Tag Archives: Supply Chain

Women in Food Safety

Highlights from the 2022 Food Safety Consortium

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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The 10th Annual Food Safety Consortium took place in Parsippany, New Jersey, on October 19-21. The event attracted food safety and quality assurance professionals from around the globe to discuss some of the biggest challenges in food safety.

Keynote speaker Denise Eblen, PhD, of the USDA FSIS opened the Consortium on October 19 to share the science and data behind the agency’s recently proposed Salmonella framework.

Denise Eblen
Keynote speaker Denise Eblen, Ph.D., of the USDA FSIS, presents “Leading with Science at FSIS.”

Day one of the conference focused on the future of food safety and food safety culture with panel discussions moderated by Dr. Darin Detwiler of Northeastern University and Deb Coviello, founder of The Drop In CEO.
Day two included panel sessions covering technology, food defense, reformulation challenges and more, followed by a networking cocktail reception with Women in Food Safety and The Foundation FSSC.

Session Highlights

Digital Transformation of Food Safety & Quality 4.0: Data Analytics and Continuous Improvement, moderated by Jill Hoffman, Senior Director, Food Safety and Quality, B&G Foods

Shawn Stevens, Attorney with the Food Industry Counsel, Jorge Hernandez, VP, Quality Assurance, The Wendy’s Company, and Elise Forward, Founder & Principal Consultant, Forward Food Solutions, discussed the Biggest FSQA Challenges, including the evolution of microorganisms, food fraud and adulterated products, workforce shortages and supply chain disruptions.

Shawn, Jorge, Elise
Shawn Stevens, Jorge Hernandez and Elise Forward discuss the Biggest FSQA Challenges at the 2022 Food Safety Consortium.

April Bishop, Senior Director of Food Safety at TreeHouse Foods, Peter Begg, VP of Quality and Food Safety, Hearthside Food Solutions and Melanie Neumann of Matrix Sciences tackled Product Reformulation Challenges and offered a five-step protocol to prepare in advance for potential reformulation:

  1. Write down your top five-selling SKUs
  2. List all ingredients
  3. Identify any single source suppliers
  4. Identify any potential risks, including geopolitical and weather-related to those suppliers
  5. Develop alternates
  6. Ask, “Do I need this ingredient?”

Jason Bashura, Senior Manager, Global Defense Pepsi Co. moderated a panel discussion on CybersecurOTy, Food Defense and Infrastructure Protection, followed by Audits: Blending in-person with Remote, led by Laurel Stoltzner, Corporate QA Manager OSI Industries, and a discussion on FSQA Technology: How Far is Too Far? How to Properly Analyze new FSQA Technology.

The final day of the Consortium brought attendees together to discuss Environmental, Social Governance (ESG), Diversification of the Supply Chain and How to Blend Employee Culture with Food Safety Culture.

Tia Glave and Jill Stuber of Catalyst were the final speakers of the event with a presentation and breakout group discussions designed to help attendees identify their personal, professional and organizational goals and provide the tools to help make those visions a reality.

What People Are Saying

“It was wonderful to reconnect and see so many industry friends in person!”

“I got to listen to some great speakers during the Consortium. Jason Bashura’s spirit and passion were infectious, Let’s make food safer for the world!.”

“So interesting to hear insights from across the food industry and related suppliers, as the landscape continues to evolve post-COVID. The panel discussion on communicating with the C-suite was so on point.”

Scenes from the Food Safety Consortium

     

Melody Ge FSC 2022     

Steve Mandernach    Jill Hoffman

Exhibit Hall FSC 22

About the Food Safety Consortium: ​Organized by Food Safety Tech, the Food Safety Consortium Conference, launched in 2012, is an educational and networking event that has food safety, food integrity and food defense as the foundation of its educational content. With a unique focus on science, technology, best practices and compliance, the “Consortium” features critical thinking topics that have been developed for both industry veterans and knowledgeable newcomers.

 

Kari Hensien, RizePoint
FST Soapbox

Food Crisis Backup Planning

By Kari Hensien
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Kari Hensien, RizePoint

We were collectively shocked by the Covid-19 crisis that disrupted the food industry. We didn’t see it coming and we weren’t prepared for the long-lasting, widespread repercussions of that crisis, including product and labor shortages, supply chain disruptions and record-setting inflation.

Many food businesses were reliant on certain suppliers, and if they couldn’t deliver necessary products, companies either had to go without or scramble to find an alternate solution. As an industry, we were reactive—not proactive—to the pandemic and the ensuing fallout.

Now that we have some perspective, a big takeaway is that food businesses need to have better backup plans to address supply chain disruptions, product shortages and delays. This is especially important because:

  • Extreme weather is causing crop failures, livestock deaths and suboptimal soil conditions, resulting in more world hunger. Extreme drought conditions are destroying produce out west, including in California, a region that grows significant amounts of produce to ship nationwide. The Midwest, which produces approximately three-quarters of our country’s corn supply, is facing the opposite problem, as frequent floods wash away precious soil. Europe’s record-setting heat is torching vegetation, while India is pausing exports because of a severe heat wave.
  • The ongoing Ukraine/Russian war is predicted to give rise to a “food catastrophe.” Our global food system relies on a few big food commodity exporters, and Ukraine and Russia are two of the biggest. Together, these two countries supply approximately 60% of the global sunflower oil production—a product that goes into hundreds of consumable goods. It is a significant threat to the global food supply that so many of these exports have stalled.
  • Soaring inflation and resulting record high food prices are putting food out of the reach of many, leading to a worldwide rise in food insecurity, leading to increased hunger and malnutrition. The number of food insecure people is predicted to grow globally from 440 million to 1.6 billion, and nearly 250 million people are facing famine.
  • The ongoing labor shortage is contributing to disruptions and food waste all along the supply chain. Crates of perishable foods are being left to rot in shipping containers, warehouses and trucks because there aren’t enough workers to get them safely to their final destinations.

Below are several steps food brands can take to address and prepare for these ongoing threats to the supply chain.

Use tech tools to manage your supply chain. Today’s digital solutions allow you to audit and evaluate your supply chain’s sustainability and resilience. These innovative tools can help you get a better handle on your supply chain by organizing supplier certifications into a system that offers better visibility and is easier manage.

Embrace sophisticated technologies. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and other technologies may help solve some of our most pressing supply chain challenges. For instance, when the Suez Canal was blocked in 2021 it halted all shipments through that major passageway, causing a supply chain crisis. AI rerouted ships to avoid the blockage, so food deliveries could continue via a detour. AI can also monitor shipments to ensure safety and quality, notifying suppliers and buyers about any safety breaches.

The FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety calls for a broader approach to food safety and traceability, and AI can help achieve those goals. Moving forward, AI will be instrumental in increasing transparency all along the supply chain, providing end-to-end visibility and predicting the path of foodborne outbreaks.

Develop back up plans. How are your suppliers pivoting to manage the simultaneous threats against our global food supply? How are they preparing for climate change? What will they do if they can’t get necessary produce from California, corn from the Midwest or grain from Ukraine? How will they recruit and retain enough labor to deliver necessary products safely to their final destinations? It’s smart to find backup suppliers, especially those closer to home, to ensure an uninterrupted supply of foods. Work with suppliers that are focused on solutions, safety and quality, and keep careful track of each supplier’s safety certifications.

Consider vertical farming. Increasingly, companies are looking for alternate supplier and agriculture solutions, such as vertical farming, which grows crops closer to their final destinations. Growing foods closer to their final destination helps reduce food deserts and safety risks, boost sustainability and minimize food wastage. Vertical farms are typically indoor climate-controlled spaces. These growing conditions protect crops from severe weather, and offer a viable solution to bypass a variety of current issues from the climate crisis to supply chain headaches.

Pivot to agroecological farming. Agroecological farming practices mitigate climate change and prioritize local supply chains. Using this approach, farmers adopt agricultural techniques based on the local area and its specific social, environmental and economic conditions. Agroecology focuses on sustainability, working to reduce emissions, recycle resources and minimize waste. Those that embrace this farming approach believe that traditional farming often faces—and contributes to—a variety of problems, including soil degradation and excessive use of pollutants. Intensive, traditional farming approaches typically focus on short-term output vs. long-term sustainability, which exhausts many natural resources, local resources and wildlife. Agroecological farmers adhere to strict standards that support animal welfare, fewer pesticides and antibiotics, healthier soil and no GMOs.

Be proactive. In hindsight, we should have been more proactive during the Covid-19 crisis, developing backup plans for the huge supply chain disruptions that were headed our way. Before the pandemic, we couldn’t possibly have anticipated the ramifications of a disrupted supply chain and we didn’t understand the need to have backup plans in place for alternative food sources and waste reduction. Today, we have a more realistic perspective and recognize the need to plan ahead for any eventuality.

Our food supply is being threatened by simultaneous crises—from climate change to war—so we must be proactive, prepared, resilient and flexible in developing a solid Plan B.

 

 

Gary Nowacki
FST Soapbox

It’s Time To Embrace Ingredient Agility

By Gary Nowacki
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Gary Nowacki

In a recent Politico report, critics blasted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for chronic failures, including instances of contaminated baby formula, outbreaks of contaminated produce and the agency’s institutional reticence to implement changes.[1] Compounding the situation is the most fragmented global supply chain in history, making it a particularly challenging time for food and beverage companies.

Ingredients are the building blocks of the supply chain, so when circumstances threaten their integrity and availability, the ripple effect can linger for weeks, months or even years. As the FDA’s limitations become more apparent and supply chain challenges persist, brands must take responsibility for foundational change that addresses and mitigates risks related to food-, beverage- and supplement-borne illness.

Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues Challenge CPGs

As the Politico coverage pointed out, high turnover at the top of FDA has contributed to the agency’s challenges: five different commissioners have led the FDA over the last three years. In addition to concerns with federal oversight, brands are still navigating a broken supply chain, which has taken a beating over the last few years. And while the damage has come from war, trade tariffs and shipping congestion, food safety also emerged as a culprit when the FDA announced a recall of some of the country’s most popular infant formula brands. In February, the agency announced it was investigating consumer complaints of bacterial infections in four infants who were hospitalized. This bacterial infection might have contributed to death in two cases.[2]

While the recall emerged as a catalyst for the U.S. formula shortage, it wasn’t the only factor. Import restraints and market concentration (four companies produce 90% of the formula sold [3]) contributed to this perfect storm that rocked an already strained supply chain. National out-of-stock rates peaked at 70% near the end of May, and regulators announced that they did not expect relief until July. [4]

In scenarios such as this, the best defense brands can employ is to build a diverse supplier base and agile ingredient supply chain. Relying on a limited number of ingredient suppliers is a risky strategy even under the best of market conditions. But when disaster strikes, it can cripple a manufacturer and grind production to a halt. For the sake of consumers, creating agility and resilience around ingredients and sourcing is critical.

Equally important to cultivating relationships with alternate suppliers is the ability to have quick access to critical data. A robust digital document management system that offers manufacturers a unified view of products, data and processes across the business and the supply chain can help brands ensure they have a resilient ingredients network able to withstand supply chain or ingredient-sourcing issues. CPGs can benefit from instant access to millions of supplier documents to help fast-track sourcing, formulation and recipe development as well as protect themselves from potential disaster.

Pandemic Uncertainty and New Legislation

As the pandemic ramped up in March 2020, the FDA announced it would pause most foreign food inspections.[5] Additionally, regulators moved to virtual audits to keep their inspectors safe from COVID. Recalls fell. The FDA reported 495 recalls in the fiscal year 2020 and 427 in 2021. By comparison, the agency reported 526 recalls in the fiscal year 2019.[6]

The drop in recalls could be attributed to the ongoing rollout of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which strengthened food production safeguards. In addition, a proposed rule change to FSMA, Section 204, would enforce better recordkeeping and quicker recall responses. The introduction of the Formula Shortage Reporting Act of 2022, requiring immediate action from manufacturers when future disruptions to production occur, is another step toward stricter food standards.

If passed, Section 204 would require companies who process, pack or hold items on the food traceability list (FTL) to capture and store ingredient data for two years, and submit it within 24 hours of a recall.[7] Without a formal system of record in place to manage food production, tracing ingredients—where, when and from whom they came—is a difficult and complex challenge to solve. Human error, overseas suppliers, recalls and other constantly changing variables all must be tracked and monitored constantly. This diligence demands automation and collaboration at scale.

Collaboration via holistic networked platforms can facilitate that diligence by enabling global ingredients suppliers, CPG brands, co-manufacturers and packing companies to build safer, stronger and more modern supply chain networks. Today, the stakes of not having a modern supply chain and access to real-time ingredient data have grown exponentially beyond profit and competitive advantage to a whole new level of costing lives.

Nimble Access to Ingredient Data is Crucial

On May 27, U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Massachusetts, introduced the “Ensuring Safe and Toxic Free Foods Act.” The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, would—among other things—strengthen the Substances Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) Rule, which allows companies to avoid pre-market approval for food chemicals.[8]

The bill would direct the FDA to revise the GRAS Rule to include provisions that:

  • Prohibit manufacturers from designating substances as safe without supplying proper notice and supporting information to the Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Require safety information to be publicly available on the FDA website and subject to a 90-day public review period
  • Prohibit carcinogenic substances from receiving GRAS designation
  • Prohibit substances that show reproductive or developmental toxicity from receiving GRAS designation
  • Prohibit people with conflicts of interest from serving as experts in reviewing and evaluating scientific data regarding GRAS designations

Brands must have easy access to ingredient data to ensure compliance with the GRAS revisions as well as be proactive about food safety. Software that monitors threats and regulatory risks throughout the supply chain in real-time is essential to prevent both food safety issues and supply chain disruptions. These systems transform massive amounts of data into user-friendly, actionable insights for fast and effective risk management.

Food safety remains one of the gravest public health threats to consumers worldwide. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) insists that foodborne diseases cause 76 million illnesses in the U.S. annually, leading to 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 fatalities.[9]

With the FDA still struggling to regain the agency’s pre-pandemic diligence, it’s incumbent on manufacturers to double down on food safety. Digitization—evolving from paper to relevant, real-time data—is a critical component of the path forward to improve safety and increase ingredient agility.

Technology and automation help manufacturers and suppliers work better together, collaborate on ingredient data, move more quickly and problem solve together. In today’s modern supply chain, more CPGs are investing in partnerships to increase agility and gain more resilience over the shocks we’ve seen the past few years. More flexible and collaborative tools for engaging with global ingredient supplier networks can increase safety while improving bottom line efficiency.

References:

[1] Bottemiller Evich, H. (2022, April 8). The FDA’s Food Failure. Politico.

[2] U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2022, May 12). Powdered Infant Formula Recall: What to Know.

[3] Muller, M. & Nyler, L. (2022, May 20). How US Baby Formula Monopolies Have Failed Families. Bloomberg.

[4] KHN. (2022, May 27). FDA Chief Suggests Stockpile Of Baby Formula Once Crisis Ends In July. Kaiser Health News.

[5] U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2021, May). Resiliency Roadmap for FDA Inspectional Oversight.

[6] U.S. PIRG Education Fund. (2022, January 31). Food Recalls Decline in 2021, but That Doesn’t Mean Food is Safer.

[7] Govinfo.gov. (2022, June 13). Formula Shortage Reporting Act of 2022.

[8] Ensuring Safe and Toxic-Free Foods Act of 2022. (2022, May 27). Ensuring Safe and Toxic Free Foods Act.

[9] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Estimates of Foodborne Illness in the United States.

 

Supply chain

Next Week: Virtual Event Targets Hazards in the Food Supply Chain

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Supply chain

Next week Food Safety Tech is hosting a virtual event that brings together subject matter experts with decades of experience at food companies who will help attendees recognize when and how to pivot in the face of global supply chain issues, how to be nimble during these challenges, and how to establish the adaptable mindset required to navigate these ever-changing circumstances.

Food Safety Tech Hazards Series: Supply Chain takes place on Wednesday, May 18 at 12 pm ET.

Presentations are as follows:

  • Pivoting on a Dime: How and When to Adjust Your Supply Chain Program, with Elise Forward, President & Principal Consultant, Forward Food Solutions
  • Remaining Agile During Supply Chain Disruptions: A Manufacturer’s Point of View, with April Bishop, Sr. Director Food Safety, TreeHouse Foods
  • Be a Game Changer to Manage Supply Chain Risk, with Liliana Casal-Wardle, Ph.D., Sr. Director Food Safety, the Acheson Group

The presentations will be followed by a panel discussion with the speakers.

This event is sponsored by SGS. Register now for Food Safety Tech Hazards Series: Supply Chain.

Oren Zaslansky

Using Technology in Food Logistics Management Improves Speed to Shelves

By Maria Fontanazza
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Oren Zaslansky

The global supply chain is only getting more interconnected and complex, and with that, the need to improve food logistics strategies has never been greater. The role of technology in providing greater accuracy, traceability and transparency continues to be a critical component in food logistics management—and the matter becomes more urgent when dealing with perishable food products. Shipping these products requires stringent cold chain controls to prevent spoilage. In a Q&A with Food Safety Tech, Oren Zaslansky, CEO of Flock Freight, discusses how more thoughtful food logistics strategies can ultimately save companies time and money, as well as get products on store shelves faster.

Learn about how to manage supply chain challenges during Food Safety Tech’s upcoming virtual event on Supply Chain Hazards | May 18, 2021 @ 12 pm ET | Register nowFood Safety Tech: How is technology helping food companies solve the logistical challenges triggered by the pandemic?

Oren Zaslansky: Shipping perishable or fragile goods is no easy task. Shippers must maintain tight controls over every aspect of the shipping process—from timing to handling—to avoid damage or compromised product integrity. When things go wrong, rejected shipments can cost money, and food safety concerns can cost business. A recent survey of shippers across the United States found that 100% of respondents reported that their LTL freight arrived late in 2021, and 100% had to remanufacture and reship goods due to damage.

Luckily, there are food transportation methods that lower the risk of product damage and spoilage due to delays. Right now, food manufacturers typically choose between truckload (TL) and less than truckload (LTL) shipping, but they should instead consider shared truckload (STL) for freight that can’t fill an entire trailer to capacity. Speed to shelves is key for food shippers and traditional LTL has as low as 40–70% on-time service. Meanwhile, STL has a 94% average on-time performance.

STL places shipments (from multiple shippers that are traveling on a similar route) onto the same truck, optimizing the best possible routes so freight never loads or unloads between pickup and delivery. To achieve this, an STL solution can use advanced algorithms to analyze hundreds of thousands of shipments, with the goal of combining freight into terminal-free loads that fill trucks to capacity. This minimizes potential delays and reduces damage to 0.1%. Trucks are filled to capacity, reducing the cost of shipping midsized freight, while maximizing carriers’ earnings, eliminating unnecessary mileage, and contributing to a more sustainable supply chain.

Oren Zaslansky
Oren Zaslansky, CEO of Flock Freight, a logistics provider that guarantees shared truckload service.

FST: Are there particular sectors of the food industry that can benefit more from these technologies?

Zaslansky: Any perishable and fragile foods are an obvious answer, but this technology can be deployed for any type of food or beverage, and even for companies that create packaging for foods and beverages. Any sector that has difficulty filling its trucks to capacity, yet has strict product integrity and delivery timeframes, is the right fit for technology that enables shared truckloads at scale.

FST: How can logistics companies work with food manufacturers to ensure the most effective method/solution is implemented when shipping products?

Zaslansky: As COVID cases start to fall, people will start eating out again, putting pressure on restaurants, which will ultimately lead to truck shortages because everyone will need them. The number one way to combat this will be to make sure each truck is filled to capacity and rely on technologies that optimize routes that will get them where they need to go in a timely manner.

For shippers, shared truckload service enables them to only pay for the space they need (versus paying for space they can’t fill), and for carriers, optimizing their truck and driver schedules to make the best use of their fleet will help them stay ahead.

The above technology that enables shared truckloads at scale will help food shippers track perishable shipments and spot inefficiency in their food and beverage supply chains. By working with the right partners and implementing sound food logistics strategies, shippers can better understand weak spots in their supply chains, more quickly implement solutions, and more effectively protect the freshness or integrity of perishable and fragile goods.

Food Safety Tech Hazards Series: Supply Chain

The past two years have pushed food companies to the limit, as they have worked tirelessly to ensure that safe, quality food is delivered to the consumer amidst a global pandemic that continues. This virtual event brings together subject matter experts with decades of experience at food companies who will help you recognize when and how to pivot in the face of global supply chain issues, how to be nimble during these challenges, and how to establish the adaptable mindset required to navigate these ever-changing circumstances.

CJ Pakeltis, RizePoint
FST Soapbox

Food Businesses: Reduce Food Waste and Save Significant Money

By CJ Pakeltis
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CJ Pakeltis, RizePoint

After two years of COVID-19—and now an escalating Russia-Ukraine conflict—the failing supply chain is a pressing concern in the food industry. Exacerbating the supply chain issues is our excessive food waste problem. As supplies become more difficult and expensive to secure, we should be focusing more attention on reducing waste. Food businesses that proactively work to reduce food waste will save significant money, meet corporate sustainability goals and help the planet.

Food waste is estimated at between 30-40% of the U.S. food supply, which equates to an astonishing 133 billion pounds and $161 billion in waste, according to the USDA. In addition to discarded food, there is also considerable waste of labor, energy and other resources that go into producing, processing, transporting, prepping, cooking, storing and disposing of unused food.

Food waste occurs for many reasons, including:

  • Spoilage at every stage of the supply chain
  • Problems like mold or bacteria during harvesting, transporting, processing, etc.
  • Damage by insects, rodents, and other pests.
  • Equipment malfunction (such as faulty walk-in coolers).
  • Improper storage (e.g., not holding foods at proper temperatures).
  • Over-ordering, over-prepping, or cooking more than what’s needed, and tossing out the extras.

Many food businesses inadvertently practice wasteful behaviors. This is due, in large part, to the lack of accurate, comprehensive data. If operators don’t have accurate data about their inventory, sales patterns and forecasts, it can lead to food waste, which can be costly to your business and damaging to our planet.

At a time when every dollar counts—and the supply chain is strained—your organization should proactively work to reduce food waste. The following are some effective ways to accomplish this goal.

  • Adopt the right software. Integrated software is the best solution to eliminate wasted food, money and other resources. Today’s systems allow organizations to view sales patterns, track inventory, manage production, avoid overstocking, enhance food safety and quality, and determine areas of wastage. Tech solutions allow organizations to use data—not instincts—to make better, more profitable, less wasteful decisions.
  • Conduct a food waste audit. Food waste is bad for the environment as well as business margins. A food waste audit can help a company determine how much food is being wasted, as well as the type of foods not being used effectively. This practice can help companies address waste problems and adjust their inventory accordingly.
  • Implement sustainable strategies. It’s problematic—and wasteful—when retail locations receive large quantities of fresh foods and can’t sell it all before it spoils. Hannaford Supermarkets found a solution to this common conundrum. They have their trucks deliver smaller amounts of food more frequently—versus less frequent, higher volume deliveries. As a result, they are selling fresher produce with less waste.
  • Make waste reduction part of company culture. Train staff to reduce waste, and properly use, cook, package and store foods while always prioritizing waste reduction. Adopt a waste-not-want-not mindset and follow sustainable strategies that are practiced starting in the C-suite.
  • Donate surplus food. After learning that billions of pounds of food goes to waste in the United States while millions of people are going hungry, entrepreneur Jasmine Crowe created Goodr, a food waste management company that connects food businesses with a surplus of supplies to non-profit organizations that give it to the food insecure. Additionally, grocery chain Trader Joe’s is well-known for their generous food donation program. In just one year, the company donated $295 million worth of their unused products to food banks, feeding the hungry and eliminating a huge amount of waste.
  • Improve packaging. Our industry must create better packaging that effectively protects and preserves food throughout the entire supply chain cycle—and helps reduce waste. For instance, companies are experimenting with more compostable packaging, clearer use-by/expiration dates, easier-to-understand usage instructions, tips for storing leftovers, and ways to use some of the food without compromising the rest of the food in the package.
  • Reconsider portion size. Some restaurants offer smaller meals (i.e., half portions) to reduce waste. Food manufacturers are also providing smaller options, such as the single-serving Duncan Hines Perfect Size Cakes for customers who want just a small treat without having to waste an entire cake. Sabra Singles hummus, Good Culture cottage cheese, Kraft Mac and Cheese and other companies offer single serving containers, which means less waste.
  • Use every scrap. Vegetable peels, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags and other non-meat scraps can be used for compost, which is nutrient-rich and will go back into the earth to grow more food. Use the compost to grow your own herbs and produce or share it with local farmers and gardeners.
  • Consider other eco-friendly options. Sustainable organizations are taking our food scraps and recycling them into bioenergy, bioplastics and clothing. Investigate eco-friendly organizations in your area and donate your unused food to them to repurpose it. For instance, H&M’s Conscious collection uses silk-like fabric made from citrus juice by-products and discarded orange peels. Other clothing lines, cosmetics companies and other innovators are making sustainable products from food waste.

It is important to recognize that the food industry’s waste isn’t limited solely to food. The following are some additional eco-friendly practices that companies can implement.

  • Reduce plastic waste. Americans produce a whopping 42 million tons of plastic waste annually. Increasingly, companies are looking for eco-friendlier options. Footprint, a materials science company, is inventing and manufacturing plant-based solutions to replace plastic. This innovative company is working with food companies—including McDonalds, Costco and Conagra—to adopt plant-based solutions, eliminate short-term use plastic, reduce CO2 emissions, cut landfill waste, and reach corporate sustainability goals. Stonyfield Farm, known for their planet-friendly business practices, is making their yogurt cups from plants. In fact, the market for edible packaging is on the rise, and expected to grow by almost 5% by 2030. A growing number of food businesses are now relying on biodegradable and compostable packaging solutions instead of plastic. Are you one of them?
  • Pick the right partners. Select partners (e.g., suppliers, vendors, etc.) that are also focused on sustainability. Digital solutions can easily track supplier certifications to ensure that you’re sourcing from—and collaborating with—other companies that are committed to waste reduction and other eco-friendly business practices.
  • Focus on sustainability. It takes considerable energy to run equipment non-stop, so shut down non-essential equipment during slow times to save energy and money. Also, insulate your hot water pipes to decrease the amount of water your organization uses (and lower your heating needs and costs). Turn off the air conditioning and open windows. Use silverware instead of plasticware, and reusable towels instead of paper. Think of different ways to reduce waste throughout your organization and you’ll save money, resources, and the environment.

Prioritize waste reduction using these proven strategies. Remember that every little bit helps, and even the smallest changes will add up to a substantial difference over time.

Guangtao Zhang, Ph.D., director of the Mars Global Food Safety Center

Complexity of Food Allergen Management Requires Global Collaboration

By Maria Fontanazza
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Guangtao Zhang, Ph.D., director of the Mars Global Food Safety Center

Undeclared allergens continue to be a big cause of food recalls. For allergen management practices to be effective within food companies, there must be a shared responsibility between food manufacturers, government agencies, regulators and consumers, says Guangtao Zhang, Ph.D., director of the Mars Global Food Safety Center. In a Q&A with Food Safety Tech, Zhang discussed key concerns related to undeclared allergens in food as well as the research that Mars is conducting to improve allergen management.

Food Safety Tech: The presence of undeclared allergens continues to be a hazard in the food safety space. Specific to peanut detection, what challenges is the industry facing?

Guangtao Zhang, Ph.D., director of the Mars Global Food Safety Center
Guangtao Zhang, Ph.D., director of the Mars Global Food Safety Center. All images courtesy of Mars.

Guangtao Zhang, Ph.D.: As food materials become more varied and complicated, food allergen management becomes increasingly complex. Robust, accurate and sensitive detection methods are essential to ensure consumer safety as well as compliance with regulatory standards for allergens in the food supply chain.

When you look at the regulatory aspects, detection methods go hand in hand. Firstly, there is a need to ensure that current standard detection methods used in regulatory control of consumer goods are validated for a range of complex food matrices to ensure neither over- nor under-estimation of allergen content occurs within a food supply chain. This is important because underestimation of allergen poses a significant food safety hazard to consumers, while overestimation of allergen can result in unnecessary product recalls, driving up product costs and food waste.

Secondly, validation and monitoring of the effectiveness of cleaning and handling practices in areas of potential cross contamination with allergen containing materials depend on reliable and robust quantitative food allergen test methods for their success. The more robust the testing protocols, the more we can improve our understanding of the risks associated with cross contamination of food allergens, potentially reducing the frequency of accidental contamination events.
It is also important to note that whilst the most common cause of undeclared allergen in the global food supply chain is through accidental contamination in raw materials or finished products, this is not the only method by which undeclared allergen may be found in a product.

For example, peanut flour may be used in economically motivated adulteration (EMA) food fraud cases. In 2018 the European Commission estimated that the cost of food fraud for the global food industry is approximately €30 billion every year. Due to its high protein content, peanut flour has been used as a bulking agent to raise the overall protein content of e.g., wheat flour, thus raising the ‘quality’, and therefore price, of lower value goods. The ability to effectively quantify peanut traces within complex products therefore has the potential to enable consumers of food products to further trust the safety of the food they eat.

ELISA (Enzyme linked immunosorbent assay) is the method used most frequently for peanut allergen detection in the food manufacturing industry because of its sensitivity and ease of use. However, it has disadvantages in certain settings. It is not currently validated for complex food matrices, as it is believed that the effects of both food matrices and food processing could result in an underestimation of peanut concentrations in thermally processed foods, leading to false negatives, as well as overestimation in complex food matrices, leading to false positives which are a potential food safety hazard to consumers.

Food Safety Tech: Tell us about the research that the Mars Global Food Safety Center is doing to help the industry with effective methods for peanut quantification.

Zhang: At the Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC) we believe that everyone has the right to safe food and that we have a responsibility to generate and share insights to help solve for global food safety challenges. We also know we can’t tackle these alone, which is why we collaborate with external partners. One of our focus areas is advancing understanding and knowledge sharing in peanut allergen detection. As part of that work, we are exploring methods of improving food safety via the development of advanced analytical methods to detect peanut allergen content, in the hopes that it will enable the food industry to expand on current preventative management protocols, including early detection methodologies, for faster response to future food allergen contamination events.

As part of our latest published research, we investigated the accuracy and sensitivity of ELISA-based test methods on raw and cooked wheat flour, wheat flour-salt and wheat flour-salt-oil matrices, which are common ingredients in the food industry. 10 ppm peanut was doped into each matrix during sample preparation. Recovery testing demonstrated that in all matrices the current industry standard ELISA method overestimated results with recoveries ranging from 49.6 to 68.6 ppm.
These findings prompted the development of a new confirmatory method based on liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS/MS) for peanut quantification. When subjected to the same validation testing programme the HPLC-MS/MS technique was demonstrably more accurate and sensitive, with a limit of quantification of 0.3 ppm and the detected peanut concentration ranging from 6.8 to 12.8 ppm for samples doped with 10 ppm peanut.

This work is a first step in the development of a new standard method for peanut detection in complex food matrices and could ultimately inform safer manufacturing Quality & Food Safety (Q&FS) processes across global supply chains to help ensure safe food for all.

Mars GFSC Lab Food Integrity Team
The Lab Food Integrity Team at the Mars Global Food Safety Center.

Food Safety Tech: What projects are researchers at the Center working on to enhance allergen management as a whole?

Zhang: A successful allergen management program depends on rigorous control of allergenic foods and ingredients from all other products and ingredients at every step of the food production process, from raw material development to the delivery of final products. This means that for allergen management practices to be effective, they must be a shared responsibility between food manufacturers, government agencies, regulators and consumers.

At the Mars GFSC, we take a precompetitive approach to research, knowledge sharing and collaborations—this means we openly share insights and expertise to help ensure safe food for all. This is important in driving forward innovations, helping unlock solutions that may not have previously been possible.

We have shared our latest work both through an open access publication in Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A but also directly with regulatory bodies such as the FDA in the hopes of advancing knowledge in both food safety risk management and allergen management in complex flour-based media within global supply chains. In addition to this, this research contributes to a wider Food Safety Best Practice whitepaper focused on food allergen risk management currently under draft by the Mars GFSC, which will be published in collaboration with Walmart Food Safety Collaboration Center and the Chinese Institute of Food Science and Technology (CIFST) later this year.

We believe that global collaborations such as this are essential to improving food allergen management and mitigating food safety risks. Communication, training and knowledge sharing are core principles of the Mars GFSC and as such form a large part of our ongoing activities in this space. For example, we have hosted Food Allergen Management workshops in collaboration with Danone and Romer Labs focused on helping to raise awareness of current and future food allergen trends. At one such event in 2019, 100 participants from 16 food companies came together to promote food allergen management in the industry and ensure that the next generation of food integrity testing capability is relevant, practical, and directly applicable to the real-world problems experienced by manufacturers and processors throughout the supply chain.

Representatives of the Mars GFSC have also shared our insights externally at a number of international conferences as well as during a Food Enterprise Food Allergen Management Seminar on topics including effective allergen management procedures, our guiding principles for allergen managements at Mars, and shared our approach to encourage and share knowledge with other manufactures in this area.

We continue to support requests for technical insights, for example providing insights during a global consultation session on General Principles for Labeling of Prepackaged Food. This resulted in the addition of characterization requirements for possible allergenic substances, promoting the use of a recognizable naming system in ingredient lists that contain allergen warnings.

Food Safety Tech: Can you comment on additional work your team is doing in the area of food fraud?

Zhang: Food allergen risk management forms only one part of our wider food integrity focus at the Mars GFSC. We are committed to helping ensure food authenticity in an increasingly complex, global food supply chain through collaboration with global partners to develop new and improved tools and analytical methods that help protect the integrity of raw materials and finished products.

We have collaborated with researchers at Michigan State University to develop a Food Fraud Prevention Cycle roadmap (Introducing the Food Fraud Prevention Cycle (FFPC): A dynamic information management and strategic roadmap) which answered questions such as how to detect food fraud, how to start a food fraud prevention program, what to do in terms of testing, how much testing is enough, and how to measure success. Our intention in publishing this research was that the adoption of a holistic and all-encompassing information management cycle will enable a globally harmonized approach and the continued sharing of best practices across industry partners.

More recently, we completed an international collaboration tackling rice adulteration together with Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), Agilent Technologies, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA), and Zhejiang Yangtze Delta Institute of Tsinghua University (Yangtze Delta). This work successfully developed a two-tier testing program, capable of rapidly screening the geographical origins of rice within the global supply chain (Food Fingerprinting: Using a two-tiered approach to monitor and mitigate food fraud in rice). By developing a tiered system, we could ensure that manufacturers use the right techniques for the right occasion, to maximize the information available in investigating food fraud at the best value. As part of this work, we have helped develop hands-on training in Ghana and inform best practice guidance to help build the foundations of a strong food safety culture in rice authenticity across the global supply chain.

lightbulb, innovation

Record Investment in Foodtech Boosted by Changing Consumer Preferences, Sustainability Initiatives

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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lightbulb, innovation

Investment in foodtech made significant leaps forward thanks to increasing consumer demand, digitization and innovation in certain food categories. According to a report recently released from Deloitte & Touche, LLP, the value of deals made in the sector from 2020 to 2021, jumped from $6 billion to $13.1 billion, respectively. Factors driving investment in the sector include continued growth in alternative and plant-based proteins, the establishment of tech-based platforms that improve supply chain logistics and consumer experiences, and technological innovation in general.

According to Heather Gates, audit & assurance private growth leader for Deloitte, the accelerated growth in foodtech innovation is parallel with advances in agtech. “Hydroponic farming, improved fertilizers and pesticides, and robotics AI are all enabling more sustainable, steady production of produce even in urban centers, which can help augment local distribution opportunities for foodtech platforms,” she stated in the report.

The expansion of food tech is also promoting more farm-to-table options to consumers, because it streamlines distribution and delivery. As interest on the part of consumers for healthier and more convenient options continues, companies will see an increased emphasis on innovation in foodtech that incorporates sustainability and waste reduction, nutritional considerations, environmental impact, more competition in making more foods available at an affordable cost, and continued emphasis on last-mile transportation.

Read the full report, “Road to Next”, on Deloitte’s website.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Putting a Classified Carcinogenic in Food Gives Everyone the Blues

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Blue corn, food fraud
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

While blue is the most popular color around the world, not all blues are created equal and or belong into the food supply. The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed in Europe mentioned a case of unauthorized food dye Sudan Blue II in a roasted corn snack food. Sudan Blue II, also known under the name Solvent Blue 35, is used to dye oils, solvents, alcohols, esters, hydrocarbon derivatives and other industrial chemicals, and is classified as carcinogenic and harmful to humans and the environment.

Resource

  1. Malta Government. (February 21, 2022). “Environmental Health Directorate Notice”.