Tag Archives: r&d

Food lab
In the Food Lab

Addressing Food Safety Challenges During Research and Development

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Food lab

Waiting until a product is at the tail end of R&D to examine potential food safety and regulatory compliance issues can lead to unnecessary delays and tension between teams, according to experts at the 2023 IAFP Conference in Toronto. Wendy White of the Georgia Tech Manufacturer Extension Program and Kory Anderson of Cargill co-moderated the panel discussion, “From Bench-top to Scale Up: The Unspoken Food Safety Challenges of Research and Development.” They were joined by panelists Shawn Stevens, an attorney with Industry Counsel, LLC, Benjamin Warren, Senior Science Advisor for Food Safety at the FDA, and Michael O’Rourke, North American Regional Microbiology and Food Safety Leader at Cargill.

Key food safety challenges associated with new product development highlighted by panelists included a lack of clear communication between departments, especially food safety, R&D and buyers.

Failure to bring your food safety leaders in early in product development can lead to sales and marketing decisions that are not implementable, said White. Stevens noted that traditionally there is tension between R&D and regulatory professionals in food companies that needs to be addressed in order to avoid food safety risks and delays in bringing new products to market.

Challenges when introducing new products or processing methods extend beyond in-house R&D to new suppliers as well. O’Rourke warned that risks occur when new buyers choose to purchase products from small companies that are not ready to scale up for national distribution. In addition, small companies with novel foods often have a lack of food safety know-how and may be introducing products that have not been vetted and/or do not meet regulatory standards.

O’Rourke further encouraged companies to be aware of risks when working with food brokers, as this may cloud traceability. “It may require pushback to get a clear view of the processing of the products at the primary source,” he said.

Meeting the Challenge

One way to avoid costly delays is to work with the FDA through its voluntary counseling program that encourages companies with novel products and new processing methods to meet with the FDA early in the R&D process. “This can help companies chart a regulatory path and smooth the transition to market. It helps companies understand what data is required—and what is not,” said Warren, noting that submissions to the FDA are often incomplete.

Another process that can help companies forecast safety risks and regulatory roadblocks early in the ideation and development process is a Design Hazard Analysis (DHA). “This mimics food safety plans, but begins during development to provide early consideration of regulatory requirements,” said Warren.

All panelists agreed that food safety team leaders should be brought in early in product development and be given a vote on what moves forward and what does not.

Steve Min
Women in Food Safety

Carve Your Own Path

By Laura Gutierrez Becerra
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Steve Min

The Women in Food Safety Group had the pleasure of speaking with Steve Min, Executive Vice President of R&D and Quality Assurance at International Dairy Queen (IDQ) about his career path as well as opportunities and advice for young female professionals who are interested in pursuing and/or expanding their careers in food safety.

Min, a secondgeneration Korean American, holds a bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Technology and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering from Ohio State University. His career has spanned food safety, R&D and quality management across multiple areas of the food supply chain. At IDQ, Min is responsible for ensuring global regulatory compliance, product development, and food safety and quality in more than 20 countries.

His personal journey in the food industry began at the age of 14 working in food concessions, food service and food catering. However, food science has run through his veins since birth as he is the son of a well-recognized food science professor. Min launched his professional career at Borden Foods and Mattson. He progressed to a management position at Battelle, where he focused on probabilistic and quantitative risk management, then a leadership position at Wendy’s before joining IDQ. 

Do you have any advice to those who are pursuing a career in R&D or FSQA?

Min: Try both. These two areas are tied to one another. Quality and safety are built in the development and specification process and further developed through the commercialization process. Understanding—and learning about—mitigation of food safety risk at the manufacturing and food service/end user level is imperative. I believe exploring both areas at early career stages is very valuable to help become well rounded and define a career path.

What motivated you to focus your career on food safety? 

Min: The combination of detailed thinking (risk analysis) and vision (risk mitigation) as well as the opportunity to solve problems piqued my interest. I enjoyed the analytical work during my college years. During grad. school, I focused my work on nonthermal technologies, such as Pulsed Electric Field processing, to inactivate organisms causing foodborne illnesses.

My engineering background helped me better understand the manufacturing process, while applying risk-based and science-based approaches to product design, quality and food safety.

Take part in three days of food safety education and networking at the Food Safety Tech Hazards Conference + CFI Think Tank, April 3-5 in Columbus, Ohio.

From the business perspective, understanding the importance of food safety to ensure companies are not negatively impacted is imperative. It also is important to recognize that safety is a continuous process that requires coordination with other teams to achieve customer satisfaction.

What do you like most about your job?

Min: Professionally, it allows me to interact and build relationships with people and share a risk-based culture. I take professional pride in knowing that our customers are getting safe food. Personally, I enjoy learning, which always is achieved by tackling issues and solving problems. The technical aspect of my career is fun, but that is only one aspect of the business. Success only is achievable through collaboration.

What are some of the obstacles or challenges you face as a food safety professional? 

Min: Throughout my career, I have faced challenges and I enjoy being challenged. It’s an opportunity to learn from other departments or pillars of the food industry, understand the challenges they are experiencing and define the work needed to solve a problem. This helps me stick to my beliefs and responsibilities during challenging times. Building relationships and your own credibility is extremely helpful, and this requires one to learn how to respectively disagree with and learn from people while effectively communicating the importance of food safety.

What have you learned by working with women during your career journey? 

Min: I have worked with outstanding female employees and leaders. Inclusion is something natural and important to me as I saw what my father, a Korean immigrant, experienced during his life.
Fundamentally, everyone brings strengths to work and I continue to learn about others’ strengths and how to best empower teammates to reach their potential. I’m putting more focus on understanding the background and the experience of a colleague or a new potential employee. I am learning to focus on understanding where and how the employee wants to grow and I try to help them break barriers or guide them on next steps to fulfill their career aspirations. To do this, I focus on the feedback I receive as a manager and try to be a better partner, as part of my own continuous development. I’m on an ongoing learning journey to leverage situational leadership and empathy in a way that allows all teammates to grow, find satisfaction and help IDQ achieve its mission and vision.

What is the best advice you received as a young professional? 

Min: There are three keys I learned from previous managers and mentors that guided me through a lot of challenges. I remain grateful to those who have helped me learn. They are:

  1. Build relationships in a time of calm and leverage them in a time of crisis.
  2. Seek and gather facts from different perspectives and assess them prior to making a final decision. There are often many sides of the story and details can be important but sometimes overlooked.
  3. “Stay on the side of the angels.” It’s all about doing what’s right. Doing what we think is right will protect people and the business.

I believe considering these three things is fundamental, especially when you work in a fast-paced environment.

If you could turn the clock back to the start of your career, what would you say to your younger self? 

Steve Min: Put more focus on networking and relationship building. Continue to help others, which ultimately helps all of us. Put your fears aside and take some risks. Learn more about business. Exercise more and spend more time with family.

What advice would you offer to young women, students and early-career professionals seeking to become leaders in food safety?  

Min: Starting a career path is an important decision. Research the entire scope of options that are available and talk to people that are in these roles, both new and tenured employees. I’ve never come across someone in our industry that hasn’t been willing to share their experiences with another, so just reach out. From there, consider what motivates you.

When you are starting out, you may need to switch jobs. This can be challenging but it may help you learn, find passion and carve your path. If you can explore both R&D and food safety/QA earlier in your career, it may help you become a well-rounded food professional and enable you to think about food safety more holistically.

Soft skills are especially important for career advancement, so learn to develop them as early as possible, specifically collaboration, business acumen, communication, and cross-functional leadership. Try always to put yourself in other people’s shoes to develop these soft skills. Ask for help, be bold, and don’t shy away from a challenge.

What do you hope to see in the next three to five years in terms of development and mentoring of women in the industry? 

Min: Right now, women are a tremendous part of the industry, and we have some wonderful women leaders. When I conduct interviews, I see a pipeline of capable and intelligent women who have strong career aspirations. I strive for continued growth of younger generations within the company and industry and help develop them to fit key roles in the future.

What advice do you have for those working towards a position in the executive team? 

Min: Develop your soft skills and find opportunities to display the quality of your work, your capabilities, and your leadership skills. Set your own vision and goals and look for strategic projects that can help you achieve those goals. Be bold, put yourself out there, and demonstrate your abilities. This requires stretching your comfort zone, raising your hand and seeking stretch opportunities. It is often important to take initiative to get promoted. The key piece of this is strategic thinking and having a vision. When you have a goal, you can assess the situation, and then work backwards and cross-functionally to complete projects and achieve priorities.

As a senior leader for a global team, do you have any suggestions on increasing diversity in the food industry?   

Min: Work with HR to continue to widen recruiting circles. Be deliberate in learning and having conversations about diversity and inclusion. If travel is part of your job, it is a great opportunity to learn from people who have varying cultures and backgrounds. It’s important to build more diverse relationships and help others make connections. Inclusion is so important and learning and practicing day-to-day inclusivity will drive positive change. Invest in relationships, teach others and keep learning. Consider leaning into or leading opportunities that come your way in this space.

Melody Ge
Women in Food Safety

Keep the Door Open to All Experiences

By Melody Ge
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Melody Ge

I recently sat down with Peter Begg, vice president of quality and food safety at Glanbia Nutritionals where he shared his personal experiences and advice for how to build a career path and grow into a leader. There are a lot of opportunities, and it’s important to remember that a food safety career is not short term—you are in it for the long haul—so don’t be in a hurry, find your own balance, and enjoy life! Have fun! Life is too short to work 24/7.

Differing from many food safety professionals, Peter started his career within the food industry as a chemical engineer at Kraft after graduating from Penn State University; now 26 years in the industry, Peter leads a global food safety and quality team at Glanbia Nutritionals. He had a couple of major pivots in his career that led him to where he is today. At the beginning of his career, he joined the R&D department at Kraft Foods, and made the decision to move to Switzerland to take on the company’s European quality team. After three years abroad, he returned to the United States, where he participated in the split of Kraft into Kraft Foods and Mondelez International. Today, in addition to his current role at Glanbia, he also leads the company’s COVID response team. When taking a look back, he affirmed that he made all the right decisions and was glad he didn’t say no to any opportunities that arose.

During the interview, Peter advised young female professionals to be patient and to avoid being in a hurry. Also, find a career path you are passionate about: “When you are passionate, a lot of the challenges or difficulties will pass,” he said. “However, don’t be opposed to trying different roles, especially early in your career. Be open to those other experiences, because they will help you later on.” Additionally, don’t assume that the first experience is going to be the only career path that you will have. Even if you move from R&D to marketing or procurement, that experience will help you. It offers a different way of looking at things. “Nothing you do will be wasted.” I can’t agree more on this point.

Peter Begg
Peter Begg will participate in a panel discussion about Professional Development & Women in Food Safety during the November 5 episode of the 2020 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series

When we talked about food science career options for students, Peter had a unique point of explaining the two common options: R&D and Food Safety and Quality. Peter distinguished them by the sense of urgency and challenges of those roles. A project within R&D is normally six months to a year, with timelines to complete the project; whereas within safety and quality, a project could be one day or one week, and is often hard to predict, as every day brings something new. “If you are a person who loves challenges and changes then you might find more achievements in food safety and quality,” he said. “I enjoy the diversity of challenges every day, and this is the reason I didn’t go back to R&D.”

One thing that resonated with me long after the conversation was a tip that Peter would have given to his younger self: “Don’t sweat the small stuff. As you gain more experience, you learn to focus on the things that make the real difference. I know that sounds trite, but you have to get better at triaging and understanding what is important,” he explained.

At the end, Peter pointed out that we still need more diversity in the C-suite and at the SVP level. He learned a lot from his first boss who was a successful female leader. Female leaders are more empathetic and tend to lead without feeling the need to fill airtime. “I have known so many women leaders. They are comfortable in who they are as a leader, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for that,” Peter said.

At the same time, Peter continues to encourage female leaders to be more self-confident. He told us, “Don’t doubt yourself! If you keep getting told ‘no’, it affects your self-confidence, however, it has to be overcome; it takes all of us to remember that we all bring different things to the table.”

Peter shared a couple of personal stories that he found impactful as well. As a leader, Peter cannot emphasize enough about the beauty of diverse thoughts on a team. He learned one can never know everything. As a leader, it’s our responsibility to lead and encourage team members to speak up and grow together; also, always remain calm and solve problems based on facts.

Peter concluded our conversation by emphasizing that we all need to find our own balance to enjoy life. The work/life balance: We work to live, not the other way around. There will be ups and downs. There will be long days, but we can find other days to balance them, and it is important to have an outlet. Life is too short; it needs to be fun—not just work 24/7!

“The real leaders were the ones who spoke to the facts and remained calm and focused on what we needed to do to solve the issues.” – Peter Begg, Glanbia Nutritionals

Melody Ge: What have you learned by working with and mentoring female leaders?

Begg: From a leadership standpoint, my first boss at Kraft was a female and we still keep in touch. She was a great teacher and mentor. There’s an empathy that female leaders have that not all male leaders have. Also, when I made the move to Mondelez and I worked for the head of research & development and quality who is another phenomenal female leader, she had a style about her that kept everyone at ease. She would ask very poignant questions, but she didn’t overuse airtime. I’ve seen men hog all the airtime, because they want everyone to know they are the smartest one in the room. I haven’t seen that with some of the female leaders; they are comfortable in who they are as a leader, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for that.

Right now, I have six directors and four of them are female. To be fair, I think in our function of Quality and Food Safety you do see at least 50% [balance]. For me, it’s the diversity of thought brought to the team. There are different ways of looking at things from men versus women. I think that ability to communicate and be empathetic is something I see out of female leaders. I’ve learned 26 years in that I don’t know everything. Having that diversity of thought and background is absolutely critical to having a strong leadership team and also to make decisions that are well thought through.

To be honest, I think what we are lacking is the diversity at the VP and SVP level and above where it is still pretty male dominated, and that needs to change. I see a lot of strong up-and-coming females; there’s talent out there that I hope continues to grow in the future.

Ge: Why do you think there is a lack of females at the VP and SVP level? Is there any insight you can share?

Begg: One of the reasons is because that, with many leaders, they want people who they can trust. A lot of people look to those who act like themselves. It takes a lot of good thought to take yourself out of that and really look at who is the best leader for your team. I think part of the reason is that many of the CEOs and SVPs are male. We still need more diversity in the C-suite.

Ge: Can you share an unforgettable story that had an impact on you?

Begg: There are two that come to mind.

  1. I was a very new leader within R&D at the time and leading a cross functional team. One of my team members came up with what I thought was a pretty good idea. I shared it at a meeting, and everyone liked it. But what I failed to do was not recognize the team member whose idea that it was. The team member was really upset and felt like I presented it as my idea. That, of course, wasn’t my intent, but I learned that my job as a leader is to set my team up for success and not get in the way. You also have to give proper credit and acknowledgement. That is something to this day that I keep in the back of my mind—to make sure that I always recognize my team publicly, especially when they are the ones driving the effort. I am not on the frontlines, my team is. I have to make sure that I remember that you need to take the time to acknowledge people.
  2. When I was in Europe in the quality and food safety role, we had a situation where we were very close to a 27-country recall. It’s something I will never forget because of the intensity of the conversations that were had all the way up to the CEO of Kraft at the time. It ended up that we were able to narrow it and my team did a phenomenal job on tracing the recall down to two countries. What I remember most in that setting, where you’re with all these senior executives, is that the real leaders were the ones who spoke to the facts and remained calm and focused on what we needed to do. The people who I didn’t want to be like were the ones who were emotional and flying off the handle about things that had nothing to do with what we were trying to resolve in the situation. As a leader, you have to project a presence and a sense of calm in a food safety crisis. If you’re in a food safety and quality role, something will happen along the way that is challenging. That is just the nature of what we deal with.

Ge: What would you hope to see in next three to five years for women in the industry?

Begg: Definitely more female outstanding professionals. At Glanbia, we hire 15–20 grads in the U.S. every year through campus recruiting, and it’s at least 50% female. The talent pool is there—but how are we nurturing them, and giving them the support and career guidance? Everyone across the industry needs to have these conversations and talk about the key experiences, key skills and capabilities that they should be building throughout their career. There are certain things that are translatable regardless of the type of job that you have, such as communication skills. Secondly, helping women build the confidence that they can be successful and that there will be opportunities. As a leader, I am part of creating those opportunities and will continue doing so.

Matrix Sciences and Savour Food Safety International

Matrix Sciences Acquires Savour Food Safety International and Savor Safe Food

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Matrix Sciences and Savour Food Safety International
Gina Kramer
Gina (Nicholson) Kramer, executive director of Savour Food Safety International

Matrix Sciences International, Inc. has announced the acquisition of Savour Food Safety International and Savor Safe Food, organizations that provide consulting, auditing and training services in food safety and quality, and product development.

“Gina and her teams have built two strong companies with outstanding reputations that come from providing a unique level of service to their customers,” said Robert Wiebe, CEO of Matrix Sciences, in a company press release. “This strategic investment adds to the scope and depth of our Advisory business and has real linkage to our other services. ” Gina (Nicholson) Kramer is the executive director of Savour Food Safety International and also a member of Food Safety Tech’s Editorial Advisory Board. She will continue to serve in the same role and said the acquisition will not change how Savour Food Safety does business. However, the deal will give the firm access to new services, including laboratory testing, process validation, environmental monitoring program assessments, and R&D and sensory testing. “Matrix Sciences is creating an unparalleled team of expert services to provide customers with resources of a large company while maintaining a very focused, personalized approach to service for every client,” said Kramer.

Matrix Sciences has operations nationwide to address the needs of food and beverage industries and has grown through acquisitions of Richter International and Neumann Risk Services as well.

Gina (Nicholson) Kramer will be moderating Salmonella Detection & Control Sanitation Workshop at the 2019 Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo.

Camila Gadotti, 3M
In the Food Lab

Examining the Role of Food Safety During R&D

By Camila Gadotti, M.S.
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Camila Gadotti, 3M

Research and development (R&D) is an essential starting point toward the creation or modification of new and exciting food products, processes and packaging. To ensure that a product is safe for consumption, food safety should be considered during the initial stages of a product’s lifecycle. Incorporating food safety into R&D can be tricky, as safety considerations may change the initial idea or concept of a new food product. For example, the idea of a freshly squeezed orange juice in every supermarket shelf is appealing; however, without pasteurization, that juice will not be safe for consumption, nor will it have the desired shelf life. Adding raw chopped garlic to a hummus product makes it taste great, but will it be safe for consumption after being on the shelf for a month?

To better understand how safety of new products is assured from concept to launch, I spoke with two R&D scientists about food safety considerations during new product development. The interviewees, Maria and Laura, work for the same large food manufacturer, which is located in the Midwest, in the snack foods and breakfast cereals categories, respectively. They both confirm that the R&D team follows a specific procedure during the product concept phase—one that places food safety at the forefront. The team starts by determining how the new product compares to food safety regimens already in place with other products that the company manufactures. If the product is a line extension with only a few changes to an existing formulation, the food safety concerns are likely to be low, and the food safety program already in place is adapted to meet the safety needs of the new product. However, if the product being developed is highly differentiated from other products manufactured by the company, food safety moves into a more central role throughout the development cycle.

According to Maria and Laura, the first step in ensuring food safety for a new product is for the development scientists to have in-depth discussions about the product’s formulation, ingredients and supply sources. These three aspects, along with the planned manufacturing process, are then evaluated through a hazard assessment. The hazard assessment is comprised of microbiological, quality, regulatory, stability and physical hazard assessments. Ingredients that pose food safety concerns without prior controls and process conditions are identified. The quality team determines controls for these ingredients and subsequently involves process engineers to verify that process conditions are attainable and will provide proper control for the hazards identified. A complete HAACP plan is put in place for the new product production, taking into consideration equipment cleanability and location, traffic control for ingredients and operators, and air handling systems. The hazard assessment is documented in detail and must be approved by the quality manager before production runs can begin and development can resume. Although the entire process is led by R&D, multiple other functions are involved and consulted throughout the process.

Manufacturing processes, formulation and market availability of ingredients drive the food safety of a new product, with manufacturing processes and formulation usually being the key drivers. “However, in cases like the recent shortage of eggs due to the avian flu crisis, finding substitutions for ingredients in shortage becomes an important driver for food safety,” says Maria. Laura says that at times, product formulations can change due the integrity of the ingredient or its source. In such cases, a similar ingredient from a credible source is chosen and the safety of the product is re-assessed. There are critical quality and food safety elements that must be considered in the product design phase to prevent issues later in development. When R&D professionals keep these elements top-of-mind when considering formulation and ingredient sourcing, everyone benefits—from the company to consumers.

Although consumer confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply is slipping (11% said they were “very confident” in the safety of the food supply, down from 15% in 2013; 50% said they were “somewhat confident”, down from 55% in 2013, according to the International Food Information Council’s 2015 Food and Health Survey), the interview with Maria and Laura shows that manufacturers are putting significant effort into developing safe food products. It is equally as important for suppliers and vendors to have robust food safety programs to build strong relationships with manufacturers. Food companies have a lot to lose if a product they develop is, or becomes, unsafe for consumption. Not only can the average cost of a recall add up to $10 million in direct costs to a food company, lost sales and the impact to the company’s market value, brand reputation, and business relationships is major. Some companies never recover from the punch. Through taking the time to audit suppliers, screen new ingredients, and make robust prototypes, food companies can be more confident in the safety of their innovative new products as they go through the development process.