Tag Archives: food industry

Maria Fontanazza, Food Safety Tech
From the Editor’s Desk

COVID-19 in the Food Industry: So Many Questions

By Maria Fontanazza
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Maria Fontanazza, Food Safety Tech

Industries across the global are reeling from the COVID-19 crisis. Although we are clearly not in a state of “business as usual”, the food industry is essential. And as this entire industry must continue to move forward in its duty to provide safe, quality food products, so many questions remain. These questions include: Should I test my employees for fever before allowing them into the manufacturing facility? What do we do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19? How can the company continue safe production? Should we sanitize between shifts on the production line? Should employees on the production floor wear face masks and shields? At what temperature can the virus be killed? The list truly goes on. We saw it ourselves during the first Food Safety Tech webinar last week, “COVID-19 in the Food Industry: Protecting Your Employees and Consumers” (you can register and listen to the recording here). Amidst their incredibly busy schedules, we were lucky to be graced with the presence and expertise of Shawn Stevens (food safety lawyer, Food Industry Counsel, LLC), April Bishop (senior director of food safety, TreeHouse Foods, Inc. and Jennifer McEntire, Ph.D. (vice president of food safety, United Fresh Produce Association) for this virtual event.

From a manufacturing point of view, we learned about the important ways companies can protect their employees—via thorough cleaning of high-touch areas, vigilance with CDC-recommended sanitizers, conducting risk assessments related to social distancing and employees in the production environment—along with the “what if’s” related to employees who test positive for COVID-19. Although FDA has made it clear that there is currently no indication of human transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus through food or food packaging, some folks are concerned about this issue as well.

“The U.S. food supply remains safe for both people and animals. There is no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19,” said Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy commissioner for food policy and response in the agency’s blog last week. “Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness. This virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.”

As the industry continues to adjust to this new and uncertain environment, we at Food Safety Tech are working to keep you in touch with experts who can share best practices and answer your questions. I encourage you to join us on Thursday, April 2 for our second webinar in this series that I referenced earlier, COVID-19 in the Food Industry: Enterprise Risk Management and the Supply Chain. We will be joined by Melanie Neumann, executive vice president & general counsel for Matrix Sciences International, Inc. and Martin Wiedmann, Ph.D., Gellert Family Professor in Food Safety at Cornell University, and the event promises to reveal more important information about how we can work through this crisis together.

We hear it often in our industry: “Food safety is not a competitive advantage.” This phrase has never been more true.

Stay safe, stay well, and thank you for all that you do.

Millennials Are Changing the Food Industry

By Chelsey Davis
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Millennials are definitely changing the landscape of the food industry. What do they care about when it comes to food, and what does this mean for food manufacturers?


We’ve all heard the latest trends regarding that hard-to-reach audience we’ve dubbed the Millennials (those born roughly between the years 1980 and the early 2000s). And with so many how-to articles out there, it’s hard to really understand who these folks are and what they want. Here are just a few fun facts about this generation: 50 percent consider themselves politically unaffiliated, they have the highest average number of Facebook friends, 55 percent have posted a selfie or two to social media sites, and there are roughly 80 million of them. This makes Millennials the biggest generation thus far. And one thing is for certain, based on research, they are definitely changing the landscape of the food industry. So what do Millennials care about when it comes to food?

Millennials care about quality and sustainability

According to a 2014 study by the International Food Council (IFC), Millennials have the highest level of awareness out of any age group when it comes to food sustainability, and they are willing to pay more for it. And when it comes to quality vs. price, Millennials are more apt to be loyal to a brand deemed to have quality products as opposed to a brand that has a better price point.

Quality versus price for Millennials  (Image courtesy of Bushiness Insider via Goldman Sachs)
Quality versus price for Millennials (Image courtesy of Business Insider via Goldman Sachs)

Take McDonald’s for example. In August of 2013, the fast-food chain reported a 13 percent decline in consumption for people between the ages of 19-21 since 2011. And while Millennials are still dinning out, they are opting for franchises like Chipotle and Five Guys. Why? These chains pride themselves on using local producers and sustainable food items, which makes paying that extra $2.00 for guacamole not so bad to this generation.

Additionally, Millennials are more apt to choose products that are socially responsible and produce lower carbon footprints. For example, Millennials are now paying attention to how much energy, water and effort it takes to grow, manufacture and transport food, including the packaging process. And as this environmentally friendly generation matures and moves into prime spending age, manufacturers will need to evolve the packaging of food products to ensure they are created with eco-friendly and recyclable materials if they wish to appeal to these folks.

Millennials care about their health

This generation, as research states, is more aware of their health than any other generation thus far, especially when it comes to what goes into their bodies. Locally grown, cage-free, all-natural, organic—these are all terms Millennials tend to gravitate towards when making food choices. As a result, organic coffee shops are popping up everywhere, farm-to-table restaurants are all the rage, and even private label brands are seeing increases in sales, with Millennials opting for those over national brands due to the perception that these labels are more innovative.

Millennials are also reading labels and are more aware of what the items on the labels mean—they understand the ingredients and what goes into their food more so than their parents and grandparents. As a result, we’re seeing an increase in natural and organic claims as we navigate through the grocery aisles.

Graphic showing wellness stats for Millennials  (Image courtesy of Bushiness Insider via Goldman Sachs)
Graphic showing wellness stats for Millennials
(Image courtesy of Bushiness Insider via Goldman Sachs)

What this means for food manufacturers

Food manufacturers have an interesting challenge ahead, but also a great opportunity. The ones that will ultimately gain popularity among Millennials will be those that are willing to innovate while staying authentic. Millennials not only value the transparency of brands, they are also aware of shortcomings when it comes to unsubstantiated claims. Food manufacturers must now walk the line between making all-natural and sustainable product claims, and being 100 percent truthful in their statements. When it comes down to it, Millennials will do the research, read the labels and uncover the truth.

So how do you appeal to Millennials, while also mitigating the risks when it comes to labeling your product natural, organic or GMO-free? To answer tough questions like this, TraceGains got the inside scoop from Attorney Antonio Gallegos, who advises on compliance with regulations administered by the FDA, FTC, USDA and similar state-level agencies, and co-produced a guidance report. Use this free Natural Labeling Guidance Report to help you make informed decisions in the future for your products. Do you have additional tips for reaching Millennials? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Ask the Expert : Root Cause Analysis – Responding to Audit Non-Conformances

A food manufacturer’s food safety program must encourage continual improvement to their existing program in order to be successful and to comply with their food safety standard. And root cause analysis is a great tool for problem solving when a site is found not to be in conformance.

The food industry has been introduced to the concept of third-party certification to help manage and control their food safety programs. Food manufacturers benefit from a food safety quality system that is based on Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) principles.

Business People with Puzzle Pieces and Teamwork Concept

A food manufacturer’s food safety program must encourage continual improvement to their existing program in order to be successful. Current GFSI benchmarking initiatives have introduced the concept of implementing root cause analysis as a tool for problem solving when a site is found not to be in conformance with their food safety standard.

A new white paper from CERT ID covers relevant information that can assist food companies understand how to implement their solution, review and evaluate the results, and reflect and act on what was learned. This Q&A with CERT ID’s Michael J. Pearsall, Vice President of Business Development, offers some insights.

Q: These RCA tools are nice but require large amounts of resources to solve problems. Is this really necessary?

A: The effort and resources utilized to solve a problem should reflect the scale of the issue with regard to the impact on the person or organization. The tools that are normally advertised are to be used for complex problems. What about the simple day-to-day problems we all face as managers? A human being solves problems without even realizing it. You have a built in mechanism that you have acquired through life experiences and this device should be called upon first. Develop a personal strategy as to how to approach a problem that starts with observation; defining the issue; prioritization; short term strategy and finally a long term strategy to prevent issues from reoccurring. Complexity of problems change but your strategy should not.

Q: We went through a complex root cause analysis and solved the problem but it keeps reoccurring. It is very frustrating so how do we prevent this?

A: I hate to tell you this but problems are only temporarily solved. Many very intelligent people forget, the most important part of problem solving, developing a strategy to maintain the gains you spent so much of your resources to obtain.

There is an overused Old Testament bible story about David and Goliath. Many think that David killed Goliath with a stone from his sling but this is not true. David had developed a strategy to maintain his gain. David had to immobilize the giant to gain access to him. He solved the problem by hitting him in the head with a stone, but the long term strategy was to grab his sword to cut his head off securing the gains to his problem solving effort. It is necessary to think about how you will maintain the gain once a problem is unraveled.

For more information, click here to download Responding to Audit Non-Conformances: Root Cause Analysis, a complimentary white paper from CERT ID

John A. Wadie, U.S. Marketing Development Manager, 3M

Interview: 30 Years of Petrifilm Technology

By Sangita Viswanathan
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John A. Wadie, U.S. Marketing Development Manager, 3M

3M Food Safety celebrated a milestone this past summer – the 30th anniversary of its PetrifilmTM Plates – currently the worldwide standard for fast, simple, easy-to-interpret indicator testing.

First introduced in 1984, the 3M Petrifilm Plate technology has long been the industry standard for efficient and reliable colony interpretation and enumeration for the F&B industry. In a chat with Food Safety Tech, John A. Wadie, U.S. Marketing Development Manager for 3M Food Safety Department, talked about the adoption of Petrifilm continuing to grow worldwide, which spoke to the product’s value and utility to the industry. We present below excerpts from a Q&A.

FST: How has the food safety environment changed in the last 30 years?

Wadie: The food industry has become increasingly global, with great awareness among consumers about food safety issues. The combination of these trends, combined with constant information dissemination on a variety of food safety issues, has placed enormous pressure on food companies to test more, do it faster and do it more efficiently. From a regulatory stand point also, there is much more pressure on food companies to proactively maintain and manage stringent food safety procedures, and testing plays a big role in managing this. The biggest change has occurred with the speed of testing. Alongside even faster testing, is the demand for accurate and consistent testing and results.  

FST: What attributes of Petrifilm Plates have made it so popular over the last 30 years?

Wadie: With more than 2 billion units sold and counting, 3M Petrifilm Plates are the world’s leading food indicator testing technology. They are currently in used by all kinds of food processors, universities, governments and third-party contract labs in no fewer than 65 countries.

3M-Petrifilm-July-2014The standout feature of the product, and probably the primary reason for its longevity, is its simplicity, due to the fact there is no need for customers to prepare, purchase or store agar dishes. The technology has also received numerous country-specific, as well as global, validations from multiple, rigorous sources. With Petrifilm Plates, you also ensure the consistency and accuracy of test results from technician to technician, and between plant locations, and these are very important attributes in the current multi-location setting of food companies.

FST: Against the backdrop of FSMA, how is food safety testing set to change in the near future?

Wadie: With new regulations, there’s even greater focus on food safety testing, and getting fast, consistent and accurate results. The regulations, and the standards benchmarked under GFSI, are also laying emphasis on how the testing is done, where it’s done, and who is doing it.

The next 30 years will continue to bring faster and more accurate methods of testing as well as improvements to the preparation process. With greater innovation and rapid detection technologies, it may soon be possible to do inline testing – to identify pathogens and bacteria within production lines as opposed to testing being a separate step.

William L Michels, President, ISM Services

Managing Suppliers: Race to Win, Rather Than to the Bottom!

By Sangita Viswanathan
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William L Michels, President, ISM Services

Continued consolidation of the food supply base will lead to more powerful and assertive customers in some markets. These customers are placing increasing demand on the entire supply chain for reduced cost and higher levels of value delivery.

While many companies focus on price reduction as a solution, they soon realize that there is only so much supplier margin and they soon become in effective in trying to meet the increasing demands of the customer and company management. They also realize that there is a significant cost and time involved in changing and developing new suppliers.

The solution to increasing demand for value is to get business alignment across the entire supply chain, which requires value-based relationships. In an upcoming webinar presented by TraceGains, William L Michels, will speak about how a company can build such a process that delivers cost and value improvement year on year, and how you can better understand SRM (click here to register).

Michels is President of ISM Services, a specialty training & consulting company that focuses on procurement and supply chain management. In a chat with Food Safety Tech, Michels provided a sneak-peek into his presentation.

FST: Supplier Relationship Management is critical and challenging. What aspects of this will you be addressing in this webinar? Why are these important to food manufacturers today?

Michels: The food industry has been consolidating for some time, and now it is essential that food companies align with the suppliers that can meet their overall business goals for cost, quality, safety and value delivery. The drive for continued consolidation will ultimately impact supply chains leaving integrated, exclusive and competing supply chains. Only the leanest, most efficient, and aligned supply chains will provide maximum competitive advantage to the end customer.

In the past many companies have focused on price, but as buyers gain transparency on supply chain cost, yields and efficiency, they need to manage the supply chain and optimize value delivery. SRM is the process by which companies can integrate the supply chain and extract real value.

FST: In the webinar you will be speaking about how to identify which suppliers are good candidates for SRM. Can you give us an idea about that?

SRM is a resource-intensive investment with a big pay back, therefore, we need to align with the most strategic suppliers to assure that we can get the maximum value and competitive advantage. The webinar will provide a template for choosing the correct suppliers.

FST: What are some common SRM errors/ omissions that you notice? And how would your webinar help address these?

Companies fail to look beyond the immediate first tier supplier in the supply chain and fail to recognize all aspects of the relationship that will lead to competitive advantage for both firms. Through the SRM process, companies can improve speed to market, total cost of ownership, quality, availability, and risk management. The webinar will detail how every supplier in the supply chain can incrementally add value.

FST: How is SRM evolving and what does this mean to the food industry?

If food companies continue to focus on price, rather that cost and value, the food industry will not progress far. Driving already slim margins lower will not provide the necessary capital to invest, innovate, create new processes and add incremental value. By recognizing the need for transparency and linkages of business objectives across the supply base, there is an opportunity for true transformation. This is an evolutionary process.

Michels will talk more on this topic in the webinar. Click here for details and to register.