Food Processing and Manufacturing Safety Outlook

Safety and sanitation in food processing and manufacturing is a big issue in 2021. New trends, technology, and procedures have emerged due to the pandemic and COVID testing for workers in the food industry. The safety and sanitation procedures now include Pandemic Prepared Certification training, technology to trace foods, cleaner labels, food safety and transparency, product liability and insurance, functional and sustainable foods, water safety in food processing, the growth of artisan food products, and the future of food safety. These are all part of food processing and manufacturing safety issues for 2021.

Pandemic Prepared Certification

Since the pandemic, AIB, an international training agency on food safety has developed a worldwide training course for food and beverage manufacturers and distributors. It trains employees in the food industry to be prepared for COVID-19 and other similar crises that occur. The course was developed because the food industry was not prepared for the health crisis we have recently faced. This course offers training in crisis management, employee and food safety, supply chain disruption, and operating in lockdowns. This is the first certification course that addresses the food chain in a pandemic or crisis situation. It was designed by experts in the food industry in sanitation, education, and food manufacturing and processing.

This course teaches how to train employees in safety measures for a crisis, safe food manufacturing practices and techniques, determining equipment and supplies needed during a crisis, keeping up with government and state regulation, tracking foods, safety in the warehouse and manufacturing plant, monitoring food products, designing safe food packaging, and planning ahead for a crisis. This course will be offered in the United States and in foreign countries. More food businesses should take this course to prepare for the next health crisis and learn about proper procedures.

Technology For Tracking Food Products

The FDA has recently developed software that will track certain types of food in the supply chain more accurately. This software will track farm-to-table foods more accurately. This will address food and safety issues of certain foods that are transported. The need to track these foods has increased, and the FDA has a list of foods they want food manufacturers and processors to track digitally. These foods are at a higher risk for contamination when they are transported. The purpose of this new tracking system is to prevent or better handle foodborne illness that comes from food contamination. This is another new procedure for safety and sanitation for food processing from the FDA.

The new procedure aims to have the information in 24 hours or less. They expect food companies to have electronic records stored in spreadsheets. This gives them easy access to information during outbreaks. This will give the FDA the ability to track food at every level of the supply chain. This new procedure will assist in removing unsafe products from the market more quickly. Many companies do not have tracking systems that are compatible with each other. The lack of a universal system of tracking food safety is an issue. This will establish a universal standard in the food industry.

This list of foods the FDA wants to be tracked are hard and soft cheese, eggs, nut butter, cucumbers, leafy greens, herbs, melons, sprouts, peppers, tomatoes, tropical fruits, fish, and deli products. A more efficient system will enable a food processing plant to prevent outbreaks from spreading more efficiently.

Functional and Sustainable Food Products

Healthy foods or functional foods have become more important over the last few years. Consumers want to eat food with health benefits vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. Consumers are more interested in protecting and preserving their health now. Today probiotics are added to yogurt, water, cereal, and other products. It used to be just a drink now it is a popular ingredient in packaged foods. Consumers will pay more money for healthy foods and often drive or search online for these products.

People of all ages want to eat healthy, nutritious food that tastes good. Consumers are buying more products with fiber, protein, vitamin D, calcium, nuts, seed, whole grains, grass fed meats and poultry, and food promoted as super foods. They want benefits from the foods they eat. These benefits are alertness, a good night’s sleep, less stress, emotional well-being, and energy. They want foods that reduce illness like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, bone loss, and digestive illnesses. Older consumers want to eat food that helps them stay healthy and active longer.

Plant based meats and food has become more popular. Many families have a plant based protein meal at least once a week. Consumers eat more vegetables with meals than ever before. Popular items are plant based burgers, tofu, alternative seafood, chicken, and meats. Grains without wheat have become a popular choice in pasta and breads. Consumers are seeking more food with fruits and vegetables. With new food products, more product safety issues will arise in the next several years. This will lead to more health services and the need for better safety and sanitation in food processing. Overall consumers are seeking healthier canned, frozen, and packed foods that are safe to eat. They want sustainable and eco-friendly food products.

COVID-19 Safety Standards and Transparency

Due to the pandemic, many restaurants and food processors had to shut-downs and focus on takeout food. Restaurants focused more on employee and customer safety. Social distancing, masks, and cleanliness became a big focus for the food industry. Food processors had to deal with the same issues. Consumers want to know their food is safe and the way it is made or cooked followed the strict guidelines. Food companies and restaurants cleaned more frequently between shifts this year and became aware of the demand for this service. Many had to find new ways to sell their products and services. This lead to an increased demand for sanitation and safety in food processing that bushiness had to provide themselves.

In the future, this will lead to changes in employment in the food industry and what they require of employees. It might lead to more testing for future employees and stricter safety and sanitation in food processing. It may lead to more food companies and restaurants using janitorial services to provide the cleaning services they cannot do themselves. Consumers want more transparency in food labels on products with GMOs and other ingredients in the future.

Water Safety in Food Processing

Water safety used in food and beverage processing is another issue the industry will have to look at. Water is used to make products and clean those ingredients used to make them. Many parts of the United States have polluted rivers and systems that affect the water quality. Water must be monitored and treated when it does not meet the necessary standards. Water used by food companies should be treated when it leaves the plant and is used in food and beverage products. Water can be treated and contaminants removed when it becomes polluted.

Today water can be treated with chemical and non-chemical methods. There are many different water treatment methods. Chlorine treatment is a common method used, but it has been criticized due to toxicity. Chemical treatment of polluted groundwater will continue to increase into 2024. There are non-chemical treatments for polluted water in the food industry too. One method is reverse osmosis. This method uses a membrane to remove ions, chemicals, and bacteria from the water. The membrane filters the water leaving safe and potable water for users.

Another method used is called ion exchange. In this treatment, the harmful substances are replaced with non-toxic substances. This treatment sometimes removes healthy substances not just toxic ones. Since ions have an electrical charge the replacement substance must have the same charge as the toxic one. Carbon filters are another method. This removes pesticides, lead, radon, and other industrial chemicals from water. This treatment does not remove metals and nitrates.

Using UV rays from the sun, called UV disinfection, is another popular method for treating water. It can disinfect germs and viruses because its rays have germicidal properties. It has been used to disinfect contaminated water in the United States and in the food and beverage industry. Using safer water treatment programs in the future is an important safety and sanitation in food processing issue in 2021.

Food Product Liability and Insurance

Food products cause illness due to contamination and food allergies. Food companies and restaurants now more than ever may want to invest in product liability insurance for grocery and food products. This protects their business should an accident or crisis occur. Liability insurance protects individuals that manufacture, sell, distribute, or produce food products. If someone gets sick, loses time from work, or dies from consuming a product they sell they may be responsible for the cost of the damages. The costs can put a business under. Insurance costs far less than the amount of money paid for a lawsuit. Food liability insurance can be tailored to large and small businesses.

A law firm may specialize in representing the food industry. Kransky Law Office in San Francisco represents all types of food business. Leslie Kransky, a lawyer and business consultant, advises those in the industry on risk management, insurance, preparing for a crisis, regulatory compliance, inspections, recalls, and other issues. She represents growers, distributors, importers, retailers, manufacturers, food service, labs, sanitation, and labs. She has many years of experience in food safety, ingredients, labeling and claims.

Food companies small and large may want to consult with a food lawyer in their own geographic region to learn more about how to protect themselves and meet government regulations. Lawyers can advise about safety and sanitation in food processing and how to meet new guidelines. With changing regulations, meeting with a law firm is good business sense.

Emerging Artisan Products

Due to changes this year, the artisan food market has grown. In the coming months, consumers may see lab grown meats grown in cultures, international food products, more plant based products, and coffee products. Restaurants will be selling more ready-to-eat products and ready to heat products. Non-dairy cheese products will continue to grow for lactose intolerant or vegans. These products will be aimed at the mass market. Safety and sanitation in food processing will still be an important element in the production of these products. Retailers believe there were be more healthy food products, coffee products, and breakfast items in 2021.

FDA Partners With Mexico For Food Safety

Recently the FDA has partnered with food and regulatory agencies in Mexico over food safety. The government agencies in these two countries are working together. In the US, one-third of the food imported into the US is from Mexico. This includes about 60 percent of fresh produce too. These two counties working together has improved food inspections, food safety training, and response to outbreaks. Since the papaya outbreak, these agencies have worked with farmers on safer growing methods and the prevention of outbreaks. They have provided several safety training seminars to papaya growers in Mexico.

This type of partnership encompasses Hispanic food distributors, food companies, and growers in Mexico and American food distributors, manufacturers, and growers in the US. It involves agencies involved in food safety. These type of alliances needs to be extended to other countries and focus on safety and sanitation in food processing around the world. Agencies working together to promote a safer food supply is an important goal.

Future of Safety and Sanitation in Food Processing

As more small food businesses grow, and new manufacturing jobs become available in the food industry safety and sanitation will be a big issue. The pandemic has altered the way companies view food safety. Consumers now demand more food transparency and expect that what they eat is what the label or menu says. They expect companies and restaurants to be clean and provide them with safe food. This will lead to more training and procedures to ensure this fact in the future. Many technology based solutions for food safety are emerging due to the need for safer measures around food.

Some new techniques are DNA sequencing that allows rapid testing and tracing of food items. It is still evolving and may be able to be used in the manufacturing process. There are new developments in equipment and testing systems. They are using X-rays to inspect food, food inspection systems with self-monitoring sensors, and an emphasis on machine learning and AI. Overall, food safety and sanitation in food processing will be an important issue.

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