Food safety audits help manufacturers identify areas of their operation that need attention, from pest management to equipment and facility cleaning to employee training. The result is a safe, hygienic manufacturing environment and a competitive differentiator in the marketplace. With more rigorous food safety regulations coming down the pike, more companies are relying on food safety auditors to help them comply with new rules and steer clear of fines and penalties.
Food Safety Modernization Act
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law in January 2011, ushers in sweeping changes pertaining to inspection and compliance, and imported food safety and response, even though the “ushering” part is going painfully slow for many in the food industry. Like most legislation it’s not perfect, but in general it’s a step in the right direction for the food industry and consumers.
California-based Fresh Origins, which grows microgreens and edible flowers, made the news recently after a third-party food auditor gave the company a perfect score for the second straight year.
It’s just a part of everyday operations for David Sasuga, the company’s founder, who told Food Logistics: “We are proud to have made food safety a principle objective of our business activities. The benefits go way beyond the obvious and help build a solid core of practices that are demonstrated to produce results that can be structured, monitored, and recorded for success.” Furthermore, this creates “a culture where we can apply these principles to many aspects of our business resulting in better management, employees, products and customer satisfaction. We find no particular difficulties in following food safety guidelines and practices,” he added.
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) was launched in 2000 to bring together various players in the food supply chain with the goal of improving food safety for consumers worldwide. Indeed, the genesis for the organization followed “a number of food safety crises when consumer confidence was at an all-time low,” according to the GFSI’s Web site.
Now, the organization has participation by big name companies like Cargill, Walmart, Carrefour and many others who are committed to collaborating with logistics partners and others to help promote food safety throughout global supply chains.
Is genetically modified food safe to eat? Should GM food be labeled as such so consumers know what they’re buying in the supermarket? What are the effects of GM crops on the agricultural system? The topic has become widely discussed over the past few years and is another example of how consumers are increasingly becoming more interested—and involved—in what is contained in their food, how it’s grown and produced, and what potential effects it poses to their personal health and the health of the environment.
Improper hand hygiene is the leading contributor to foodborne illness. Yet when it comes to hand washing by restaurant staff, non-compliance rates are as high as 73 percent, according to the FDA. The foodservice industry is making progress to reduce foodborne illness outbreaks caused by dirty hands with more diligent training, signage in employee areas, and access to properly equipped hand washing stations.
Just like safe food, clean water is also essential for humans. Assuring a safe water supply is especially challenging in third-world countries or in areas hit hard by a natural disaster when water supplies are disrupted. Hydration Technology Innovations (HTI), Modern Edge and Eastman worked together on the HydroPack, a paper-thin, four by six inch pouch that uses forward osmosis to transfer dirty, polluted water into clean 12-ounce sources of hydration. Compared to bottled water, the HydroPack is incredibly light and therefore extremely cost effective to transport, warehouse and distribute.
The European Commission is putting 9 million euros behind a global project known as iFAAM—Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management—which brings together food companies, researchers and others to improve and standardize the labeling of food allergens. Professor Clare Mills from the UK’s University of Manchester, who is spearheading the project, explained, “The evidence base and tools that result from this will support more transparent precautionary ‘may contain’ labeling of allergens in foods, which will make life easier for allergy sufferers as they try to avoid problem foods.”