Food safety and security have moved firmly to the forefront in our industry in recent months, thanks in part to some high profile disasters that remind us how much work remains to be done. However, while scintillating stories and shortcomings make for juicy headlines, there are plenty of achievements that quietly continue to percolate behind the scenes, rightly deserving our recognition.
Our eclectic list should help instill some peace of mind regarding the safety and security of the global food chain, despite the panic that occasionally arises in some areas.
Antimicrobial Grocery Checkstand Belts
Antimicrobial-coated products, like conveyor belts at the grocery cashier’s checkstand, help prevent the spread of mold, mildew, fungus and bacteria. Good Armor is the leading manufacturer of the antimicrobial-coated belts in the supermarket environment. The company embeds silver particles in the surface of a product to create the antimicrobial coating. Not only is it a simple and relatively inexpensive way to enhance food safety, but it also serves as a moving billboard for advertisers who want to reach a captive audience. Handstand Innovations, owner of MessageWrap, prints and installs customized antimicrobial-coated belts at supermarkets like Michigan-based Spartan Stores.
In late 2006, the rapid rise of Colony Collapse Disorder among Western honey bee colonies in North America served as a wake-up call to the critical importance of these insects when it comes to food security, considering about 75 percent of food crops require pollination. Researchers have also determined that while domestic honeybees play a role in pollination, the heavy lifters in the equation are bumble bees.
Cage Free Eggs
You know it qualifies as a “movement” when fast food chains start to embrace it, and so it is with cage free eggs and the overall efforts related to the humane treatment of farm animals. A study by Technomic, a food industry research firm, found that animal welfare is the third most important social issue to restaurant goers, behind buying local and organic. In response, chains like Wendy’s, Burger King and Whataburger are making improvements in the food supply chain. Not surprisingly, animals that are raised more humanely tend to be healthier.
Rail Logistics’ Cold Train hit the tracks in 2010, moving refrigerated produce between the Port of Quincy in Washington state and points in the Midwest and East Coast. It’s one of several refrigerated produce services that operates via rail—a testament to both the service reliability of rail, and modern refrigerated equipment and technology that keeps produce fresh.
More produce shippers are using rail, too. This year, Rail Logistics will open a new Cold Train office in downtown Chicago to meet growing demand, while the company recently tripled its fleet to 300 53-foot refrigerated containers.
Deloitte Center for the Global Food Value Chain
In January, Deloitte launched its Center for the Global Food Value Chain, which was established to “help companies understand and address quality and safety issues, changing regulations, market trends, supply chain risk, operational impacts, and use of business analytics to improve performance.” The Center’s resources include Webcasts, links, and a Web site chock full of material for the food industry.
Dr. Barbara Rasco, School of Food Science, Washington State University
Dr. Rasco has a good way of getting noticed, not only is she active as a speaker and educator in the industry, she immediately captures an audience’s attention when she casually mentions some rather scary statistics regarding the vulnerability of the food supply. For starters, in the U.S., few states produce more than 30 percent of what the residents eat; and most cities have only a five-day food supply. Furthermore, the average person’s food travels 1,300 miles from farm to table. And how about this—employees pose one of the greatest risk when it comes to food safety, with most incidents resulting from labor disputes, extortion or revenge against a co-worker or company.