Billions of particles can lace unconditioned air with dust, dirt, bacteria and viruses. That’s why your food plant’s air filters are crucial to preventing contamination and ensuring food safety. But when it comes to filtration, more isn’t necessarily better, especially when it comes to high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. HEPA filters are a necessity for many plant environments, but the level of filtration can vary, potentially making certain options expensive overkill for others.
Most of us were taught during childhood not to eat canned food from dented or bulging cans to avoid botulism poisoning. But according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 7% of botulism outbreaks between 1950 and 1996 were traced to commercially processed foods. The prospect of cans causing botulism poisoning carries such notoriety due to a widely publicized botulism outbreak in 1919 linked to a shipment of canned black olives that killed 18 people in a handful of states. This instilled widespread fear of botulism coming from canned goods into the psyche of American consumers — a fear that has been passed on from generation to generation.
In the aftermath of the outbreak, a consortium of canned food producers, scientific experts and government officials came together to develop strict regulations and establish state inspection services for canned foods processing. Not only did these regulations form the basis of what we now know as the nation’s food safety system, they restored the public’s confidence in canned foods and in the national food industry.
In a recent post, I summarized the new traceability requirements recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The proposed rule would require additional recordkeeping for those who manufacture, process, pack or store foods included on the FDA’s new Food Traceability List.
The thought of new government regulations can often elicit groans from manufacturers, but rather than view this as another hoop to jump through, food and beverage companies should take a long view: It’s really an opportunity to improve product quality, boost efficiency and reduce manufacturing costs.
The additional recordkeeping requirements would apply not only to foods specifically listed on the Food Traceability List, but also to products that contain these foods as ingredients. Let’s look at what’s included:
In the wake of COVID-19, online grocery delivery has taken off. According to the 2020 Food Packaging & Consumer Behavior Report, 61% of survey respondents said their purchasing habits acquired during the pandemic will influence the way they shop in the future, and 51% reported using third-party grocery delivery apps within the past three months.
In light of this trend, food manufacturers may have to adapt their packaging to meet the requirements of grocery delivery. Instead of packages being stretch-wrapped onto a pallet to be unloaded by grocery store workers, they’ll be boxed and sent directly to consumers’ doorsteps.
That means outgoing packages must be sturdy enough to withstand the increased vibration and movement across a courier’s distribution chain. Some items may be shipped as is or they will have to be sent inside another shipping box padded with extra dunnage (air bags, crinkled paper, bubble wrap). Products packed in glass, cans or other rigid packaging may have to be rethought.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked contaminated salad kits to a multistate outbreak of Cyclospora that infected more than 700 people. In 2019, the culprit was contaminated fresh basil, triggering a recall by the exporting company.
But how do outbreaks like this happen? Knowing how to prevent Cyclospora from entering your food plant is critical for maintaining the safety of your products and the trust of your customers, especially during a time of heightened awareness surrounding sanitation and public health.
Now that COVID-19 is a risk encountered in everyday life, food plant owners and operators are looking for ways to protect their staff and facilities that are cost-effective and don’t hinder productivity.
As scientific authorities continue to nail down exactly how COVID-19 is spread, the overwhelming evidence suggests the virus primarily travels and is transmitted through droplets in the air. That’s why shielding your facility from an outbreak starts with its HVAC and refrigeration systems.
Process Safety Management (PSM) is the OSHA standard that mandates employers identify, evaluate and control potentially hazardous activities, chemicals and components used in their processes.
While PSM audits are performed every three years, you should periodically perform self-audits to protect your facility from punitive measures from OSHA and, more importantly, to protect your employees from potentially catastrophic events that could lead to loss of life or property.
While it’s not feasible to ditch dusty ingredients like sugar, flour and cornstarch in most food processes, you should be aware of the danger particular ingredients create and formulate a plan to keep your workers and plant safe.
As the coronavirus pandemic rocked the world early this year and its scope was realized in the United States, food plant operators had to adapt quickly to meet new federal and local orders that mandated social distancing. At the same time, producers saw restaurant demand plummet while retail and online grocery store market shares skyrocketed. As unpaid orders originally bound for restaurants rotted in storage, retailers had trouble keeping milk and eggs on the shelf.
This dramatic shake-up has forced food plant operators to reorganize equipment, production lines and workers to maintain safe social distancing, especially in the wake of multiple COVID-19 outbreaks among food plant employees.
Additionally, the wild fluctuations the supply chain experienced exposed vulnerabilities created by the communication lag between suppliers, manufacturers and retailers.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology has the potential to solve some of these COVID-19-related problems and revolutionize the future of the food processing industry.
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