Little did I know six months ago, when I planned the editorial content for the March 2009 issue of Food Engineering, that our industry would be mired in one of its most far-reaching food safety recalls. At the time, I wanted to create an issue devoted to the latest technologies designed to keep the food supply safe with topics such as raw material validation, sanitary plant design and track and trace solutions.

Just when most of us thought it couldn’t get any worse than Topps and Chinese melamine, or that serious lessons were learned from Peter Pan, food safety is on everyone’s mind today from consumers and politicians to all of our readers.

As often as we focus on food safety issues, automation and leading edge technologies on the pages of Food Engineering, the recent PCA recall events are a grim reminder that all is not well with our industry and that some processors still need a primer in good manufacturing practices.

Consumer product recalls work for the most part, but not quickly enough to prevent deaths and illnesses. Many industry experts agree that more testing and government regulations, while extremely helpful, are not the ultimate solutions. The challenge, experts says, lies in designing food safety into all aspects of the process and adequate tracing in both forward and backward supply chains. Collaboration with all areas of the enterprise-marketing, quality control, engineering and operations-is also crucial for a safe food supply.

For the last quarter of a century,Food Engineering has polled it readers about the top issues facing the industry. Last year, for the first time in nearly two decades, food safety was not on the top ten list. On 2008’s list, food safety was edged out by sustainability, cost-cutting initiatives and automation.

Considering the events of the past few months, our industry needs to take a renewed look at its food safety systems. The best defense is a good offense. Build food safety management into every aspect of your process.