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Top 10 wishes for improving food safety

March 7, 2012
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10. Industry and Trade Associations Share Data – Food processors and trade organizations have information that could make significant contributions to enhance food safety and quality. Let’s get this information out in the open where it can be used by all.

9. We Remember the Internet Is Not the Be All and End All – Today’s scientists must realize the Internet is not the ultimate source of information. Not every bit of work related to food science has been digitized; valuable information exists in old references and research papers. If researchers dig into work from the 1920s or 1930s, some valuable tidbits will be found.

8. Contract Testing Labs Explain Data – Some contract testing labs don’t bother to explain data and/or reports they generate. Many companies use outside laboratories because they do not have in-house support. These companies not only need the data, but an explanation of what it means.

7. We Realize Good Science Is Not Done in 140 Characters or Less – Social media is a wonderful tool, but given all the misconceptions about science and the difficulty in educating members of the industry and the public, food safety explanations should not be attempted in 140 characters or less in a tweet. As an industry, we simply cannot take shortcuts in protecting our products, our industry and our customers.

6. Regulators Understand Control, Not Semantics, Is the Key to Food Safety – In 2012, more draft regulations from FDA on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will be enforced. FDA has already begun using the term “preventive controls” in its documents. A few colleagues have told me FDA is using this term because it does not want to publicly state what FSMA really does is mandate HACCP for all of the food industry. If a processor does not have a HACCP plan, it is not going to have much of a market.

5. Auditors Understand Their Role Is to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Programs – The third-party audit is a fact of life. The schemes accepted by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) are gaining greater acceptance because of market demand. If a company meets the demands of a GFSI audit, it should not be asked to adopt another GFSI scheme or even do another audit. But in many cases, the quality of the audit depends on the quality of the auditor. The role of the auditor should be to evaluate whether programs in place are being followed and are effective. An audit should never be a checklist.

4. Food Processors Never Take Sanitation for Granted – When evaluating foodborne illness outbreaks, the root cause almost always is related to sanitation: Someone did not clean the plant or line properly, a worker failed to wash his/her hands, or construction was not contained. Sanitation programs need to be validated when set up, verified on a regular basis, audited to ensure they are being followed and subjected to regular management reviews. The frequency of these evaluations depends on the product, the process and the efficacy of the program.

3. Leaders Listen to Their Technical People – Some managers and decision-makers don’t put enough faith in their technical staff. Your employees have good ideas. Don’t wait for an outside consultant to bring you ideas that are available, but often overlooked, in-house.

2. Consumers Understand They Are Part of Food Safety – Statistics show a significant number of foodborne illnesses come from foods prepared at home. How many kitchens have a meat thermometer? How many consumers properly wash fruits and vegetables? Consumer education is essential for ensuring the public health.

1. We Put Bill Marler Out of Business – William Marler is a principal at the law firm Marler Clark which represents plaintiffs in cases of foodborne illness. I have heard Marler speak a number of times and am always impressed with his ideas on industry responsibility, liability and protecting the public health. In almost every talk, he includes the line, “Put me out of business.” As an industry, we should be working toward that goal. v

 

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