Food Safety Magazine

Signature Series | April 20, 2018

The Importance of Food Safety and Environmental Monitoring Solutions

By Julian Hough

The Importance of Food Safety and Environmental Monitoring Solutions

Imagine if you had enough money to put 8.5 million people, at an average annual cost of $30K, through 4 years of private college. Or, at a sticker price of $23,810 each, you could buy a Prius for about 40 percent of all American families.

That’s what $1.6 trillion would get you. That’s trillion–with a “T”. Twelve zeros! It’s also the figure that Americans spent in 2015 on food and beverages in grocery stores and eating out establishments (Canning, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Economic Research Service, May 2017). 

The Costly Side of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks
Food safety is paramount to consumer confidence and business success. In the age of 24/7 news coverage, foodborne illness outbreaks fall quickly under the spotlight of public awareness.

In August 2015, at least 64 people who ate at 22 different Mexican quickserve restaurant locations contracted Salmonella from tainted tomatoes. This chain is facing two lawsuits from customers affected by the outbreak.[1] A top-selling ice cream brand recalled all products last spring after 10 reported cases of Listeria in four states were linked to frozen treats. Three of the people sickened in Kansas later died.[2]

Managers and executives, who must balance the burden of ensuring food safety while still maintaining a profitable business venture, dread such outbreaks. Years of hard work, brand-building and clawing a market share in a highly competitive industry can be undermined and toppled quicker than you can say “Salmonella.” This is a huge problem for any CEO and their brand. Recalls cost a company money. Lots of it. According to the USDA, foodborne illnesses cost companies more than $15.6 billion annually.

The newsworthy cases mentioned above are the tip of the iceberg. Food safety has a much broader base of concern and relies on the implementation of safe handling and best practices in the supply chain that encompasses production, processing, distribution, and preparation.

Today’s busy and tech-savvy millennials are acutely aware of the food they put into their bodies. Food safety and consumer health is featured in the news whenever an outbreak of foodborne illness occurs. CEOs are sitting up and taking notice. In a 2017 interview McDonald’s CEO, Steve Easterbrook, stated, “Food safety is McDonald’s number one priority”.    

The Role of FSMA 
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) laws are a positive way forward, their approach being one of promoting proactivity in preventing the outbreaks, rather than being reactive to them after the event. 

In addition to a myriad of other wireless monitoring solutions, data loggers are a technology that has been embraced by a gamut of processing facilities—from meat, to dairy, to labs—to maintain regulatory compliance.

Wireless Monitoring - a Solution-based Approach
While the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) are effective in reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses, it requires copious amounts of time, resources, and training. Manual record-keeping is inherently cumbersome, so foodservice directors are thus pressured to create efficient time and labor savings to reduce operating costs and remain profitable.

Any investment that can make food safe by monitoring environmental parameters, will be highly desirable. Wireless monitoring technology is a bastion of hope and a vanguard in mitigating risk associated with foodborne illness outbreaks.

Food processing facilities that invest in a temperature monitoring system benefit in some of the following ways:

  • Reduces/eliminates manual labor
  • Streamlines the collection of environmental data
  • Provides custom reporting
  • Complies with the new FSMA laws and FDA rulings
  • Maintains more stringent food temperature controls

The cost of investing in a monitoring system that helps to maintain product integrity, compared to the obscene amounts involved in a recall, is a no-brainer investment. Not investing in one is being pennywise and pound foolish.

Wireless monitoring systems protect inventory and help ensure equipment is operating correctly by monitoring factors including temperature and humidity. As an exception-based system, notifications are sent out only when readings fall outside preset conditions. This will help to maintain product integrity and quality and prevent costly food spoilage due to equipment failure.

Since its establishment in 1885, Cooper-Atkins Corporation (recently acquired by Emerson) has built a rock-solid reputation providing quality environmental monitoring solutions for more than 130 years. As a trusted brand in the food industry, it continues to push the boundaries of new-age technology by developing innovative and HACCP-compliant, wireless monitoring products, such as EnviroTrak and NotifEye that meet its customers’ needs.

Scott D’Aniello, vice president of Industrial and Food Processing for Cooper-Atkins says, “We are choosing to be a leader, not a follower. We have been around a long time and are fully vested in providing the best food safety solutions for our customers. Our goal is to make their business more viable–from both a financial and safety sense. McDonald’s recently awarded us the prestigious “Global Supplier of the Year 2015” which speaks volumes about who we are and the level of service we provide.”

Despite the introduction of FSMA in 2011, and its recent 2016 upgrade, government mandates, aimed at streamlining food safety regulations, have offered CEOs only a thin blanket of comfort. CEOs in the food industry will face a worrying time in 2018. The same food safety concerns that worried them in 2017 will continue to plague them.

Despite many challenges, meeting regulatory and organizational requirements is still the main goal. It’s still complicated, but today’s technological innovations are helping to ease the burden and keep food safe for consumers.

Julian Hough is a marketing specialist with Cooper-Atkins Corporation (part of Emerson) that has been manufacturing temperature monitoring equipment for 130 years.

References
1. http://www.businessinsider.com/the-chipotle-salmonella-outbreak-has-been-traced-to-tomatoes-2015-9.
2. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-texas-bluebell-idUSKBN0UM2CC20160111.

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