2016 saw a 22% food recall surge over the previous year, reaching approximately 764 total recalls in the U.S. and Canada, or more than 2 per day, according to research by Food Safety Magazine. It’s true that recalls are happening more frequently today than ever before, for reasons including stricter compliance regulations and ramped-up testing approaches. This stronger focus on testing has positively led to a greater discovery rate of contamination. This is actually a good thing because it means today’s food safety efforts are much more accurate and effective at identifying contamination and protecting the population. Nonetheless, recalls can be alarming to your customers, and the last thing you want to risk is their trust in your brand.
All along the food chain -- from producers and processors to retailers and consumers -- safety risks exist. Food is susceptible to contamination at many points in its journey. For food processing plants, this means it is necessary to establish and maintain strict, proactive practices for safe food production and handling. But, ultimately, who’s in charge of this effort? Where does responsibility for food safety risk management reside?
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Every food processors knows that you must have a contamination response plan in place. However the real question is about whether or not your plan is an effective one! After all, you have a lot at stake here. If your plan is lacking, you open your brand, your organization and yourself up to all kinds of serious consequences: FDA audits, costly recalls, reputational damage, consumer deaths, criminal charges. Failing to implement a well thought out contamination plan can quite literally kill your company. Is that a risk you’re willing to take?
Food safety rules and regulations are undergoing a big, tectonic shift. Most recently, manufacturers have had to adapt to these new mandates introduced by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). These laws turn the focus from reactive food safety measures to proactive and preventive approaches. What does this mean for the manufacturer? It means adjusting processes and procedures in order to comply with various requirements for monitoring, testing, documentation, risk assessment and more. Regardless of the size of your operation, all of these food safety changes can be overwhelming, and you may feel like it’s impossible for the plant to keep up.
Now that the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the law of the land, it is essential for food processing plants to have plans and procedures in place that fully comply with the new rules and regulations. Even if your plant is already meeting basic FDA regulations, there’s more you must do in order to avoid noncompliance, protect your brand and meet the evolving demands of food safety.
Food safety practitioners have been forced to wait until they can react to results from environmental testing programs (EMPs) for years. The current process of testing for pathogens and bacteria in your food manufacturing plant can often take up to 48 – 72 hours under good conditions. You collect samples, send them to the lab and wait for the results. If your lab doesn’t have a robust reporting workflow, you might wait longer even than it takes to run the testing! So while you’re waiting for those results, your company’s risk exposure grows and grows, a very clear and present danger of possibly ruining your brand. It’s no secret that hundreds of companies have been under scrutiny in recent years due to very public recalls. Is this reactionary approach still working for you? Did it ever? And is your plant really as clean as it looks? More often than not, if you are not getting positive results, you aren’t looking hard enough!