In today’s digital age, the use of imagery in social media, articles and marketing materials has become increasingly prevalent. Images can enhance (or distort) the messages conveyed through text, bringing about a range of positive and negative consequences. This article explores the multifaceted nature of imagery, focusing on its impact on accountability, brand reputation, liability, adherence to the FDA Food Code regulations, legal ramifications, and the concern of those who monitor these visuals.
Some important things to consider include:
Accountability of Site Owners. Using imagery in social media and on website is a significant responsibility for publishers and social media page managers. Visually appealing imagery can attract users and enhance engagement, leading to increased traffic and revenue. However, site owners must ensure that the images used are accurate, ethical and respectful. Failure to do so can result in misrepresentation, manipulation or dissemination of harmful content, leading to a loss of trust as well as accountability issues for the site owner or publisher.
Brand Reputation. Imagery plays a crucial role in shaping brand identity and reputation. Effective use of the proper visuals can help establish a strong brand identity and improve consumer perceptions of your products. The right imagery evokes emotions, creates connections and enhances brand recognition. However, a mismatch between the imagery and the brand’s values—or the use of misleading visuals—can damage an organization’s reputation, leading to public backlash and eroding trust.
Liability. Copyright infringement, invasion of privacy and/or the use of misleading or deceptive visual content can create liability concerns for brands and publishers. Content creators must understand and adhere to legal guidelines governing the use of images to avoid legal repercussions and potential damages. For instance, unauthorized use of copyrighted images can lead to legal claims and financial penalties. Additionally, manipulation or propagation of explicit, defamatory or offensive visuals may result in lawsuits and reputational damage. Content creators must be vigilant in obtaining proper permissions and ensuring their visuals comply with legal standards.
Compliance and Regulations. Images are widely used to market food products, services and brands, as well as to influence consumer choices. However, these images must align with the FDA Food Code and FD&C Act regulations, both of which require an accurate depiction of advertised food. Misleading visuals can result in false expectations and regulatory violations.
In addition, using imagery that visually represents U.S. regulations and industry standards for safe food handling and preparation is critical for businesses, as it assures consumers that your methods align with recognized food safety guidelines.
In the digital age, the responsibility of policing imagery goes beyond site owners and extends to society as a whole. Users, consumers, regulatory agencies, insurance companies, attorneys, competitors and advocacy groups are pivotal in monitoring and holding accountable those who misuse or manipulate imagery. Vigilance from individuals and collective efforts to report inappropriate imagery can create an environment of shared responsibility, fostering greater accountability across social media, print publishing and the Internet.
Using images that are accurate and compliant with federal and state regulations can have multiple benefits, including:
- Legal Compliance. Images that adhere to (or reflect) FDA Food Code requirements help businesses avoid potential legal issues and penalties that may arise from noncompliance and boost a brand’s reputation.
- Health and Safety. The FDA Food Code is designed to ensure food safety and protect public health. Using compliant images can help promote and reinforce safe food handling, preparation and display of food, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses.
- Consumer Trust. Displaying food images that are compliant with U.S. regulations and industry best practices show a commitment to maintaining high standards of quality, safety and hygiene. This can help build trust with key audiences, including consumers, regulatory bodies, advocacy groups and influencers, leading to increased credibility and brand reputation.
- Clear Communication. The FDA Food Code provides guidelines on proper labeling, disclosure of common allergens and accurate representation of food products. Compliant images enable effective and clear communication of important information to consumers, ensuring they have the necessary details to make informed choices.
Imagery in social media and printed articles holds immense potential to positively impact engagement, brand reputation and communication. However, it also brings forth challenges related to liability, accountability, adherence to legal and ethical standards, and the need for effective monitoring. Stakeholders must balance harnessing the power of visuals and ensuring their responsible use. As technology further evolves, the continuous improvement of content moderation systems and cooperation among platform owners, publishers and creators become crucial to mitigate the negative aspects associated with imagery and maximize its positive potential.
The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), a nonprofit scientific organization committed to advancing the science of food and its application across the global food system, has rebranded its Quality Management Division. The newly named Food Safety & Quality Management Division (FSQM)—announced on World Food Safety Day 2023—brings together more than 1,500 members from more than 60 countries to collaborate, network, and share ideas around food safety. IFT chose to rebrand the division to better reflect the overall responsibilities of its members who focus on assurance, quality control, food safety, and food wholesomeness.
IFT’s topical, interest-based groups, known as Divisions, support learning, collaboration, and innovation through the sharing of knowledge via webcasts and podcasts, online forums, and in-person events. In total, the organization hosts 25 Divisions spanning the science of food.
“Rebranding to Food Safety & Quality Management Division communicates to the food community that this Division is a home for those interested in food safety,” added Eric Ewert, Chair of IFT’s Food Safety & Quality Management Division.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO) has published its Strategic Priorities for Food Safety 2022-2031. These priorities were developed collaboratively with FAO Members, international partner organizations (IAEA, WOAH, WTO/STDF, UNIDO, WHO), and FAO technical divisions and centers to “support members in continuing to improve food safety at all levels by providing scientific advice and strengthening their food safety capacities for efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems.”
The document, created at the request of the 27th session of the FAO Committee on Agriculture (COAG) and approved by the 171st session of FAO Council, is structured around four interconnected strategic outcomes focusing on governance, scientific advice, strengthening national food control systems and promoting public-private partnerships throughout the food chain.
The FAO noted that its goal is to encourage a more coherent integration of food safety into the development of sustainable and inclusive agrifood systems, food security, and nutrition policies as well as agricultural development strategies. “Our aspiration is that this document helps spur investments and secure adequate human and financial resources for FAO to successfully implement its food safety program,” said Corinna Hawkes, FAO Director of the Food Systems and Food Safety Division.
The four strategic outcomes include:
1. Intergovernmental and intersectoral coordination of food safety governance is reinforced at all levels.
2. Sound scientific advice and evidence are provided as the foundation for food safety decision-making.
3. National food control systems are further strengthened and are continuously improved by:
- Providing technical support to FAO Members to evaluate their national food control systems, identify needs and design integrated capacity development programs
- Supporting FAO Members and relevant stakeholders, particularly in developing and transition economy countries, where requested, to participate more actively in Codex Alimentarius work
- Supporting FAO Members in developing and updating their food safety standards, legal frameworks and government policies, as well as operational level procedures and guidelines
- Helping FAO Members generate relevant food safety data that reflects their national context/situation
- Supporting FAO Members and relevant stakeholders to embrace relevant technological developments, including digital technologies, in food control and food safety management
4. Public and private stakeholder collaboration is promoted to ensure food safety management and controls throughout agrifood systems by:
- Supporting both governments and food chain actors starting from primary production and including associated industries, academia, consumers and other stakeholders, in adopting gender responsive and inclusive programs of preventative food safety control and management
- Providing the tools and resources for stakeholders to make informed choices and adopt food safety interventions that are specific to their countries’ priorities, safety risks and their constituents’ differentiated needs
- Ensuring that lessons learned from national- and regional-level food safety control programs and initiatives can inform global level normative work and strengthen dialogues on food safety
- Supporting initiatives aiming to create training programs and curricula that better reflect the complexity of food safety and the need for collaborations across disciplines
Download the full document here.
The FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) and Office of Food Policy and Response (OFPR) has released a list of draft and final guidance topics that are a priority for the FDA Foods Program to complete during the next 12 months.
The guidance documents do not impose legally enforceable requirements, but they can help stakeholders plan for potential changes that may impact their businesses and organizations. The agency anticipates it will publish many of the listed documents by January 2024.
The priority list of draft and final guidance topics include (by category):
- Questions and Answers Regarding Food Allergens, Including the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (Edition 5); Guidance for Industry
- Compliance Policy Guide Sec. 555.250 Major Food Allergen Labeling and Cross-contact; Draft Guidance for FDA Staff
- Evaluating the Public Health Importance of Food Allergens Other Than the Major Food Allergens Listed in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; Guidance for FDA Staff and Stakeholders
- Preparation of Premarket Submission for Food Contact Substances (Chemistry Recommendations): Draft Guidance for Industry
- Premarket Consultation on Cultured Animal Cell Foods: Draft Guidance for Industry
- Foods Derived from Plants Produced Using Genome Editing; Draft Guidance for Industry
- Inorganic Arsenic in Apple Juice: Action Level; Draft Guidance for Industry
- Detention Without Physical Examination (DWPE) of Fish and Fishery Products Due to the Appearance of Adulteration by Bacterial Pathogens, Unlawful Animal Drugs, Scombrotoxin (Histamine), or Decomposition – Evidence Recommended for Release of Goods Subject to DWPE and Removal of a Foreign Manufacturer’s Goods from DWPE; Draft Guidance for Industry
- Compliance Policy Guide Sec. 555.320 Listeria monocytogenes in Human Food; Draft Guidance for FDA Staff
- Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food; Appendix 1: Potential Hazards for Foods and Processes; Draft Guidance for Industry
- Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food; Chapter 11: Food Allergen Controls; Draft Guidance for Industry
- Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food; Chapter 16: Validation of Process Controls; Draft Guidance for Industry
- Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food; Chapter 17: Classifying Food as Ready-To-Eat or Not Ready- to-Eat; Draft Guidance for Industry
- Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food; Chapter 18: Acidified Foods; Draft Guidance for Industry
- Compliance with and Recommendations for Implementation of the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption for Sprout Operations: Guidance for Industry
- Labeling of Plant-Based Alternatives to Animal-Derived Foods; Draft Guidance for Industry
- Questions and Answers About Dietary Guidance Statements in Food Labeling; Draft Guidance for Industry
- Use of Nutrient Content Claims for Added Sugars in the Labeling of Human Food Products: Draft Guidance for Industry
Public comments on the list of guidance topics, including suggestions for alternatives or recommendations on the topics the FDA is considering, can be submitted to www.regulations.gov, using Docket ID: FDA-2021-N-0553.
After restaurants nationwide experienced several years of a stressful, disruptive labor shortage, the leisure and hospitality industry has recently added 128,000 jobs, leading all sectors.
Hiring new employees is exciting, especially after years of being seriously understaffed. As you welcome new employees to your team, do not underestimate the importance of onboarding, as 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they were onboarded properly. Additionally, organizations with an official onboarding process experience 50% greater new-hire productivity.
When new hires are trained properly, they feel more confident in their roles and the companies they work for can maximize safety, quality, and compliance. To accomplish this, restaurants and other food businesses should:
Adopt Integrated Digital Solutions
Tech solutions can improve all aspects of your operations, making everything from budgeting to scheduling, forecasting, purchasing, and inspecting more efficient, accurate, and streamlined. Tech tools offer many significant benefits, helping your brand save time and money, reduce waste, and optimize operations.
What’s more, an integrated tech stack can help you get a holistic view of your entire enterprise, whether you have one location or dozens. Easy-to-understand reports provide critical information, allowing operators to make more informed, data-driven decisions.
Digital tools do require an investment, but they offer a tremendous ROI. These solutions help improve safety, efficiency, transparency, accuracy, and consistency. These positive changes boost key performance indicators, including increased sales, profits, customer loyalty, and employee retention.
Prioritize Safety, Quality, and Compliance
Each year, 48 million (1 in 6) Americans get sick from contaminated food or beverages. Don’t let food safety breaches happen at your business!
Prioritize a food safety culture, where all employees work together to maximize safety and minimize risks. Put food safety protocols in place and be certain that all employees are following them. Provide the proper tools for employees to ensure food safety, such as Bluetooth sensors that can tell when walk-in temperatures rise above safe temperatures, and state-of-the-art food thermometers that ensure foods are cooked to proper temps.
It’s not enough just to follow proper food safety protocols yourself, you must be sure that all your suppliers adhere to the strictest food safety standards, as well. If you are following all the right protocols, but a supplier delivers compromised products, your customers (and your business) are at risk.
Food safety and quality assurance must be followed from each product’s point of origin until it’s prepared and served to the consumer. Audit all suppliers regularly and be sure that they have proper, up-to-date safety certifications. When you have multiple suppliers—as most food businesses do—it can be overwhelming to track and organize these important safety certifications manually. Tech tools make this ongoing process easier and more accurate.
Modernize Training Efforts
Some food brands, particularly smaller companies, think that they don’t need a formal training or onboarding process, or they rely on antiquated training programs that have been in place for many years. Swap out your outdated (and/or informal) training programs in favor of something more modern, relevant, and tech driven.
Add more interactive tech elements to your training program, such as microlearning platforms and gamification, to make the information more engaging and memorable. Supplement online training efforts with a live trainer, who can spotlight best practices, answer questions, and role play with your employees to make the lessons stick.
Don’t just tell employees what to do but explain why the rules are so important. Employees are more likely to comply when they understand why the rules are in place.
Keep in mind that training never officially ends. Provide ongoing training opportunities so employees on all shifts can keep important information top-of-mind. Digital tools not only provide key information during initial onboarding, but are essential for reinforcing lessons, delivering updates, and sending reminders throughout each employee’s tenure.
Work to Retain Employees
Digital solutions can help you retain employees, as these technologies make their jobs much easier. Tech tools can streamline tedious administrative tasks, such as inspections and inventory, so your employees can spend more time doing the things they enjoy, such as cooking delicious meals and interacting with guests.
Offer competitive pay, appealing benefits, growth opportunities, mentorship, and a supportive culture. And don’t discount the “seemingly small” gestures that can be a big deal to your team. Thank your employees often and sincerely. Praise them in staff meetings for going above and beyond. Write thank you notes. Give bonuses and small gifts. Promote from within.
Get Inspired by Innovative Brands
It may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but White Castle has a robot working its fryer. Dominos has delivered its first pizza by drone. KFC is using facial recognition technology that recognizes repeat visitors and tailors their experiences based on their past orders and meal preferences. And Panera Bread uses geofencing to track each customer’s location so employees can promptly bring their order to their vehicle.
Your organization may not yet be able to afford robotics in your kitchen or drone deliveries, and that’s OK. But, as tech solutions become more affordable, accessible, and user-friendly for food businesses of all sizes and budgets, it’s clear that technology is improving many aspects of our industry. Digital solutions are no longer “nice to have” luxury items. They’re necessities for brands that prioritize consistently excellent and safe experiences.
By investigating and integrating new technologies, you can provide better service, safer food, and a more convenient dining experience. All of which will help you better meet (and exceed) customer expectations.
Mérieux NutriSciences has acquired Food Technology Consulting International, a Canadian Food Safety consulting, training, and auditing solutions provider. Mérieux NutriSciences offers analytical and product development solutions to prevent health risks related to the food, beverage, and nutraceutical industry. The company operates more than 100 labs and has a presence in 27 countries.
Food Technology Consulting and its team of consultants, trainers and auditors have been helping companies in the development, implementation, and maintenance of effective food safety programming for more than 20 years.
“We are enthusiastic about having the talented team at Food Technology Consulting join us and welcome them to our network,” said Sébastien Moulard, President of Mérieux NutriSciences, North America. “This acquisition supports our position as a major player in the consulting market and strengthens our presence in Canada.”
The FDA has announced two upcoming webinars for food manufacturers and industry stakeholders. On Friday, October 21, 2022, at 1:00 pm ET, the FDA will provide an overview of its proposed rule to update the definition of “healthy” nutrient content claims for food products. The “healthy” claim acts as a quick signal on food package labels to identify foods that will help consumers build healthy eating patterns.
The FDA has proposed changes to the definition of “healthy” to align with current nutrition science, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 and the updated Nutrition Facts label. The guidance also includes the agency’s intent to exercise enforcement discretion with respect to the implied nutrient content claim “healthy” for foods that have a fat profile of predominantly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, but do not meet the regulatory definition of “low fat,” and on foods that contain at least 10% of the daily value (DV) per reference amount customarily consumed of potassium or vitamin D.
- Janesia Robbs, Communications and Public Engagement Staff, FDA CFSAN
- Dr. Claudine Kavanaugh, Director, Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling (ONFL), FDA CFSAN
- Dr. Sarah Gebauer, Nutritionist, Nutrition Science Review Branch, ONFL, FDA CFSAN
- Vincent DeJesus, Nutritionist, Nutrition Assessment & Evaluation Branch, ONFL, FDA CFSAN
Registration is required. Register here.
On Wednesday, October 26, from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm ET, the FDA and Stop Foodborne Illness, a nonprofit public health organization, will be host their fifth collaborative webinar, titled “Rewards and Recognition Programs.” Guest speakers will share their experiences in establishing rewards programs that drive positive food safety culture. Speakers include:
- Shawn Fear, Director of Quality, Conagra Brands
- Danielle Richardson, Director of Food Safety, Conagra Brands
- Lone Jespersen, Principal and Founder, Cultivate, SA
- Donald Prater, Associate Commissioner for Imported Food Safety, FDA
- Conrad Choiniere, PhD, Director of the Office of Analytics and Outreach, FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN)
- Vanessa Coffman, Director, Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness, Stop Foodborne Illness
Those who would like to attend the webinar can register here.
Intertek Alchemy, which offers training for manufacturing and food processing industries, has released the findings of its seventh annual Global Food Safety Training Survey, developed to assess food safety training practices
More than 2,000 industry professionals representing more than 3,000 food production facilities worldwide responded to the survey. Their responses highlighted some of the significant challenges and contradictions of current food safety training practices, and provided insight into strategies to help overcome these challenges.
For example, 88% of respondents believe that their companies provide adequate levels of food safety training to drive consistent and appropriate food safety behaviors. Yet only 40% of their employees follow food safety programs on the manufacturing floor.
Additional key findings from the survey include:
- 81% of respondents agreed that their companies understand what it takes to build and sustain a strong food safety culture, and 40% of companies use a food safety culture audit/assessment to measure sustained food safety behaviors. But, only 22% of respondents strongly agree that their employees have the authority to take action when food safety is compromised.
- 80% of respondents believe they would be more productive if their employees consistently adhered to their training programs. However, only 19% of companies are increasing their budget for food safety training and only 18% plan to add new training technologies next year.
When looking at practices that improve food safety outcomes, responses revealed that:
- Tailoring training to specific job roles increases the likelihood from 22% to 82% that a frontline employee will halt production when necessary to prevent a food safety incident
- Highly motivated employees are over two times more likely to consistently adhere to food safety protocols on the floor.
- 78% of companies with a mature upskilling programs reported having highly motivated employees, compared to 43% for companies without an upskilling program.
When asked to share, “What are you organization’s biggest food safety training challenges?” nearly 50% cited scheduling time for training, followed by staff turnover and bad practices or misinformation passed from one employee to another.
One of the most significant changes in this year’s survey was how food safety training is delivered. The use of e-learning tools nearly doubled in the past two years (37% in 2020 to 63% in 2022).
“This year’s Global Food Safety Training Report presents some eye-catching findings, providing a comprehensive look into what food manufacturers can do to improve food safety training outcomes,” said Intertek Alchemy President Darrin Harkness. “We’re proud to sponsor the research that provides clear, data-driven answers on how they can make their food safety programs even stronger. Together we can work to ensure a safe and sustainable global food supply with a shared goal of reducing foodborne illnesses and eliminating costly recalls.”
The Global Food Safety Training Survey is sponsored by Intertek Alchemy and Campden BRI, in partnership with BRCGS, BSI, Cultivate, SGS, Safe Quality Food Institute and TSI.
A complimentary copy of the research paper, “Why Some Training Programs Succeed Where Others Fail,” is available for download here.
Listeria monocytogenes is a ubiquitous pathogen with a high mortality rate that can become persistent in the retail food environment, says Janet Buffer, MPH, of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention, Ohio State University. During her presentation “Listeria monocytogenes and sanitation in the retail environment,” at the “Food Safety Hazards Series” virtual event, she discussed areas in retail food service environments most likely to harbor the pathogen as well as the best-proven methods to reduce the prevalence of listeria in your facility.
View the full “Food Safety Tech Hazards Series: Listeria” virtual conference on demand.
Areas that are more likely to harbor listeria monocytogenes in the retail food environment include:
- Cracks and crevices in the floor
- The floor/wall juncture, especially under sinks
- On touchpoints of cooler handles and deli slicers
- In front of deep fryers
- In front of deli slicers and on slicer blades
- Sink interiors
- Areas where raw chicken is stored or transported
“Listeria monocytogenes is hardy. It tolerates salt, grows in cold environments and is moderately resistant to acids,” said Buffer. “It is also ubiquitous. We find it in soil, water, silage, manure and sewage. We bring it in on our shoes. We can carry it on our clothes, and it can become a persistent pathogen in our retail spaces.”
A recent study by Briana C. Britton, et al, published in Food Control Journal, identified the most effective sanitation and customer service strategies correlated with lower listeria prevalence in retail delicatessens. These include:
- When the deli is cleaned two-to-three hours/day
- Changing gloves after touching nonfood surfaces
- Keeping sanitation records
- Using foam to clean and sanitize
“All chemicals work and all work very well,” said Buffer. “But, they must be used at the correct concentrations and they will require some elbow grease.”