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Sangita Viswanathan, Former Editor-in-Chief, FoodSafetyTech

Food Safety Training: Trends and Gaps

By Sangita Viswanathan
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Sangita Viswanathan, Former Editor-in-Chief, FoodSafetyTech

With new regulations demanding more testing, consumer preferences and cost pressures creating global supply chains and markets demanding faster distribution, what are some of the demands on the food safety testing market? In this Q&A, 3M Food Safety Division’s Technical Service Director Nancy H. Eggink talks about trends and concerns when it comes to food safety testing and training. 

Food Safety Tech (FST): What are some big shifts/ trends in food safety testing that you are noticing?

Nancy Eggink: Not necessarily big shifts, but customers still are looking for easy to use tests that provide fast accurate results, The target lists are broadening (microorganisms & allergens), and the sample matrices more and more complex. Following R&D trends, nutraceuticals, unique flavors and novel processing are changing the foods, environments, and ultimately the testing needs. Currently available, and future tests must be able to accommodate these sample matrices and the innovations as they are commercialized.

FST: Given the evolving food safety regulations, how are educational and training needs for food labs managers and testing changing?

Eggink: When considering GFSI schemes and FSMA, the requirements indicate competencies and what constitutes a ‘qualified individual’. So now, it’s not just a requirement to have a training program and adhere to what the training program includes. It is a requirement to lay out competencies that an individual must have after training. This indicates the training should be developed to ensure it’s effective in delivering the appropriate content in a way the learner will develop a competency, and also it should be verified through an assessment process to ensure the competency was developed.

FST: What are some of the gaps in food safety testing that need to be addressed?

Eggink: Food industry leaders are looking for ways to ensure that they have fast accurate information to make the best possible decision at each step in the process. Without compromising accuracy and reliability, opportunities are those that make testing easier to use, provide faster results and improve productivity.

FST: What are areas of training that clients are seeking out the most? And why?

Eggink: With all the guidance and requirements available, it’s easy to get consumed with keeping up on the changes happening constantly. Our customers are looking to 3M Food Safety for training on how to effectively use our solutions so to ensure they have fast accurate information to make the best possible decisions. Our customers are seeking effective and efficient ways of staying current in their professional life that fits into their work demands, and we have a key initiative to provide them with access to high quality educational content and scientific information. This educational content will be offered in the form of hands-on product training, live seminars, on-line self-study and webinars to help them with their current and potential future challenges.

FST: What impact will lab accreditation have on food safety testing and methodology?

Eggink: Lab accreditation is similar to the GFSI schemes and FSMA in the sense it is development and implementation of a quality system within the laboratory operation to ensure predictable outcomes. Specifically, minimize the variation between the technology, processes, samples, technicians, tools, environment and ensure safety. Standardization of training & education is a critical component within that quality system to ensure consistency within that system.

FST: Specifically about 3M Food safety – what are your focus areas in terms of new products, testing solutions?

Eggink: Global regulations are changing and Microbiology labs are faced with considerable challenges including but not limited to rapid results, increasing volume of work, cost constraints and increasing customer, media and regulatory scrutiny. Our focus is to provide solutions in the food diagnostics testing market to address these needs at all levels and penetrate local markets and geographies. Pathogens are a real threat to public health, and we have recently launched an additional assay to our Molecular Detection System (Listeria monocytogenes), while working to ensure all assays have third party certifications against reference methods such as AOAC and AFNOR.

We also continue to innovate with Petrifilm™ Plates. Petrifilm™ Salmonella Express System provides a qualitative confirmed Salmonella result in as little as 44 hours which is two times faster than agar methods. The newest solution is Petrifilm™ Rapid Yeast and Mold Plate that provides quantitative Yeast and Mold counts at 48 hours. As customers ask for easy to use, faster results that don’t compromise accuracy and reliability, we will continue to innovate to meet those needs.