Tag Archives: Focus Article

Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine
FST Soapbox

Six Ways Food Manufacturers Can Save Money on Electricity

By Emily Newton
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Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine

Energy usage has increased worldwide, especially with everyone isolated due to COVID-19. That translates to higher costs across most sectors. The Energy Information Agency (EIA) expects U.S. electricity consumption to grow by 2.1% this year.

Coupled with the rising adoption of renewable energy and green initiatives, it makes sense to cut down on electricity consumption as much as possible. Commercial operations, food manufacturers included, could stand to benefit from reduced energy usage.

The question isn’t necessarily “why,” but “how.” What can food manufacturers and similar commercial providers do to reduce electricity requirements? What are some ways to minimize consumption and achieve efficient food production processes?

1. Energy Audits

Process and energy audits are a must. How could one hope to improve a system without understanding everything there is to know about it? More specifically, how could a company reduce energy consumption if they don’t know where, when and how it’s being used? That’s why energy and resource audits are crucial to optimization. It doesn’t matter whether they are conducted in-house or by a third party. What’s important is that they are accurate and detailed.

Inspectors will examine heating, refrigeration and cooling systems, facility processes, equipment, infrastructure, and beyond. Everything that uses electricity will be part of the audit, and analysts will be able to discern how much power each component is using. The statistics then inform action, driving a reduction in energy consumption. With this information, company analysts can also create a food manufacturing cost breakdown, which can be used to improve other areas of the business.

It’s easy to draw a line between regular energy audits and improved food safety, too. The ability to continuously monitor facility equipment performance means a lower chance of failure and more consistent quality. Keeping a digital eye on optimal performance means a reduced risk of one machine negatively impacting others if it begins performing suboptimally or erratically.

2. Upgraded Equipment

Energy conservation is as much about improving efficiencies as it is about using less electricity overall. While not always true, as a general rule, newer equipment tends to be much more economical at utilizing electricity.

Over time, technology has improved considerably to use less power, utilize resources more effectively and incorporate new methods for completing various actions, sometimes with significant performance boosts. In other words, new equipment can bring energy consumption down and will also improve productivity and output. Because it’s not cost-effective to replace equipment often, that’s precisely where audit information comes in handy.

The best practice would be to replace equipment before it malfunctions or breaks down, but also after it has declined in performance and efficiency. It would mean constantly analyzing equipment through real-time metrics and statistics.

Better production, more output, and fewer costs lead to greater profit, so it’s worth the investment.

More efficient and modern equipment typically features other upgraded components that impact performance and food safety as well, including updated materials, tighter tolerances, and improved microbial and viral resistance. Next-generation food prep and packaging stations that automate sanitation using ultraviolet (UV) light are examples.

3. Retooled Infrastructure

If the operation is located in an older building, it’s likely that much of the existing infrastructure and equipment is not just dated but also less efficient.

For example, traditional lighting sources use a lot more energy than LED or smart lighting solutions. HVAC systems may be non-existent or extremely outdated. Even facilities that are just a few years old may have obsolete elements.

This stretches far beyond the basics such as lighting to include power and utility components. A well-built and quality transformer setup will save money over time, for example. Replacing aging equipment can save food processing plants cash in the long run.

Investing in a transformer that doesn’t use a liquid cooling agent gives plant owners more options as they can be placed indoors or outdoors. They also have other business benefits, like longer lifecycles, lower fire risks, a more eco-friendly operation, and higher efficiency. A lower risk of fires, smoke intrusion and other destructive events also means greater security and peace of mind for delicate and perishable foods and food components.

Upgrading these components is more cost-effective than moving to a new location or building a whole new facility. It is often these kinds of incremental hardware and operational updates that can offer the best impact.

4. Better Refrigeration and Cooling

In 2019, the EIA reported that the commercial food sector used 154 billion kilowatt-hours of energy on cooling alone. That’s nearly 4% of the entire country’s annual energy usage. It isn’t just because cooling systems are running constantly year-round. It’s also because many companies refuse to upgrade to more efficient solutions.

Refrigeration is a massive energy hog. So how can it be improved? There are several ways:

  • More efficient motors
  • Reduced and more effective use of refrigeration space for walk-ins
  • Smarter fans with variable frequency drives (VFDs)
  • Renewable energy farms
  • Intermittent absorption refrigeration

Food waste at the retail and consumer levels amounts to 30–40% of the United States’ total output and billions of tons per year. Better and more reliable refrigeration technology at every stage of the supply chain, including warehouses and vehicles, means less food wasted worldwide and greater security for products at rest and in transit.

5. Monitor, Automate and Notify

Through real-time monitoring and automated processes, managers and operations teams can take action to reduce consumption. For instance, let’s say an employee walks away from a piece of equipment and leaves it powered on. With traditional equipment, that machine would continue draining power and increasing costs.

With automated and smart equipment, a notification would be sent to the appropriate administrator, who can then send out an order to have the machine shut down. Moreover, this can all happen within an instant, and administrators can be off-site and notified remotely.

Even better, the process could be improved further by installing an IoT sensor that automatically turns off the hardware after an expiration period.

An energy dashboard, accessible via mobile platforms, would allow facility managers to keep an eye on resource consumption, general costs, and operations no matter where they are. Creating a unified and always-on system with automation is definitely possible with the help of modern technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT).

The cost of food supply chain recalls stands at 48 million illnesses and $55.5 billion per year in productivity losses, amelioration efforts and the rest of the fallout. As with the other points made here, an investment in higher-efficiency equipment with lower power requirements translates to dividends elsewhere.

More efficient and widely connected machines in the supply chain mean fewer opportunities for failure and pricey recalls. This also leads to ongoing cost savings, which begin on day one.

6. Educate Employees

A cultural response to energy reductions can also have a huge impact. By training and educating employees on the importance of energy conservation, companies can gain an edge. This could include steps as simple as turning off the lights when departing an unoccupied room, remembering to power down equipment, or discussing more effective techniques.

If and when people are armed with the correct knowledge, they can make more informed decisions. The idea is to build a culture around energy conservation, operational efficiencies, and smarter utilization. Make it a team-based practice so everyone holds themselves accountable and values the initiative.

Cultivating mindfulness in this area of the company’s culture translates elsewhere, too. Safeguarding against unsafe habits, incorrect equipment usage and improper handling techniques, and encouraging workspace sanitization, is everybody’s responsibility.

Whether it’s saving money on electricity for the company’s and planet’s sake or protecting the customer from product defects, ongoing education makes for a stronger culture and a more reliable product.

Make It Happen

The longer a manufacturer continues to operate without efficient solutions in place like the ones discussed in this column, the greater the energy consumption levels and the higher the expenses. It is beneficial to all to adopt some of these practices as soon as possible, and there’s no question that it will result in higher profits. In several ways, some less obvious than others, this efficiency transformation means safer products, employees and customers, too.

As energy prices continue to climb across all sectors and the impact on the environment mounts, it makes sense to reduce consumption, find smarter sources like renewable energy, and upgrade equipment, processes and operations accordingly.

Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series

2021 FSC Episode 1 Preview: FDA on New Era, Experts Discuss Digital Transformation and Consumer Focus

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series

Thursday, May 6, marks the first episode of the 2021 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series. The following are highlights for this week’s session:

  • FSMA-Based & Technology-Enabled: FDA Advances into New Era of Smarter Food Safety, a special keynote with Frank Yiannas, FDA
  • Digital Transformation in Food Safety, with Natasa Matyasova and Matt Dofoo, Nestlé
  • Consumer-focused Food Safety, with Mitzi Baum, STOP Foodborne Illness
  • TechTalks from Controlant, Veeva and Primority

This year’s event occurs as a Spring program and a Fall program. Haven’t registered? Follow this link to the 2021 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series, which provides access to all the episodes featuring critical industry insights from leading subject matter experts! Registration includes access to both the Spring and the Fall events. We look forward to your joining us virtually.

James Quill, Corvium
FST Soapbox

Digital Transformation of EMP: Best Practices and Outcomes for Food Manufacturers

By James Quill, Tara Wilson
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James Quill, Corvium

In today’s digital-first world, it might be surprising for those outside of the food manufacturing industry to learn that paper and pen are still considered state-of-the-art documentation tools. Answering food safety and quality questions such as: “What was the underlying cause of this customer complaint?” or “What caused the production halt this morning?” still require hours of research across paper documents, emails and spreadsheets. Maybe even the odd phone call or text message.

The good news is that many food safety and quality problems can be solved by leveraging modern-day technology. The challenge is taking that first step. By applying the following best practices, organizations can take small steps that lead to substantial benefits, including optimized food safety and quality programs, happier employees and safer operations.

Digital Transformation Best Practices

What if all the information food safety professionals require could be accessible through one unified interface and could proactively point to actions that should be taken? It can, with the right mindset and the right strategy.

While there is no “flip of a switch” to become digitally empowered, best practices exist for where to start. And, early adopters are injecting innovation into food safety programs with simple, but powerful technology.

Look Inward

Too often, food safety professionals push forward on a path to digital transformation by evaluating software and business applications against features and/or cost. But before taking this approach, it is important to look at existing food safety programs, identify where incremental improvements can be made and determine the potential return on a new technology investment.

Self-awareness is a beneficial leadership skill, but it’s also the key driver in understanding an organization’s business needs for food safety. Food safety professionals need to get real about common pain points, such as inconsistent or insufficient data, non-standardized practices, and delayed reporting. This is not the time to gloss over problems with processes or tools. Only by clearly documenting the challenges upfront will organizations be able to find the best solutions.

As one example, a common pain point is managing different formats and timing of reporting across facilities. See if this sounds familiar: “Well, Dallas sends an Excel spreadsheet every week, but Toledo only sends it on a monthly basis, while Wichita sends it monthly most of the time, but it’s never in the same format.”

Start out by identifying similar problems to help define the business objective, which will help determine how technology can be most effectively applied.

Eat, Sleep, Food Safety, Repeat

Food safety processes should constantly evolve to enable continued improvements in food safety outcomes. With that in mind, it’s helpful to dust off the corporate SOP and review it, especially if an organization is moving to a digital program. A common mistake many food manufacturers make is asking technology providers to configure an application based solely off the corporate protocol, only to discover at go-live that users don’t follow that protocol.

To avoid this situation, consider the following questions:

  • Why are food safety professionals not completing processes by the book?
  • Is that similar with every site?
  • Why has it been that way for so long?
  • Why did food safety professionals start to stray?

By locking down processes and identifying the desired way forward, leaders can configure a new application with the latest information and updated decisions. At a minimum, this step will help identify current issues that should be addressed, which can become measurable goals for the use of the new technology, ideally emphasizing the most pressing problems.

Less is More

Digital transformation doesn’t always need to become a “fix-all” project. Instead, it may revolve around a single operational initiative or business decision. For example, food safety professionals often maintain a spreadsheet with usernames and passwords for countless applications, some of which overlap in functionality and/or require a separate login for each facility. This is not only a safety concern, it’s an easy entry point when moving to a digital approach.

Consolidation of applications is a natural step from the standpoint of feasibility and fiscal responsibility. So, look for digital transformation opportunities that result in fewer applications and more consolidation.

Don’t Rush It

While digital transformation is inevitable, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither should be an organization’s digital strategy. Unfortunately, the decision to go digital is often made, and a go-live date chosen, before determining what transformation requires, which is a clear-cut recipe for failure.

Technical vendors should play a key role in developing an effective implementation strategy, including sharing onboarding, planning, configuration and go-live best practices.

While technology is here to help the world become smarter about food safety, it is not here to replace human experience. Food safety leaders should continue to augment processes through supplemental technologies, rather than view technology as a full takeover of current approaches.

Barriers to entry for digital transformation are being lowered, as the ease of adoption of the underlying technologies continues to advance and access via cloud-based applications improves.

What to Do With All This Data? 5 Outcomes Food Manufacturers Can Achieve

Food manufacturers have benefited from digitally transforming environmental monitoring programs (EMPs) using workflow and analytics tools in a variety of ways. In the end, what matters is that the resulting data access and usability enables new insights and accelerates decisions that result in reduced risk and improved quality. Keep in mind these key outcomes that food manufacturers can achieve from digital transformation.

Outcome #1: Formalized Audit & Compliance Readiness

Enhancing an internal audit framework with digital tools will greatly reduce the burden of ensuring compliance for schemes such as BRC, SQF and FSSC food safety standards. Flexible report formats and filtering capabilities empower users with the right information at the right time.

Imagine, no more sifting manually through binders of CoA’s and test records to find a needle in a haystack. Exposing teams to a digital means of performing internal audits will not only boost confidence to handle requests from an auditor but will also help drive continuous improvement by providing easier access to insights about the effectiveness of internal policies. At the same time, digital tools will help ensure that only the required information is shared, reducing confusion and uncertainty as well as audit time and cost.

Outcome #2: Proactive Alerting and Automated Reporting

Threshold-based report alerts are an excellent way to reduce the noise often associated with notification systems. Providing quality and safety managers with automated alerts of scheduled maintenance or pending test counts can help them focus on activities that need attention, without distractions.

The benefit of threshold-based reporting is that it is a “set it and forget it” method. While regular “Monday Reports” are still a necessity, alerts and reports can be generated only when attention is needed for anomalies. A great example of this is being able to set proactive alerts for test counts in a facility that are approaching nonconformance levels. Understanding the corrective action requirements needed to control an environmental issue before it impacts quality, production and unplanned sanitation measures is a critical component of risk management and brand protection. In addition, reports can be automatically generated and delivered on a regular schedule to help meet reporting needs without spending time collecting data.

In other words—imagine a world where data comes and finds users when needed, rather than having to search for it in a binder or spreadsheet. Digital tools can provide email reports showing that a threshold has (or has not) been met and link the user directly to the information needed to take action. This is called “actionable information” and is something to consider when deploying technology within an organization’s food safety program processes.

Outcome #3: Optimize Performance with Tracking, Trending and Drilling

The Pareto Principle specifies that for many outcomes, about 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. Historical data that is digitized can be used to quickly identify the root cause of top failures in a facility in order to drive process improvements. Knowing where to invest money will help avoid the cost of failure and aid in the prevention of a recall situation.

Dashboards are a powerful tool that organizations can use to understand the risk level across facilities to make better, data-driven decisions. Reports can be configured through a thoughtful dashboard setup that enables users to easily identify hot spots and trends, drill down to specific test locations, and enable clear communication to stakeholders. Figure 1 provides an example of a heat map that can be used to speed response and take corrective actions when needed.

Pathogen Positives
Figure 1. Pathogen Positives by Zone and Location Heat

Outcome #4: Simplified Data Governance and Interoperability

Smarter food safety will drive standardization of data formats, which allows information to flow seamlessly between internal and external systems. One of the major benefits of shifting away from paper-based solutions is the ability to be proactive to reduce risk and cost. FSQA managers, within and across facilities, can benefit from a 360-degree operational view that reveals hidden connections between information silos that exist in the plant and across the organization. This includes:

  • Product tracing through product testing to environment monitoring and sanitation efforts
  • Tracing back a product quality issue reported from a customer to the sanitation efforts
  • Understanding why compliance is on track but quality results aren’t correcting

Outcome #5: Reduce the Cost of High Turnover

Successful GMPs, SSOPs and a HACCP program require leaders that continually ensure that employees are properly trained, which can be difficult with high turnover rates. To address this challenge, digital tools can aid in providing easily accessible documentation to empower users and reduce the cost, time and risk associated with having to re-train new employees on the EMP process. While training cannot be replaced with technology, it can be accelerated.

For example, testing locations within facilities can be documented with images and related information enabling new employees to visually see the floorplan and relevant testing protocols with accompanying video and click-through visualization of underlying data. Additionally, corrective action protocols can be enhanced with videos and standardized form inputs to ensure proper data is being collected at all times.

The Path Ahead

As the digital transformation of the food safety industry continues, food manufacturers should seek out and apply proven best practices to make the process as efficient and effective for their organization as possible. By avoiding common pitfalls, companies can achieve transformation objectives and realize substantial benefits from more easily accessible and actionable food safety data.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

How Not To Sweeten the Deal

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food fraud, Honey
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Honey continues to be a popular target for fraudulent activity, as this latest case shows. A large number of batches of honey imported into Greece from inside and outside the European Union contained adulterants like added sugars and prohibited caramel colors, which was proven by chemical analysis. Honey produced in Greece was not affected. The adulterated products were immediately withdrawn from the market and the public was advised not to consume them.

Resource

  1. United Food Control Agency (April 16, 2021) “Recall of lots of honey”. EFET Portal.

 

magnifying glass

Surveying the Phthalate Litigation Risk to Food Companies

By Kara McCall, Stephanie Stern
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magnifying glass

Boxed macaroni and cheese—comforting, easy, and, according to a 2017 article by The New York Times, containing “high concentrations” of “[p]otentially harmful chemicals.” Roni Caryn Rabin, The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese, N.Y. TIMES, June 12, 2017. Those “chemicals” referenced by the Times are phthalates—versatile organic compounds that have been the focus of increased media, advocacy, and regulatory scrutiny. But what are phthalates and what is the litigation risk to food companies who make products that contain trace amounts of this material?

Background

Phthalates are a class of organic compounds that are commonly used to soften and add flexibility to plastic.1 Ninety percent of phthalate production is used to plasticize polyvinyl chloride (PVC).2 Di-(2-ethylhexl) phthalate (DEHP) is the most commonly used phthalate plasticizer for PVC.3 Due to the prevalence of plastics in the modern world, phthalates are everywhere—from food packaging to shower curtains to gel capsules. Consequently, almost everyone is exposed to phthalates almost all of the time and most people have some level of phthalates in their system.4

Recently, various epidemiological studies have purported to associate phthalates with a range of different injuries, from postpartum depression to obesity to cancer. However, as the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) stated in its 2019 toxicology profile for DEHP, these epidemiology studies are flawed because, inter alia, they often rely on spot urine samples to assess exposure, which does not provide long-term exposure estimates or consider routes of exposure.5 To date, claims regarding the effects of low-level phthalate exposure on humans are not supported by human toxicology studies. Instead, phthalate toxicology has only been studied in animals, and some phthalates tested in these animal studies have demonstrated no appreciable toxicity. Two types of phthalates—DBP and DEHP—are purported to be endocrine disrupting (i.e., affecting developmental and reproductive outcomes) in laboratory animals, but only when the phthalates are administered at doses much higher than those experienced by humans.6 Indeed, there is no causal evidence linking any injuries to the low-level phthalate exposure that humans generally experience. Nonetheless, advocacy and government groups have extrapolated from these animal studies to conclude that DEHP may possibly adversely affect human reproduction or development if exposures are sufficiently high.7 Indeed, in the past two decades, a number of regulatory authorities began taking steps to regulate certain phthalates. Most notably:

  • In 2005, the European Commission identified DBP, DEHP, and BBP as reproductive toxicants (Directive 2005/84/EC), and the European Union banned the use of these phthalates as ingredients in cosmetics (Directive 2005/90/EC).
  • In 2008, Congress banned the use of DBP, DEHP, and BBP in children’s toys at concentrations higher than 0.1%. See 15 U.S.C. § 2057c.
  • The EU added four phthalates (BBP, DEHP, DBP, and DIBP) to the EU’s list of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) and, subsequently, to its Authorization List, which lists substances that cannot be placed on the market or used after a given date, unless authorization is granted for specific uses. BBP, DEHP, DBP, and DIBP were banned as of February 21, 2015, except for the use of these phthalates in the packaging of medicinal products.
  • In 2012, the FDA issued a statement discouraging the use of DBP and DEHP in drugs and biologic products. At the time, the agency said that these phthalates could have negative effects on human endocrine systems and potentially cause reproductive and developmental problems.8

More recently, phthalate exposure through food has become a trending topic among consumer advocates. Phthalates are not used in food, but can migrate into food through phthalates-containing materials during food processing, storing, transportation, and preparation. Certain studies report that ingestion of food accounts for the predominant source of phthalate exposure in adults and children. However, in assessing DEHP, the ATSDR noted that the current literature on “contamination of foodstuffs comes from outside the United States or does not reflect typical exposures of U.S. consumers; therefore, it is uncertain whether and for which products this information can be used in U.S.-centered exposure and risk calculations.”9 Further, the concentration of phthalates found in food are very low-level—multiples lower than the doses used in animal toxicology studies.10

In 2017, a study published on the advocacy site “kleanupkraft.org” stated that phthalates were detected in 29 of 30 macaroni and cheese boxes tested.11 The study notes that “DEHP was found most often in the highest amounts.” Notably, however, the “amounts” are provided without any context, likely because there is no universally accepted threshold of unsafe phthalate consumption. Thus, although the boxed macaroni and cheese study found “that DEHP, DEP, DIBP, and DBP were frequently detected in the cheese items tested,” and “[t]he average DEHP concentration was 25 times higher than DBP, and five times higher than DEP,” none of this explains whether these numbers are uniquely high and/or dangerous to humans. Meanwhile, on December 10, 2019, the European Food Safety Authority announced an updated risk assessment of DBP, BBP, DEHP, DINP, and DIDP, and found that current exposure to these phthalates from food is not of concern for public health.12

Phthalate Litigation

For years, phthalates in food have been targeted by environmental groups seeking to eliminate use of phthalates in food packaging and handling equipment. Most recently, several lawsuits were filed against boxed macaroni and cheese manufacturers alleging misrepresentation and false advertising due to their undisclosed alleged phthalate contamination. See, e.g., McCarthy, et al. v. Annie’s Homegrown, Inc., Case No. 21-cv-02415 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 2, 2021). Perhaps acknowledging that the amounts contained in the food packages have not been shown to present any danger, these claims are being pursued as consumer fraud claims based on failure to identify phthalates as an ingredient, rather than as personal injury claims.

Besides this recent litigation, however, there has been a notable dearth of phthalate litigation. This is likely due to several factors: First, in general, courts have rejected false claim lawsuits involving trace amounts of a contaminant chemical. See, e.g., Tran v. Sioux Honey Ass’n, Coop., 471 F. Supp. 3d 1019, 1025 (C.D. Cal. 2020) (collecting cases). For example, in Axon v. Citrus World, Inc., 354 F. Supp. 3d 170 (E.D.N.Y. 2018), the Court dismissed plaintiff’s claim that the use of the word “natural” constituted false advertising because the product contained trace amounts of weed killer. Id. at 182–84. The Court based this dismissal, in part, on the fact that the trace amounts of the commonly used pesticide was “not an ‘ingredient’ added to defendant’s products; rather, it is a substance introduced through the growing process.” Id. at 183. Similarly, phthalate is not an intentionally added ingredient—instead, it is a substance introduced, if at all, in trace amounts at various points throughout the manufacturing, handling, and packaging process. Second, proving that phthalate exposure from a particular food item caused an alleged injury would be extremely difficult. As mentioned above, there is no direct scientific evidence linking low-level phthalate exposure in humans to reproductive problems, cancer, or any other injury. Instead, plaintiffs must rely on animal studies where the subject, most commonly a rat, was exposed to enormous amounts of phthalates, many multiples of the amount that would be found in food. Moreover, the pervasive nature of phthalates makes it difficult to pinpoint any particular product as the source of the injury. If every food item a plaintiff ever consumed has been touched by a phthalate-containing material, it seems near impossible to prove that one particular food caused the alleged injury.

Although phthalate litigation has thus far proven unpopular, this landscape could change in the near future due to increased regulatory scrutiny. On December 20, 2019, the EPA stated that DEHP, DIBP, DBP, BBP, and dicyclohexyl phthalate were five of 20 high-priority chemicals undergoing risk evaluation pursuant to the Toxic Substances Control Act.13 The categorization of these phthalates as high-priority initiates a three- to three-and-a-half-year risk evaluation process, which concludes in a finding of whether the chemical substance presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment under the conditions of use.14 Although the same causation and product identification issues will remain, a revised risk analysis by the EPA may lead to increased phthalate litigation.

The views expressed in this article are exclusively those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Sidley Austin LLP and its partners. This article has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this without seeking advice from professional advisers.

References

  1. The most commonly used phthalates are di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), diisononyl phthalate (DINP), benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), and diethyl phthalate (DEP). See Angela Giuliani, et al., Critical Review of the Presence of Phthalates in Food and Evidence of Their Biological Impact, 17 INT. J. ENVIRON. RES. PUBLIC HEALTH 5655 (2020).
  2. COWI A/S, Data on Manufacture, Import, Export, Uses and Releases of Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), As Well As Information on Potential Alternatives To Its Use 10-11 (Jan. 29, 2009). http://echa.europa.eu/documents/10162/
    13640/tech_rep_dbp_en.pdf (observing European Council for Plasticizers and Intermediates (ECPI)); Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, DI-n-BUTYL PHTHALATE, Production, Import/Export, Use, and Disposal (Jan. 3, 2013). http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp135-c5.pdf; Peter M. Lorz, et al., Phthalic Acid and Derivatives. ULLMANN’S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF INDUSTRIAL CHEMISTRY (Wiley-VCH: Weinheim, 2000); Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, Phthalates and Their Alternatives: Health and Environmental Concerns 4 (Jan. 2011). https://www.sustainableproduction.org/downloads/PhthalateAlternatives-January2011.pdf.
  3.  Michael D. Shelby, NTP-CERHER Monograph on the Potential Human Reproductive and Developmental Effects of Di (2-Ethylhexyl) Phthalate (DEHP). National Toxicology Program, HHS. NIH Publication No. 06-4476 at 2–3 (Nov. 2006).
  4.  See Chris E. Talsness, et al., Components of Plastic: Experimental Studies in Animals and Relevance for Human Health, 364 PHIL. TRANS. R. SOC. B 2079, 2080 (2009). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2873015/pdf/rstb20080281.pdf.
  5. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, Toxicology Profile for Di(2-Ethylhexyl) Phthalate (DEHP), Draft for Public Comment 3 (Dec. 2019). https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp9.pdf.
  6. FDA Guidance for Industry, Limiting the Use of Certain Phthalates as Excipients in CDER-Regulated Products. HHS, FDA. (Dec. 2012).
  7. NIH Publication No. 06-4476 at 2–3, supra n.3.
  8. FDA Guidance for Industry. Limiting the Use of Certain Phthalates as Excipients in CDER-Regulated Products. HHS, FDA. (Dec. 2012).
  9. Toxicology Profile for Di(2-Ethylhexyl) Phthalate (DEHP) at 362, supra n.5.
  10. Compare id. at 5 (measuring effects of phthalate oral exposure in mg/kg/day) with Samantha E. Serrano, et al., Phthalates and diet: a review of the food monitoring and epidemiology data, 13 ENVIRON. HEALTH 43 (2014) (measuring phthalate concentration in food in μg/kg).
  11. Testing Finds Industrial Chemical Phthalates in Cheese, Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging. http://kleanupkraft.org/data-summary.pdf.
  12. FAQ: phthalates in plastic food contact materials. European Food Safety Authority. (Dec. 10, 2019).
  13. EPA Finalizes List of Next 20 Chemicals to Undergo Risk Evaluation under TSCA. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (Dec. 20, 2019).
  14.  Risk Evaluations for Existing Chemicals under TSCA. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Sesame Seeds

President Biden Signs FASTER Act, Requiring Sesame Labeling on Food Packaging

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Sesame Seeds

Last week President Biden signed the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act of 2021 (FASTER Act; H.R. 1202) into law. The bill is a significant victory for food allergy advocates, because it adds sesame to the list of allergens that must be labeled on food packaging. HHS must also report certain information related to food allergy research and data collection.

Sesame is the ninth food allergen that must be labeled on food packaging. According to FARE (Food Allergy & Research Education), a non-government food allergy advocacy group, about 1.6 million Americans are allergic to sesame. “Sesame is often used when a label reads ‘natural flavors’ or ‘natural spices’, adding another layer of difficulty when consumers review product labels at their local grocery store,” according to a FARE press release about the bill. “This marks the first time since 2004 that a new allergen has been added to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA).”

Packages must include the updated labeling by January 2023.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Everything Is Not Peachy

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud, Beverages
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

In a large case of trademark violations and counterfeiting, Haldiram, the leading snack manufacturer from India, filed a lawsuit against a Georgia-based distributor. The distribution company misused the well-known Haldiram label to import, distribute and sell counterfeit beverages, snacks, beverages and ready-to-eat meals in the United States, which is a large market for Haldiram. The company is seeking significant amounts of money for damages caused by the distributor and an immediate stop to the trademark infringements.

Resource

Taylor, P. (April 19, 2021). “Haldiram sues Georgia company, claiming counterfeiting”. Securing Industry.

Jacqueline Southee, FSSC 22000
Women in Food Safety

You’re Not Alone: How a Support Network Is Critical for Work-Life Balance

By Jacqueline Southee, Melody Ge
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Jacqueline Southee, FSSC 22000

We all know it is important to maintain a healthy work-life balance, regardless of our current career stage. We also know that this can be a challenge. In March 2020 when coronavirus restrictions forced the various aspects of our lives—normally kept separate—to collide in our kitchens and spare rooms, we found ourselves sharing workspace with partners and children. This immediate change really brought our work-life balance into focus.

As part of our Women in Food Safety series, we interviewed three highly successful food safety professionals about how they keep their work-life balance in perspective despite the ever-increasing demands of work, and how they have tackled major life changes or career decisions along the way, while still keeping their career on track.

We were delighted to have the opportunity to talk to Shawna Wagner, food sector and technical manager, North America for DNV and SQF Auditor of the Year, 2019; Cornelie Glerum, director of operations for FSSC 22000 and Laura Gutierrez Becerra, food safety regulatory and operations manager at Amazon. These outstanding professional females work in different sectors of the industry and have different career backgrounds, but they all agreed on the importance of keeping a healthy work-life balance and shared surprisingly similar strategies for tackling it. They also agreed that it is all too easy to let work consume your life, so above all, it is very important to like your job and to do something that you enjoy.

It is clear that achieving highly aspiring career goals requires disciplined time management both at work and at home; and it is also important to build a support network of others that can help you. Similarly, although at the start of a career one might think it a sign of weakness to ask for help, this is not true. If there comes a time when it seems impossible to get everything done, be kind to yourself—some tasks can always wait.

Shawna Wagner is a senior auditor so traveling is a major element of her job. Before COVID -19 hit, she might be on the road 270 nights a year. ” This definitely eats into personal time and takes a toll on family life- it is important to switch off at times” she said.

As the director of operations, Cornelie Glerum is a founder, and leading force behind FSSC 22000. She believes that “Work life balance is very important—and that you should work to live—not live to work”.

Laura Gutierrez Becerra has had an interesting and varied career path, which has covered career moves, an international relocation, a family-focused career break as well as the raising of three children before reaching her current position with Amazon. “Work-life balance is important to keep in check. I think that as women, we can forget about ourselves, particularly as we tend to be fully dedicated to our job or career path, or we have family responsibilities or dependents to care and provide for. We tend to put considerations for ourselves last.

There are elements and approaches to maintaining a work-life balance that all of them agreed upon.

1. Keep a personal schedule as well as a work schedule

It is easy to let work overwhelm or occupy your all your time, so it is important to make personal appointments with yourself or your family.

Shawna Wagner, DNV
Shawna Wagner, DNV

Wagner: I certainly try to schedule something every weekend, such as golf, camping, and dinner events.  The scheduling is important as if it’s not in my phone calendar, it’s not happening.

Glerum: I have a family, a partner and two young children, and we do have some family commitments that are on a set schedule such as the Friday hockey practice, which is an important part of my week, as I enjoy being the coach. If they are written into the schedule, it is easy to keep the commitment.

Gutierrez: I am fairly good with this now compared to when I started my career. We had to create schedules for everyone in the family to have responsibilities in the home so that the chores got done, but we also factored in extra-curricular activities such as family game night, etc. We also enjoy exercising together, which is important for us all.

2. Taking time off

Wagner: I have come to learn that vacation time is your time to shut work off, and I was extremely poor at this practice. I would take vacation but still work all day on emails, so I didn’t fall behind for when I was back from vacation. My best advice is to know that it will still be there when you get back and to train others to cover for you for when you are not in the office.  Also return the favor for others, as we all deserve downtime.

Laura Gutierrez Becerra
Laura Gutierra Becerra, Amazon

Gutierrez: There was a point in my career when I was juggling job moves raising children with different ages (an infant, a toddler and a teenager) , and I felt burnt out. I took the great piece of advice from my mentors who advised me to do more of the hobbies that I enjoy, and to learn to delegate. Although this was difficult at first, it was helpful to consider delegation as a way of helping others to develop and advance their careers. Looking at it from this [perspective] allowed me to take some time off.

3. Keep your phone in check. While of course it is a life-changing invention, the cell phone is also the never-ending connection to work.

Wagner: I keep things in perspective by always having dedicated time to my family and friends. For example, if I am having dinner with my partner, it’s a hard rule that I will not answer the phone.

Glerum: I am aware that I have big responsibilities in my job, so I do tend to stay in touch and keep my phone on even during holidays and vacations, but I try to keep calls at the minimum.

4. Asking for help

Wagner: It is important to ask for help, and if you can find others who want to learn, then it helps them also. When I was new to the industry, I wouldn’t ask for help, as I wanted to show that I could achieve success by myself or seek the right answer for the solution, and I realized that this might not be the good way. We all need to learn to be comfortable to ask for help.

Cornelie Glerum, FSSC 22000
Cornelie Glerum, FSSC 22000

Glerum: Yes, I can ask for help, and I am fortunate to have my parents close by so I can ask to help with children if I am at work or traveling. I also have good neighbors that can step in, and this works both ways. This is truly a valuable support network, and we all help each other with reciprocal arrangements.

Gutierrez: I was not good at the delegating tasks at the beginning. As I had relocated from Mexico to the United States, I did not have any close family here to call on. Also, as is typical of my Mexican culture, I felt I had to do everything myself for my family at home as well as demonstrating at work that I was on top of my game. This was completely wrong and quite self-defeating. Today, I am better at prioritizing and delegating. Developing new networks has also helped me both on a personal as well as professional level. When I moved from Mexico, I didn’t even know how and where to start. However, I have worked specifically to build supportive circles such my “kindergarten mothers”, my “Mexican coffee chat” and of course, my great “Women In Food Safety” network”.

Other Advice We Want Share

Glerum: It is important to recognize that not all jobs need to be done all of the time, and if you are heavily committed at work, some chores just might not get done. While you might be a high achiever, you do not need to set the bar so high for everything. Maybe you do not get all the cleaning done on time in the house, give yourself a break. If the laundry is becoming an issue, and the children are running out of clean clothes—add to the wardrobe, buy more socks for the children!

Gutierrez: Going through life-changing events and overcoming challenging moments for sure gives you resiliency and provides realization that we women can overcame many things. I have had several major changes in my home life. However, I can fully relate to the expression: “A women is like a tea-bag, you don’t know how strong she is until you put her in hot water” by Eleanor Roosevelt.

Preparing to Start Your Career? Here’s Some Advice

Wagner: Women can do any job and can be developed to achieve their goals. Women also provide an important perspective to the mixture of different people with whom you work. The field of food safety also is open to many career aspirations. I recently did an audit at a facility where a young lady was the maintenance manager. She rocked that shop!

Glerum: As women, we have a range of different skills and strengths in the workplace. We are good with precise details, are conscientious and demonstrate accuracy, which is important in my business as a certification program owner. We should use these different attributes to our own advantage in the workplace without compromise. However, women often do not always have enough confidence in their abilities and are sometimes afraid to speak up, especially in a man’s world.

Women also add an “elegance” for want of a better world, which can add to the comfort and refinement to the workplace. For example, we are more likely to remember birthdays and see the importance of staff appreciation, sharing gifts etc. This makes a nicer workspace for everyone.

Gutierrez: Do not to be afraid of asking questions. I initially lacked confidence to ask questions. Also, ask for feedback. It is very important and always helpful, whether it is positive or negative, learn from it and actively apply this learning. Always be open to new opportunities, be inquisitive about other areas. If you do not see opportunities for learning and development, move on to somewhere else if you can. Constantly, assess your aspirations and determine what is your main drive.

Do what you like and like what you do!

Women are an important element in the workplace and the home. Balancing work, life and the demands of a family can take a heavy toll. However, supporting networks can help. Feel free to reach out to Women in Food Safety so we might offer some support and advice—you are never alone.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

An Unwelcome Message In A Bottle

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Beach
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Adulterated alcohol continues to pose serious risks to health and even life of consumers. In this latest case from the Dominican Republic, more than two dozen people have died from methanol poisoning due to a low-cost illegally made drink, and from fake brand-named products. Businesses associated with the scams were raided and closed, and arrests were made. Officials keep warning against the consumption of illegally manufactured alcoholic beverages.

Resource

  1. News Desk. (April 10, 2021). “Deaths in Dominican Republic linked to tainted alcohol”. Food Safety News.

 

James Gunn-Wilkerson, CMX
Retail Food Safety Forum

The Future Is Now: AI Takes Journey from Supply Chain to Today’s Restaurant Kitchens

By James Gunn-Wilkerson
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James Gunn-Wilkerson, CMX

Futurist Ross Dawson has said that AI and automation will shape the future of work, and it also promises to transform our lives beyond the office. According to the World Economic Forum, when AI, which provides the ability to “enable devices to learn, reason and process information like humans,” is combined with Internet of Things (IoT) devices and systems, it creates AIoT. This super duo has the potential to power smart homes, smart cities, smart industries and even our smartwatches and fitness trackers, a market estimated by Gartner to be worth $87 billion by 2023. More importantly, this “interconnectedness” will change the way we interact with our devices as well as the way we will live and work in the future.

In the restaurant industry, we’re already seeing glimpses of this interconnectedness take shape, and in the past year, we’ve experienced major technological advancements that have transformed every facet of the way food establishments work. Reflecting on those advancements, I want to take a moment to share three areas of AI impact that are bubbling up in the restaurant sector in 2021.

1: AI-powered Intelligent Kitchens

From ghost kitchens to traditional kitchens, the “back of the house” continues to be a prime target for AI and automation. While great progress has been made, in many ways it seems like we’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to how far AI can take today’s restaurants. But every now and then, we hear examples of AI powering the future of our industry. For example, Nala Robotics, Inc. will be opening what it calls “the world’s first state-of-the-art intelligent restaurant” in Naperville, Illinois this year. The company says the AI-based robotic kitchen “can create dishes from any cuisine around the world, using authentic recipes from celebrated chefs”. A press release from Nala Robotics states that its flagship restaurant is taking “the first step in the food service industry with AI-powered service, addressing many of the issues affecting restaurant owners during COVID-19,” and it will “provide consumers an endless variety of cuisine without potential contamination from human contact.” This is the new frontier in intelligent kitchens, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, with the pandemic forcing restaurants to reimagine the way they do business.

2: AI-Driven Labor Shifts.

You can’t talk about AI in the restaurant industry without also having a conversation about the implications for the modern workforce. With AI in restaurant kitchens and beyond, the impact on the labor force is undeniable. By 2024, Gartner predicts “that these technologies will replace almost 69% of the manager’s workload.” But that’s not entirely a bad thing. Instead of manually filling out forms and updating records, managers can turn to AI to automate these and other tedious tasks. “By using AI…they can spend less time managing transactions and can invest more time on learning, performance management and goal setting,” Gartner adds.Managers can also use the extra time to focus more effort on the customer and employee experience. And indeed they should: In a recent Deloitte report, 60% of guests surveyed indicated that a positive experience would influence them to dine at a restaurant more frequently.

Looking at the impact of AI on labor at all levels, from the CEO to the entry-level wage earner, the shift, at its best, will be a transition to more meaningful—and less mundane—work. The evolution of humanity has taken us to the point we’re now at now, with food production and delivery processes becoming increasingly automated. This has been an evolution generations in the making. In an ideal world, everyone at every level of the organization should benefit from this new wave of technology. For example, automation can and should be used to open the door to new training and new opportunities for low-wage earners to learn new skills that elevate career paths, increase income and improve quality of life.

3: AI and Global Supply Chain Transformation

From the farm all the way to the table, AI is now poised to transform the global supply chain. From my perspective, the biggest impact will be around driving sustainability efforts. Restaurant and grocery brands are already beginning to leverage AI to forecast their food supply needs based on customer demand, leading to less over-ordering and less food waste to support sustainability initiatives. One company in this space, FourKites, is creating what it calls “the digital supply chain of the future.” Using real-time visibility and machine learning, FourKites powers and optimizes global supply chains, making them “automated, interconnected and collaborative—spanning transportation, warehouses, stores, trucks and more.”

In addition to predictive planning, more and more brands will start to use AI to create incident risk management models to identify trends and risks in the supply chain to determine whether bad or recalled products are originating from a specific supplier, distributor, or due to an environmental variable.With all of these changes, the need for comprehensive data standards will multiply as suppliers and distributors around the world work together to bring us produce and packaged food from all corners of the globe. Data standards will be critical to traceability and the exchange of critical tracking events and key data elements, and advances in data standards will power the meta-data needed to provide better insight for food quality and regulatory compliance, crisis management, and recalls—at scale.

Research firm Forrester states that, in the end, the greatest impact resulting from an investment in robotics and other technologies that automate operational tasks is improved customer experience (CX). “Most companies believe that investment in AI, automation, and robotics for engagement will decrease operational costs. While this is true, our research shows that the revenue upside from delivering better CX could deliver a greater impact on the bottom line over time,” Forrester states.

As a business engaged in digitizing and transforming supply chain operations, our team couldn’t agree with Forrester more. But we believe it will take striking the right balance between technology and the human touch to not only drive stronger CX, but to also create a world in which AI is implemented for the greater good—a world in which people, processes, business and technology all win.