Tag Archives: Focus Article

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Sour Cream Leaves a Sour Taste

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Cow, palm tree, food fraud
Records involving fraud can be found in the Food Fraud Database.

Customers who purchase sour cream expect it to be a pure dairy product without additional non-dairy fats and oils. In Armenia’s capital city of Yerevan, Armenia’s State Food Safety Service discovered that five of 16 sour cream samples were altered with vegetable oil, which led to a thorough inspection of the five companies. Armenia’s “Law of Food Safety” clearly states that sour cream is counterfeit if it contains vegetable oil without proper labeling.

Resource

Arka News Agency (April 8, 2019). “Examination reveals vegetable oil in five brands of sour cream” Retrieved from
http://arka.am/en/news/business/examination_reveals_vegetable_oil_in_five_brands_of_sour_cream_/#.XKx2StqsyQs.twitter

Adam Serfas, R.S. Quality
Food Safety Culture Club

Step Back and Assess Your Food Safety Culture

By Adam Serfas
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Adam Serfas, R.S. Quality

Fostering a strong food safety culture is one of the most important things those in leadership in the food manufacturing and processing industries can do. Whereas laws dictate the food safety regulations to which food manufacturers and processors should adhere, facility food safety and color-coding plans dictate how those regulations should be followed, and it is the inherent culture of the facility that ensures these guidelines and procedures will be followed. A facility’s culture is made up of the shared values of the company, the unwritten norms—good and bad—that ultimately influence the behavior of those in the company. It most often stems from those at the leadership level as they set the tone and expectations for the organization.

Most importantly, however, is the understanding that culture is fluid. Be-cause it is not defined but rather just is, a culture can morph over time in a ripple effect manner. If those in leadership begin to place a higher emphasis on food safety, middle level managers will take note and those sentiments—consciously or unconsciously—will be echoed to those lower in the company’s organizational hierarchy.

At the same time, the reverse is equally and, perhaps, even more likely, true. It’s often harder to do the right thing when it comes to food safety; there are extra steps involved to ensure the environment and tools used are clean, to check and double check the quality of the product and to communicate any concerns that may be encountered along the way. It’s easy to look at someone who takes shortcuts—particularly someone at a higher level than you—and decide that’s an accepted behavior. This can lead to devastating results quickly in a food processing or manufacturing facility where everything from the profit margins to the ability to employ workers to the legal standing of the company hinges on quality assurance.

That said, it’s important that those at the leadership level prioritize foster-ing a positive food safety culture by leading by example. Additionally, it’s vital to regularly glean a quick read of the room to stay on top of culture shifts. The following are some questions you can use to guide that check-in and identify potential red flags long before those worst-case scenarios have a chance to play out.

Would you describe the company’s food safety expectations to be one-size-fits-all notions or, rather, clearly defined rules tailored to different teams and job roles?

If you would put your company in the first category, it’s important you take some time to consider the procedures and guidelines put in place in your facility. Whereas you want company-wide buy-in for overarching food safety priorities, the job role will look very different for, say, someone on the packaging line versus the janitorial team. Within those teams, there should be a shared vernacular and routine specifically related to the job role they need to carry out. It’s unfair and perhaps a bit risky to assume that employees will know how to best carry out their job if “best” is never properly defined for them in training procedures.

Is there clear and consistent messaging that stems from leadership about a commitment to food safety?

The actions and words of those at the highest level of an organizational hierarchy set expectations for the entire company. It’s not only important that they communicate the importance of food safety to the company, but that they return to that conversation often. It’s a good idea to reiterate the significance of food safety considerations in vision and mission statement documents but to also bring it up during staff meetings, company-wide emails and annual reports. Food safety trainings should be held regularly as the more of-ten you highlight these expectations, the more they are thought about across the company. That consideration is what ultimately leads to action.

Do members of leadership take on an active role during food safety training sessions?

Again, we cannot stress enough the importance of those at the top setting the tone for a positive food safety culture by not only talking the talk but also walking the walk. Employees will take note if those higher up in the company who take time out of their day to partake in food safety training. It sends the message that this is indeed important to the company and therefore should be important to the employees.

Are food safety expectations communicated to employees via multiple communication outlets?

Just as a teacher in grade school aims to consider the unique learning styles of students, you should be mindful of the ways in which you are communicating with your team. Some people retain information best through auditory exposure, some are more visual learners and, for some, recall is best after hands-on activities. Consider the ways in which your currently communicate food safety expectations to employees and take note of any additional approaches you might need to take to best reach all employees.

Along those same lines, you should be mindful of additional considerations that might be necessary depending on the makeup of your staff. We recommend working closely with human resources to identify whether or not you should incorporate multi-lingual training procedures and how to best accommodate any employees with disabilities.

Does your company have an obvious method in place for raising concerns about food safety?

The mistake a lot of facilities make is focusing too much on what it looks like for things to go as planned and to overlook procedures for when things don’t go according to plan. If you asked any member of your team, they should be able to tell you the preferred method for reporting any concerns related to food safety. We recommend polling a few employees across different job roles to see if that is the case. If not, it’s vital you establish a protocol and clearly communicate that protocol to all employees. The easier the protocol, the more likely employees are to remember it and to follow through when necessary.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Let’s Get to the Meat

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis

Fresh beef adulterated with sulphur dioxide was found in a Hong Kong market by the Centre of Food Safety. The adulteration of fresh or chilled meat with sulphur dioxide carries hefty penalties of fines and even prison time. Sulphur dioxide is a widely used preservative and antioxidant for foods and beverages that include dried fruits, processed meat products such as sausages, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. The substance is harmless to healthy persons, however, in subjects with a sulphur dioxide allergy, breathing difficulties and asthma can be induced.

Resource

Centre for Food Safety (April 10, 2019). “Fresh beef sample found to contain sulphur dioxide” Centre for Food Safety, The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Accessed April 10, 2019. Retrieved from https://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/press/20190410_7408.html

Records involving fraud can be found in the Food Fraud Database.

FDA

FDA Says Routine Intentional Adulteration Inspections Will Start March 2020

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

Learn more about how to mitigate the risks of food fraud and intentional adulteration at the Food Safety Supply Chain Conference | May 29–30, 2019 | Rockville, MD or attend virtuallyThis week FDA made an announcement during a public meeting that the agency’s routine inspection to verify compliance with the FSMA Intentional Adulteration rule will start next March.

The first compliance date for the rule is this July. It is a requirement for food facilities covered under this rule to develop and implement a food defense plan that identifies vulnerabilities and the consequent mitigation plan.

FDA stated that it has received feedback on the “novel nature” of the rule’s requirements and that stakeholders want more time to develop their food defense plans. “ To allow industry time with the forthcoming materials, tools, and trainings, and because the IA rule represents new regulatory territory for all of us, we will be starting routine IA rule inspections in March 2020,” FDA stated and added that it is working on developing more resources as well as the final part of draft guidance to continue to assist industry.

Karen Everstine, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Food Fraud: Where Do I Start?

By Karen Everstine, Ph.D.
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Karen Everstine, Decernis

I attended the Safe Food California Conference last week in Monterey, California. Food fraud was not the main focus of the conference, but there was some good food fraud-related content. Craig Wilson gave a plenary session about the past, present and future of food safety at Costco. As part of that presentation, he discussed their supplier ingredient program. This program was implemented in response to the 2008 Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak in peanut paste but has direct applicability to food fraud prevention.

Food Fraud: Problem Solved? Learn more at the 2019 Food Safety Supply Chain Conference | May 29–30, 2019 | Attend in Rockville, MD or virtually Jeanette Litschewski from SQFI gave a breakout presentation on the most common SQF non-conformities in 2018. She presented data from 7,710 closed audits that cited 44,439 non-conformities. Of those, 756 were related to food fraud requirements. While this presentation was not focused on the specifics of the food fraud non-conformities, Jeanette did mention that many of them were related to broad issues such as not having completed a food fraud vulnerability assessment or appropriately documenting that each of the required factors was addressed in an assessment.

I was invited to give a breakout presentation with an overview of food fraud issues globally and a brief outline of some of the tools currently available to assist with conducting vulnerability assessments. Although many of the attendees had already began implementation of food fraud measures, there was a lot of interest in this list of tools and resources. Therefore, I am recreating the list in Table I. The focus is on resources that are either complimentary or affordable for small- and medium-sized businesses, with recognition that “full-service” and tailored consulting services are always an option.

Food Fraud Resources (Table I)
Food Fraud Mitigation Training Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessments Food Fraud Data/Records
Michigan State Massive Open Online Courses for Food Fraud SSAFE/PwC Decernis Food Fraud Database
Food Fraud Advisors Online Training Courses USP FFMG FPDI Food Adulteration Incidents Registry
Food Fraud Advisors Vulnerability Assessment Tools (downloadable spreadsheets):

The USP Food Fraud Mitigation Guidance referenced in Table I is a great source of general information on food fraud mitigation, as is the “Food Fraud Prevention” document created by Nestle. Many of the GFSI Certification Programme Owners have also released guidance documents about vulnerability assessments, such as BRC, FSSC 22000, and SQF.

The Decernis Food Fraud Database and the FPDI Food Adulteration Incidents Registry (see Table I) are two sources of historical food fraud data that are referenced specifically in the SSAFE/PwC tool. Companies can also track official information about food safety recalls and alerts (including related to food fraud) from public sources such as the FDA Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts; Import Refusals; Warning Letters; USDA Recalls and Public Health Alerts; EU RASFF, and many others.

Of course, there are quite a few companies that offer tailored tools, training and consulting services. Companies that offer courses in food fraud mitigation and assistance in creating a vulnerability assessment (or FDA-required food safety plan) include NSF, Eurofins, AIB International, SGS, and The Acheson Group.

Also available are services that compile food safety recalls and alerts (including those resulting from food fraud) from multiple official sources, such as FoodAKAI and HorizonScan. EMAlert is a proprietary tool that merges public information with user judgment to inform food fraud vulnerability. Horizon Scanning is a system that can monitor emerging issues, including food fraud, globally.

Food fraud mitigation, vulnerability assessment
Vulnerability assessments should help focus resources towards those ingredients truly at risk of fraudulent adulteration.

In short, there are many resources available to help support your food fraud vulnerability assessments and mitigation plans. If I have unintentionally missed mentioning any resources you have found to be helpful, please let us know in the comments.

Upcoming Web Seminar to Tackle Technologies in Supply Chain Traceability

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Next month, Food Safety Tech invites you to join us for an afternoon of dynamic discussions about how technology (both emerging and current) can help the industry in its quest for full supply chain traceability. This is a complimentary web seminar. Our lineup of speakers includes Lucy Angarita, director of supply chain traceability for IPC, SUBWAY’s Purchasing Cooperative; Thomas Burke, food traceability and safety scientist at the Institute of Food Technologists; and Sharan Lanini, director of food safety at Pacific International. These subject matter experts will talk about the technologies that enable end-to-end visibility from farm to fork, emerging technologies and the components for success, and how to make the business case for technology adoption to the C-suite. A technology spotlight will follow each session to offer attendees a preview of available solutions that tackle supply chain challenges. You’ll also have the opportunity to ask speakers your questions during three Q&A sessions.

Event Details

Supply Chain Traceability: Using Technology to Address Challenges and Compliance
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
1–4 pm ET
Register for the event

Lucy Angarita, Thomas Burke and Sharan Lanini
Speakers (left to right) Lucy Angarita, Thomas Burke and Sharan Lanini.
Todd Fabec, Rfxcel
FST Soapbox

Why the Modern Food Supply Chain Needs Real-Time Environmental Monitoring

By Todd Fabec
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Todd Fabec, Rfxcel

Food supply chains are becoming more complex, as food companies are increasingly faced with blind spots such as deviations from required environmental conditions, theft, fraud and poor handling. Supply chains are global; transit routes that involve road, rail, sea and air create many potential points of failure in food safety or product integrity protocol that, until recently, were largely outside a company’s control.

Learn more about how to address risks in your supply chain at the Food Safety Supply Chain Conference | May 29–30, 2019 | Rockville, MD (or attend virtually)To maintain product quality and safety, companies should implement an environmental monitoring (EM) solution that paints a complete picture of their food products as they move through the supply chain. EM solutions that utilize devices powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) allow real-time tracking of cargo and provide actionable data that can mitigate common problems, change outcomes, and protect brands and consumer health.

Let’s take a deeper look into the problems that food manufacturers and distributors are facing how EM solutions can minimize or eliminate them altogether.

Current Hurdles for Food Supply Chains

As the global network of food trade expands, the diverse challenges facing suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and logistics companies present even more of a threat to supply chains and revenue.

According to PwC agribusiness advisory partner, Greg Quinn, worldwide food fraud results in losses of at least $65 billion a year. Luxury products such as Japanese Wagyu beef and Italian olive oil are regularly counterfeited and incorrectly labeled, and buyers often have no way to trace the origins of what they are purchasing.

Companies in the food and beverage industry also face diversion and theft, which can happen at any of the many blind spots along the supply chain. In fact, food and beverages were among the top commodities targeted by thieves in North America last year, accounting for 34% of all cargo theft, according to a report by BSI Supply Chain Services and Solutions.

Food product quality and safety are also seriously compromised when cargo is poorly handled while in transit, with hazards such as exposure to water, heat and cold, or substance contamination. These types of damages can be particularly acute in the cold chain, where perishable products must be moved quickly under specific environmental conditions, including temperature, humidity and light.

Furthermore, inefficiencies in routing—from not adhering to transport regulations to more basic oversights such as not monitoring traffic or not utilizing GPS location tracking—delay shipments, can result in product spoilage and/or shortened shelf life, and cost companies money. Routing and EM have become more important in light of FSMA, which FDA designed to better protect consumers by strengthening food safety systems for foodborne illnesses.

In short, businesses that manage food supply chains need to be on top of their game to guarantee product quality and safety and care for their brand.

How Does Product Tracking Technology Work?

Real-time EM solutions are proving to be an invaluable asset for companies seeking to combat supply chain challenges. Such product tracking capabilities give companies a vibrant and detailed picture of where their products are and what is happening to them. With EM in the supply chain, IoT technology is the crucial link to continuity, visibility and productivity.

So, how does integrated EM work? Sensors on pallets, cases or containers send data over communication networks at regular intervals. The data is made available via a software platform, where users can set parameters (e.g., minimum and maximum temperature) to alert the system of irregularities or generate reports for analysis. This data is associated with the traceability data and becomes part of a product’s pedigree, making it a powerful tool for supply chain visibility.

EM Combats Supply Chain Stumbling Blocks

EM allows companies to monitor their supply chain, protect consumers and realize considerable return on investment. The technology can show companies how to maximize route efficiencies, change shippers, or detect theft or diversion in real time. Tracking solutions transmit alerts, empowering manufacturers and suppliers to use data to halt shipments that may have been adulterated, redirect shipments to extend shelf life, and manage food recalls—or avoid them altogether. Recalls are a particularly important consideration: One 2012 study concluded that the average direct cost of a recall in the United States was $10 million.

The IoT-enabled technology provides real-time information about how long an item has been in transit, if the vehicle transporting it adhered to the approved route, and, if the shipment stopped, where and for how long. This is crucial information, especially for highly perishable goods. For example, leafy greens can be ruined if a truck’s engine and cooling system are turned off for hours at a border crossing. With EM and tracking, businesses are able to understand and act upon specific risks using detailed, unit-level data.

For example, a company can find out if pallets have dislodged, fallen, or have been compromised in other ways while in transit. They can receive alerts if the doors of a truck are opened at an unscheduled time or location, which could indicate theft. Thieves target food cargo more often than other products because it’s valuable, easy to sell and perishable, and evidence of the theft does not last very long. In fact, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that cargo theft costs U.S. businesses $30 billion each year, with food and beverage being one of the primary targets. Businesses need to get smart about preventative actions.

All of this actionable data is available in real time, allowing businesses to make decisions immediately, not after the fact when it’s too late. When necessary, they can divert or reroute shipments or take actions to remedy temperature excursions and other environmental concerns. This saves money and protects their reputation. Furthermore, third-party logistics firms and contracted delivery companies can be held accountable for incidents and inefficiencies.

Conclusion

As the benefits of global supply chains have grown, so have the risks. With the FSMA shifting responsibility for safety to food companies, real-time EM is a vital step to ensure cargo is maintained in the correct conditions, remains on track to its destination, and is safeguarded from theft and fraud. With the advent of IoT-enabled tracking and EM technologies, supply chain operations can be streamlined and companies can prevent waste and financial losses, protect their investments and brand identity, and gain an advantage in the marketplace.

Melody Ge, Corvium
FST Soapbox

Changes in the Food Safety Industry: Face Them or Ignore Them?

By Melody Ge
2 Comments
Melody Ge, Corvium

“A new era of smarter food safety is coming,” said Frank Yiannas, FDA’s deputy commissioner of food policy and response, at the GFSI Conference 2019 in Nice, France. He went on to explain, “a smarter food safety is people-led, FSMA-based and technology-enabled.” Afterwards, Yiannas announced the need for a greater budget for the FDA to invest in modern food safety for 2020 and beyond.

Now the question is, when this new era comes, are you ready?

The food industry is relatively behind on technology compared to other industries, or even within our daily lives. Take a look at the cell phone you have now compared to what you had 10 years ago; it has come a long way with all of its handy and useful features. Why can’t the food industry also benefit from technology? Of course, every coin has two sides, but no one would deny that technology played a significant role in bringing the world closer and making it more efficient nowadays.

The scary part of change is that it’s hard to predict what and when they will come to us, however, they also force us think outside of the box. Instead of debating whether incorporating advanced technology into our daily operations makes sense, why don’t we take a look at our current processes in place and see where technology can truly help us? We now have the opportunity to take advantage of technology to enhance our food safety and quality culture at our own facility. Here are some thoughts to share.

1. Identify what can be automated in your current process with technology

Certain things just can’t be replaced by technology, such as risk assessment or hazard identification (at least for now). However, inventory, temperature checking, testing results recording, or anything executing a command from you or implementing a part of your SOPs can potentially be automated. Execution is also the part where the most error could occur, and technology can help improve accuracy and consistency. Identify those steps systematically and understand what data needs to be captured to help your food safety management system.

2. Work with your technology developer to build technical requirements

Explain to the technology developer exactly how you want the program to operate daily. List the operating steps along with responsibilities step-by-step, and identify what requirements are needed for each step. Translating the paper SOP to a computer program plays an important role in this transition. Not only does it set the foundation for your future daily operation, but it also ensures that the control parameter is not lost during the transition.

3. Keep the integrity of the food safety management system through verification and validation

Once processing steps are done by technology, it doesn’t mean that we no longer have to do anything. We need to verify and validate the technology with certain frequency to ensure the steps are controlled as intended. Confirming that the software or system is capturing the right data at the right time becomes key to ensure the integrity of control risks is not compromised.

4. Utilize “preventative maintenance” on all technology used on site

Just like all equipment, food safety technology needs a preventive maintenance schedule. Check whether it is properly functioning on a certain frequency based on the safety impact in your process flow and take actions proactively.

5. Learn from your own records

The time saved from traditional ways allows us to have more time for looking at control points and records received to identify areas for continuous improvement. There are many ways of studying the data with modeling and trend analysis based on your own facility situation. Either way, those records are your own supporting documents of any changes or modifications to your food safety management system, as well as strong support to your risk assessment for justifications.

Just like Yiannas said, a smarter food safety system is still FSMA based. The goal has never changed; we want to produce sustainable, safe and high-quality products to our consumers, whether we use traditional or advanced approaches. After all, we are utilizing technology as a modern way to help us enhance and simplify our food safety management system; the outcome from the automated technology is still controlled by us.

So when the era comes, we all want to be ready for it.

2019 Food Safety Supply Chain Conference

FDA to Provide FSMA Update at 2019 Food Safety Supply Chain Conference

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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2019 Food Safety Supply Chain Conference

EDGARTOWN, MA, April 8, 2019 – Innovative Publishing Co., publisher of Food Safety Tech, has announced three speakers from FDA will kick off the 5th Annual Food Safety Supply Chain Conference on May 29–30. Priya Rathnam, Supervisory Consumer Safety Officer, CFSAN; Andrew J. Seaborn, Supervisory Consumer Safety Officer, Division of Import Operations, ORA; and Lisa L. Ross, Consumer Safety Officer, CFSAN (Office of Food Safety, Multi-Commodity Foods, Refrigerated and Frozen Foods Team) will provide the opening presentations on Wednesday, May 29. An interactive Town Hall with attendees will follow.

Lisa Ross, CFSAN, FDA
Lisa L. Ross, Consumer Safety Officer, CFSAN

Seaborn, Rathnam and Ross will provide FDA perspective on FSVP inspection updates, including outcomes and compliance, the voluntary qualified importer program (VQIP) and where the agency is headed with enforcement activities. They will also take a deeper dive into supply chain requirements as per subpart G of part 117.

“As FDA continues its ‘educate while regulate’ strategy, having FDA officials present to inform attendees of the agency’s latest activities, available resources for industry, and how industry can work together with FDA in achieving compliance provides a crucial benefit,” said Rick Biros, president of Innovative Publishing Co., Inc. and director of the Food Safety Supply Chain Conference. “Andrew and Priya added tremendous insights to the conference last year, and I am thrilled to welcome them back, along with the addition of Lisa this year.”

The Food Safety Supply Chain conference takes place May 29–30 in Rockville, MD. Registration is open with a virtual attendee option as well.

Rick Biros, Priya Rathnam, and Andrew Seaborn, 2018 Food Safety Supply Chain Conference
Priya Rathnam (middle) pictured with Rick Biros, president of Innovative Publishing (left) and Andrew J. Seaborn,Supervisory Consumer Safety Officer, Division of Import Operations, ORA, FDA at the 2018 Food Safety Supply Chain Conference

About Food Safety Tech

Food Safety Tech publishes news, technology, trends, regulations, and expert opinions on food safety, food quality, food business and food sustainability. We also offer educational, career advancement and networking opportunities to the global food industry. This information exchange is facilitated through ePublishing, digital and live events.

About the Food Safety Supply Chain Conference

A food company’s supply chain can be the weakest link in their food safety program. Food ingredient adulteration, fraud, and counterfeiting negatively impacts everyone in the food supply chain. FDA has recognized the risk in the food supply chain. Sanitary transportation and the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) are major components of FSMA. The Food Safety Supply Chain Conference addresses best practices, and new tools and technologies that can help food companies, including manufacturers, retailers and food service companies protect their brands and customers from food safety threats in their supply chain while being compliant with regulators.

Eric Wilhelmsen, SmartWash
FST Soapbox

Where Is the Next Generation of Food Safety Professionals?

By Eric Wilhelmsen, Ph.D.
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Eric Wilhelmsen, SmartWash

Before we can consider where to find the next generation of food safety professionals, we must consider what is a food safety professional. For many people, this question will be answered by describing a set of knowledge and expertise. One might first consider an understanding of the physical, chemical and biological hazards that are associated with food, including the various pathogens responsible for human illness. Additionally, the knowledge could include an understanding of HACCP and risk management strategies for addressing these hazards, including the various processing techniques that can be applied to food. Building further, perhaps we would add knowing chapter and verse in Title 21 of Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR). Perhaps expertise is expected regarding the required documentation for FSMA and the associated regulations and guidance documents. If you are reading this article, you probably have other skills that you would add to this list. For example, IFT has been promoting its Certified Food Scientist (CFS) credential to recognize the possession of a significant amount of this knowledge and expertise, including expertise in food safety. This lays a good foundation but would be expected to some degree in any food scientist, and it is not the entire criteria.

One must consider what more is needed to make a food scientist into a food safety professional? I am sure there are some people who will insist that we need professionals who understand all the rules and regulations to ensure compliance and thereby ensure food safety. However, when examined closely, we find that many of these skills relate more to regulatory compliance. The regulations have been promulgated to promote safety and fair trade. The link between regulatory compliance and food safety is strong and may be enough to justify adding this attribute to our growing description of the food safety professionals we seek, but regulatory compliance is considered a separate if somewhat overlapping area of expertise in the CFS credential.

Building further, perhaps adding a performance-based attribute will provide the necessary distinction of what makes a true food safety professional. Perhaps a food safety professional is a food scientist that identifies hazards (and potential hazards) and seeks to prevent them from impacting human health. With a little consideration, though, one realizes that anyone working in the food industry must learn to identify hazards and potential hazards. Everyone must seek to prevent hazards from impacting human health. The line worker must make decisions daily based on the training they have received to ensure they do not contaminate the product stream. The maintenance worker needs to be sure that they do not unintentionally add lubricant to a product stream. The CEO needs to create a culture where one of the first questions considered for any change is the impact it will have on food safety. After this reminder that everyone working in the food industry must be safety minded, we can return to the question of what is a food safety professional.

With the above preamble, let me opine that a food safety professional is a food scientist who materially impacts the safety of a portion of the food supply. This person may or may not have an actual degree in food science but will have acquired the knowledge necessary to materially contribute to food safety efforts. With this description, I suggest that the next generation of food safety professionals will set the standards for safety in the coming decades. They must have both knowledge of what has gone before and be able to identify new hazards and potential hazards. As a form of succession planning, it is prudent to consider where we will find the next generation of food safety professionals.

As a greying food scientist or more specifically, a food chemist from the tail end of the baby boomers, I have considered what has led me to more than dabble in food safety. As with most technical players in the food industry, I have accumulated knowledge and expertise across many fields including chemistry, microbiology and food science on the way to achieving a CFS certification. This knowledge is the gears and cogs that drive the engines of critical thinking, problem analysis and preventative problem analysis. These engines allow me to be effective as a food safety professional. I am involved in food safety because food safety is everyone’s job in the food industry. I am involved in food safety because food safety problems were presented to me or because I have identified food safety problems. Most importantly, I have worked to find solutions to these problems and potential problems.

This experience leads me to conclude that food safety professionals are developed and nurtured as opposed to being found. For almost any position, everyone seeks to hire that 35-year-old with five to 10 years of experience, depending on education. Unfortunately, this means that few are willing to invest in those early years of nurturing right after a person graduates. The pool of candidates is limited because studying food science is not viewed as having the same cache as going into law or medicine. The returns for going into finance can be extraordinary. Worse still is that a typical food science student aspires to product development or perhaps research and development as opposed to going into operations or quality assurance. These students do not necessarily expect to change the world with new products or ideas, but they are not aware of the breadth of opportunities in the food industry. It is a reality that very few food science students aspire to work in quality assurance or quality control—areas that are more likely to lead to food safety careers. In any event, all food science students will need to get some seasoning to become the next generation of food safety professionals, regardless of the career path they take.

Assuming that an institution or company wants to add to the pool or potential pool of food safety professionals, there a number of options and opportunities. These are not as simple or as immediately goal oriented as making those perfect hires, but the institution will get some benefits now and will be casting bread upon the waters that has the potential for long-term benefits.

Inspiring students to explore food science is the first step. Encourage food scientists in your organization and community to mentor, to be judges at science fairs, to visit and participate in career fairs, and just be visible in their communities. I have given guest lectures in a variety of forums on such topics as fraudulent labels and food adulteration. I was lucky to have an uncle who introduced me to two professors in food science during my junior year of high school. I never looked back. Not all of the students we touch will be inspired to select food science, but they will be aware of the opportunities. These efforts should increase the potential pool.

Offer internships to students early in their education. By the time a student is a junior or senior in college, his or her educational path is largely set. The costs for a change in major can become prohibitive. If you reach out to students in their first or second year and expose them to opportunities to make the food supply safer and to better feeding the world, they have the option of choosing food science and maybe eventually becoming those needed food safety professionals. The research program I run for SmartWash Solutions provides opportunities for up to 12 students to assist with the design and execution of cutting-edge research in food safety for the fresh cut produce industry. With a little training, these students can learn to operate pilot plant equipment and learn to analyze samples. These young, enthusiastic students enjoy the opportunity to work in this team environment. The internships are vastly superior to jobs working in fast food restaurants in terms of educational value. These students allow me to accomplish much more than I can alone. Interns can become great regular employees, although it may not occur immediately due to their needs to finish their educations.

Mentoring all those who are coming along behind you is another way to increase the pool and to find the next generation of food safety professionals. Take the time to explain why you have asked for things and explain the importance of tasks. Expose people to the critical thinking and problem solving process of enhancing food safety. Let them see how food safety makes a difference.

There is little doubt that food safety professionals are needed today and will be needed tomorrow. Turnover is as inevitable as death, and we are going to need new champions of food safety. Some might argue that the need is greater today than ever before. Others would argue that detection and reporting have just made the problems appear bigger with the advent of the powerful molecular biology tools being applied today. In either case, there have certainly been some recent outbreaks that have made headlines including those involving romaine lettuce. Additionally, FSMA is focusing more attention on food safety and mandating that people with specific skills perform various required tasks. Clearly, the need for food safety professionals is ongoing.