I have learned photography, flamenco, surfing and so on. Some I maintained, and some I don’t because I don’t like them after I tried. Last year, I started learning Korean. I am a scuba diver and a yoga instructor. I try to explore new things each year. I am not an expert on those different things, but they expose me to new ideas, which keeps me energized.

 

FSC C-Suite Panel 2022

Communicating to the C-Suite

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FSC C-Suite Panel 2022

Food safety and quality assurance leaders are competing for a finite number of dollars within their respective organizations. Securing support or funding for new equipment, training or personnel can be challenging. Understanding the competing pressures and needs of corporate leaders can help FSQA professionals get their message across and ensure a commitment to food safety.

At the 2022 Food Safety Consortium in October, Deb Coviello, CEO, founder and business advisor at The Drop In CEO, moderated a panel discussion “Communicating to the C-Suite.” Panelists Peter Begg, senior vice president of quality and food safety at Hearthside Food Solutions, Melanie Neumann, JD, executive vice president and general counsel of Matrix Sciences International, and Ann Marie McNamara, vice president of food safety and quality for supply chain, manufacturing and commercialization at U.S. Foods, shared their tips and best practices for getting your message across in the board room.

When approaching the C-suite with updates and asks for financial support, you want to be both confident and concise. “If you can’t explain in five to seven slides what you need and why, you will lose them,” said Begg. “And it is very likely that you yourself do not understand the issue or are unclear of the implications and what the C-suite needs to know.”

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McNamara tries to keep it to one slide and encourages FSQA professionals to: know your audience, stick to the facts, and communicate like an executive by using their terms and focusing on goals and metrics.

“You have to take off your FSQA hat and put on your business hat,” she said. “You can’t just be a technical expert, you need to be a translator and communicate the technical into business terms.”

Equate Risk to Dollar Amounts

If your consumers are at risk due to poor training, difficult-to-clean equipment or other concerns, you need to quickly equate the risk to a dollar amount when communicating with the C-suite. “You can use baseline data to quantify your risks,” said Neumann. For example, if you have a problematic piece equipment, look at the frequency and likelihood of inspection and the potential findings, and share this information as part of your presentation.

She follows a “go back to kindergarten” strategy to help develop a compelling presentation: learn and share the basic math, follow your ABCs by using clear, concise language and “do some show and tell,” said Neumann. In one instance, she brought a joint with multiple weld points from the floor to the board room to illustrate why this particular piece of equipment was so difficult to sanitize and had become a site of contamination. The leadership agreed to replace it.

“You need to be specific, and pick your battles,” said Neumann. “For example, if you need more ‘help,’ what does that look like—do you need more people, more training, a new system?”

Building Your Confidence

Standing in front of a group of executives to fight for your department can be intimidating. If public speaking is not your forte, practice speaking in front of a group. “Share your presentation with your team and ask what questions they would have to get feedback and input,” said McNamara.

Doing regular check-ins with the CFO regarding future resource needs, rather than waiting for a quarterly or annual presentation opportunity, can help you get a headstart on coming asks. In fact, developing relationships with all C-suite leaders is key to keeping food safety needs top of mind. “Introduce yourself to new leaders and understand how they want to be communicated with (i.e., text, email, phone),” said Begg. “Do regular check-ins with leadership and recommend quarterly presentations to keep them up to date.”

While all three panelists encouraged FSQA professionals to avoid getting emotional and focus on the facts as well as dollars and cents, you do want to remind executives of the impact of failure to act on food safety concerns. “Explain the financial risks and speak in terms of the impact to them, ‘What we want everyone in the company to understand is your loved ones are eating this food,’” said Begg.

 

 

 

 

 

Vanessa Lindstrom, United Airlines
Women in Food Safety

The Power of Communication

By Melody Ge
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Vanessa Lindstrom, United Airlines

As the global director of food safety and regulatory compliance at United Airlines, Vanessa Lindstrom is responsible for catering and lounges worldwide. When I first met Vanessa, I was impressed by her immediate confidence and positivity. During the conversation, she talked about the power of being positive, especially in today’s world and with the job functions we serve, and the importance of being resilient.

Vanessa was born and raised in Mumbai, India. She spent the first half of her career in the pharmaceutical industry and the second half in the food industry. The first job she got after earning her master’s degree was a management trainee position with a pharmaceutical company in the quality assurance department in India. From there, Vanessa moved to Australia and got a quality assurance position with a German multi-national pharmaceutical company. She always thought she would stay in the pharmaceutical industry—until she received a call from a headhunter for a position with Coca-Cola. The company gave her so many opportunities to learn and brought her to the United States to develop FSSC 22000 for a facility in California. Following this position, Vanessa had an opportunity to work for Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, where she was exposed to EU culture before she joined United Airlines.

Certainly, there were so many decisions and experiences gained with each opportunity. Vanessa’s advice is to believe in yourself and your capabilities, and to be willing to take risks. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The phrase might sound easy, but it can be hard to execute.

Melody Ge: How would you describe the values that support your success and drive you through all the changes and decisions involved in working with different cultures?

Vanessa Lindstrom, United Airlines
Vanessa Lindstrom, global director of food safety and regulatory compliance at United Airlines

Vanessa Lindstrom: I would say being open minded, having a willingness to learn and staying authentic. No matter who you meet, you can’t be guarded. Keeping your mind open helps when meeting with different groups of people who have different cultural backgrounds, and having a willingness to learn will help you become part of the group. I always try to bring my authentic self to every situation, regardless of whom I am meeting. Let me use my first job as management trainee as an example: Typically, you are only trained for one or two functions; but I was always curious and got my hands into everything that I could, and I asked lots of questions. I was like a sponge, and I learned so much, from materials management to supply chain to operations to quality assurance. Although it was a one-year training program with no guarantee of any permanent positions with the company, I ended up spending six years there working as a technical services executive after completing the training program. Those experiences set the foundation for my career. When I moved to Australia, I had no idea about pharmaceutical companies and locations when I first arrived. So I opened the yellow pages and hand wrote more than 100 cover letters to get a potential interview and job opportunity. The lesson there is to always try, because you don’t know where life will lead you.

On the other hand, use logic and science to do the right thing, which also has been my approach in working with different companies and countries. You must trust your judgment, no matter the situation. Be able to articulate to every audience—from the CEO to the shop floor employee. You have to be logical in your thoughts, use data and facts, and be able to talk to people in a way that is relatable versus fully technical. Each person is motivated and driven in a different way. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach or a one-size-fits-all. The challenge as a leader is to figure out what’s going to work and support the team with what they need.

Ge: Looking back at your career, would you say your path was planned?

Lindstrom: No, never—despite the fact that I keep telling my kids that they need to have a plan for the future. As I reflect on those conversations, I know, no matter what plan or vision I had for myself in terms of a career, I couldn’t have dreamed up where I am today. When an opportunity comes to you, oftentimes, it is when you are unprepared. You have to be open minded to the possibilities. Sometimes, you are going into an area that is uncharted territory, but you should have the confidence that you can figure it out, and from there success will come.

Ge: Can you share a story from your career that still has an impact on you today?

Lindstrom: For me, the most impactful story that I can tell is from when I was the QA manager at one of the Coca-Cola facilities in 2008. We received word from corporate that we would not be able to supply products to Walmart unless we had GFSI certification. At first, I thought, what is GFSI? I started learning and working with different departments on which scheme we should be certified. We chose FSSC 22000 because our existing system was ISO based. My biggest concern was the culture, in particular, the challenges that come with document control. So, I decided to move everything to digital. Of course, it was difficult, as the workforce consisted of multiple generations and diverse cultures. It was quite an effort to convince and explain to everyone that digital was the direction we should go. Everyone was challenging me to justify the decision to go digital and achieve certification within 12 months. Other than saying they would keep their job, I didn’t have a way to motivate the frontline team and get their buy in. So, I went to my management and asked for $50,000 in funding for a big party to celebrate if we eventually got the certification. Management approved, and I conveyed it to the team—that I needed their help and support to get the facility certified, and that afterward, they would get a party that they wouldn’t forget. After strong teamwork, we passed the audit. We went out for a big celebration and I can’t express how excited everyone was. We shut down production entirely and took everyone to Dave & Buster’s. Every single employee enjoyed the celebration. We gave them t-shirts that said we are FSSC 22000 certified. They were proud and rewarded for the accomplishment. It was a satisfying moment for the team and management. We went from having nothing in place to achieving FSSC 22000 certification and actually being a leading facility among the 67 Coca-Cola facilities.

Ge: What is your advice to young professionals who are just starting their career?

Lindstrom: My advice to young people is, you can’t just run away when there is an obstacle, and constantly change jobs to avoid difficulties. The bad boss, bad teammates, or the issues you have at your first job—they will exist in every single job afterward if you don’t learn how to overcome them or work through the difficulties. The only control that you have is to get over them yourself. If you run away, as soon as you encounter any issues or challenges, I can guarantee you those issues will be with you with any jobs you have because you are not learning how to communicate and deal with that situation.

Ge: What is your opinion on unconscious bias, and do you see any progress? Any suggestions related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)?

Lindstrom: I first heard about unconscious bias about 15 years ago. It was very interesting to become aware of the bias that exists. However, it’s very easy to choose to be a victim and say, everyone is against me because I am an Asian; or because I am a woman; or the entire environment is against me because they are biased. Being aware that bias exists, you need to know that you can’t use it as a crutch in your career. In today’s world, at United Airlines, diversity, equity, and inclusion are not just buzz words; the company is making a very deliberate effort to address it through different approaches within the company or through the broader community. On one hand, when an organization becomes aware of the DEI, you have to make sure that you are self-aware in terms of how you are dealing with different cultures, age groups, genders and different religions, etc. Take time to understand DEI and unconscious bias, talk to leaders that have experience with DEI and work through any situation, and do not immediately blame unconscious bias.

Ge: What advice can you offer to professionals who feel they are being treated unfairly?

Lindstrom: Communication is the key. In some cultures, communication is direct, whereas in others, it is not. Be aware of how you are going to proceed. Position power in today’s world is long gone, and it is in the past. It’s more about networking within your company and being able to influence others. For example, if I know I am going into a meeting that is going to be tough, I make sure that I have prepared well. Fundamentally, people all want to do the right thing, but they just don’t always know the right way to get there. They might have done something for a long time, and it takes time to change perspectives. Take the time to explain your self and the “why”, and that will go a long way.

GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

Reimagining Food Safety Through Transparency and Open Dialogue

By Maria Fontanazza
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GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

Last year’s annual GFSI Conference was held in Seattle just weeks before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. This year’s event looked very different, as it joined the virtual event circuit—with hundreds of attendees gathering from across the globe, but from the comfort of their homes and offices. The 2021 GFSI Conference reflected on lessons learned over the past year, the fundamentals of building a better food system, and the idea that food safety is a collaborative effort that also encompasses training programs, effectively leveraging data and capacity building.

The pandemic provided the opportunity to reimagine safer, more resilient and sustainable food systems, said Dr. Naoki Yamamoto, universal health coverage, assistant director-general, UHC, Healthier populations at WHO. She also offered three clear messages that came out of the pandemic:

  • Food safety is a public health priority and a basic human right. Safe food is not a luxury.
  • Food safety is a shared responsibility. Everyone in the food chain must understand this responsibility and work towards a common goal.
  • Good public private partnership can bring new opportunities and innovative solutions for food safety. We need to seek more collaborative approaches when working across sectors to achieve foods safety.

During the session “Ready for Anything: How Resiliency and Technology Will Build Consumer Trust and Help Us Mitigate Disruption in the 21st Century”, industry leaders discussed how the pandemic reminded us that a crisis can come in many forms, and how applying the right strategy and technology can help us remain resilient and equipped to address the challenges, said Erica Sheward, GFSI director.

“When you think about business resiliency—it’s about our own, but most importantly, it’s about helping our customers become more resilient to those disruptions,” said Christophe Beck, president and CEO of Ecolab. He added that being able to predict disruptions, help customers respond to those disruptions, and provide real-time control to learn and prepare for the next pandemic or serious crisis is critical. Companies need to ensure their technology systems and contingency plans are ready to go, advised David Maclennan, chairman and CEO of Cargill. The key to a resilient food supply chain system is access and the ability to keep food moving across borders. And above all, whether dealing with a health crisis or a food safety crisis, consumers must always be front and center, said Natasa Matyasova, head of quality management at Nestle. “In short term, [it’s] first people, then business contingency, and then help the community as needed,” she said.

Food Safety Consortium

2020 FSC Episode 12 Preview: Food Safety Culture

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Food Safety Consortium

Episode 12 of the 2020 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series features a discussion on how food safety professionals can bridge the gap between the C-Suite and Food Safety. The presentation is given by food safety attorney Shawn Stevens of Food Industry Counsel, LLC, and followed by a TechTalk from Michael Alderson of STOP Alliance.

As part of a special offering, Episode 12 been made available for viewing on demand for free. Register to view the on-demand recording.

FDA

FDA’s New Outbreak Table an Effort Toward Earlier Transparency about Outbreaks

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

FDA has released an outbreak investigation table that aims to disseminate information about foodborne illness outbreaks right when the agency begins an investigation. The table, published by the FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) Network, will be updated with important information before a public health advisory or food recall is issued.

“The outbreak investigation table is a demonstration of our continued commitment to more frequent and transparent communication with stakeholders and consumers about outbreaks we’re investigating,” said Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response at FDA, in an agency statement. “We have already taken steps to release information early, in some cases prior to a specific food being linked to an outbreak, including in our recent communications on investigations into three ongoing E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks.”

As of November 18, the table listed seven outbreak investigations, only one of which identified a product linked to illnesses. Yiannas pointed out that during the early stages of an investigation, there may not be any action that a consumer can take—however, the tool is in line with the New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative, which commits to releasing outbreak information in the “earliest stages of an investigation”.

The FDA’s outbreak investigation table is available on the agency’s website.

Mikael Bengtsson, Infor

As COVID-19 Stresses Food Suppliers, Technology Steps In

By Maria Fontanazza
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Mikael Bengtsson, Infor

The theme of better traceability and more transparency is a theme that will only grow stronger in the food industry. Just last week we heard FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas talk about the agency’s recently proposed FSMA rule on food traceability during the 2020 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series. In a recent Q&A with Food Safety Tech, Mikael Bengtsson, industry & solution strategy director for food & beverage at Infor, explains yet another role that technology can play in helping companies maintain agility during changes that affect the supply chain such as the coronavirus pandemic.

Food Safety Tech: How can food suppliers mitigate the risks of foodborne illness outbreaks under the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and with limited resources?

Mikael Bengtsson: Food safety must always be a top priority for any food and beverage company. The risks associated with contamination can have a severe impact for public health, brand and company reputation. Safety routines are therefore always of the highest priority. In today’s situation with COVID-19, the stress on safety is further increased. Now, it’s not only about keeping products safe but also keeping employees healthy. One progression and resource that all food suppliers must follow is the FDA [FSMA rules], which require suppliers to be diligent and document their compliance. Especially now, while suppliers are faced with limited resources and additional stress during the pandemic, they must rely on the basics—ensuring masks are worn in and out of the workplace, washing hands for at least 20 seconds prior to touching any food, and remaining six feet apart from co-workers. When it comes to a crisis like COVID, take solace in knowing suppliers can rely on the basics—even when conditions are strained.

This year we have seen many companies having to adapt and change quickly. Demand has shifted between products, ingredients have been in shortage and many employees have had to work from home. Some were better prepared than others in adapting to the new situation. Technology plays a big role when it comes to agility. Regarding food safety, there are many proactive measures to be taken. The industry leaders establish transparency in their supply chain both upstream and downstream, use big data analysis to identify inefficiencies, as well as couple IoT with asset management systems to foresee issues before they happen.

FST: How can technology help suppliers meet the growing consumer demand for transparency in an end-to-end supply chain and improve consumer trust?

Mikael Bengtsson, Infor
Mikael Bengtsson, industry & solution strategy director for food & beverage at Infor

Bengtsson: Communication with consumers is changing. It is not only about marketing products, but also to educate and interact with consumers. This requires a different approach. Of course, consumers are loyal to brands, but are also tempted to try something new when grocery shopping. After a new study is published or a new story is written, consumers are likely to shift their shopping preferences.

It is therefore important to build a closer connection with consumers. Companies who have full supply chain visibility, transparency and traceability have detailed stories to tell their consumers. One way they can build these stories is by including QR codes on their packages. The consumer can then easily scan the code and be brought to a website that shows more product details—e.g. who was the farmer, how were the animals cared for and what sustainability efforts were involved. These are all important aspects to build consumer trust. According to researchers at MIT Sloan School of Management, investing in supply chain visibility is the optimal way to gain consumer trust, and can lead to increased sales.

FST: What technologies should suppliers leverage to better collaborate with trading partners and ensure consistent food safety procedures?

Bengtsson: When a food safety problem arises, batches, lots, and shipments need to be identified within minutes. Manufacturers must be able to trace all aspects of products throughout the entire supply chain—with complete visibility at the ingredient level—from farm to table, and everything in-between. An efficient and transparent food supply chain requires extensive collaboration and coordination between stakeholders. New technologies can extend both amount of collaboration possibilities and the impact of those collaborations. In order to maintain a transparent, efficient food supply chain, companies need to invest in modern cloud-based ERP and supply chain systems that incorporate the increased visibility of the Internet of Things (IoT) with data sharing, supplier and customer portals, and direct links between systems—all aimed at facilitating joint awareness and coordinated decision-making. Modern technologies that enable transparency will also have the added benefits of meeting consumer demand for product information, identifying and responding to food safety issues, reducing food waste, and supporting sustainability claims.

Shub Degupta, Mesh Intelligence
FST Soapbox

Driven by COVID-19 Disruptions to Find a Better, Data-Driven Way to Manage Food Supply Chain Risk

By Shub Degupta
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Shub Degupta, Mesh Intelligence

The COVID-19 pandemic emphatically laid bare the supply chain and supplier vulnerabilities that we face in our increasingly global food supply chains. Last month my company, Mesh Intelligence, convened a group of 14 leading supply chain, risk, sourcing and food safety executives drawn from some of the largest and most innovative food companies around the globe and in all aspects of the supply chain—from manufacturing, importing, distribution, logistics and retail. They volunteered their time to explore new solutions to better manage risk in their global food supply chains and are working together to develop and guide a lasting solution to address the challenges they faced across the past few months and manage supply chain in a more uncertain environment.

Zeroing In on the Need for Practical Solutions to Address Critical Issues

The group discussed how the tools and processes they currently use to manage supply chains are inadequate in identifying the scale, scope and intensity of new issues that arose during the pandemic and, more importantly, how these solutions need to be augmented in the future. To zero in on practical solutions, this group focused on the most critical challenges to address; understanding the best practices to tackle these issues; and guiding the development of data driven, practical and scalable solutions to predict risk.

Key insights from the group discussion include:

  1. The need for early, actionable warning on risk. Food organizations are seeking actionable, early warning signals about upcoming supply chain issues. Risk alerts, if they do exist, currently tend to be disaggregated and dispersed within an organization and executives struggle to understand the full picture.
  2. The need to communicate risk across the organization and the supply chain. Executives are seeking ways to communicate forecasted risk in fact-based and data-driven ways across key stakeholders within and outside the organization. There was clear interest in ways to engage suppliers and parties up and down the supply chain.
  3. Focusing on the most important risks and scenario planning a workable approach. Organizations are seeking ways to future proof their supply chains and increase resilience. By ensuring that their strategies are tested to withstand likely scenarios and situations, organizations improve their ability to work under increased uncertainty.
  4. The ability to continuously monitor and vet suppliers, even in a remote setting. Organizations are looking to get ahead of supplier issues and are seeking ways to work with suppliers to continuously monitor, vet and manage issues as they arise. This requires increased transparency and greater communication across parties in the supply chain.

Participants of the group are also getting early access to the solution and data to support them in their food safety and supply chain risk management efforts. The group will continue to meet on over the next few months to continue to guide the development of a food supply chain risk management solution. We look forward to keeping you updated. If you have insights on this issue, we encourage you to reach out. If you are interested in learning more about us or joining the group, please contact us at nicole@meshintel.com