Is My Food Safe? Food Safety Developments Aim to Decrease Contamination

Is My Food Safe? Food Safety Developments Aim to Decrease Contamination

Nothing can diminish your appetite more than someone’s horror story of getting food poisoning at your favorite lunch spot. In the complex US food supply chain, the chicken from your sandwich may travel from farm to meat processor to wholesaler to restaurant—risking contamination or spoilage with each step—before finally resting between the buns on your plate.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that assuring food safety can be complicated. Government regulations aim to protect consumers by outlining best safety practices for food companies. However, the risk of contamination persists, and food recalls continue to be issued after products have already been sold. Some problems remain unresolved until someone gets sick.

Food companies use food safety products—from diagnostic tests to disposable gloves—to prevent unsafe foods from reaching consumers. The food safety products market is expected to grow 4.9% annually through 2022 as a changing regulatory and consumer environment demand more secure food production to keep consumers healthy and safe.

Foodborne Illness Outbreaks Leave Lasting Damage

One of the highest-profile food safety stories in recent years was the string of E. coli outbreaks at Chipotle in 2015. Chipotle’s stock value and reputation have yet to recover from the public backlash against the chain’s food safety problems after hundreds of people were sickened. Under a new CEO hired in March 2018, the company plans to go in a new direction to rebuild its reputation and live up to its “Food with Integrity” motto.

Chipotle isn’t the only company to experience long-term effects from persistent problems with food contamination. In 2015, the manufacturer Blue Bell halted production of its ice cream after three people died from Listeria infection. The company laid off or furloughed about two thirds of its workforce as a result of a product recall involving 8 million gallons of ice cream. In 2018, Blue Bell ice cream finally made a comeback in three states, where it had not been available for purchase since the outbreak.

New Products Present Food Safety Challenges

As restaurants continue to adapt to food trends, they will increasingly offer new products to appeal to food movements such as “clean label”, “free from”, and organic. Many of these trends directly affect food safety processes. In March 2018, McDonald’s announced that it was launching fresh beef Quarter Pounder patties at some of its locations, which led its suppliers to spend more than $60 million to update their supply chains. Additionally, McDonald’s locations offering these new fresh beef burgers will require a separate refrigerated drawer to keep the patties at temperature, and workers will have to handle this meat with special blue plastic gloves to prevent cross contamination.

Innovation Spurring Food Safety Product Gains

As food companies engage in safety practices to ensure product quality and prevent costly recalls or damage to reputation, many look to the latest technologies to meet new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations and implement their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans. As such, producers of food safety products are continually developing better solutions and launching new products. For instance, in July 2017, Neogen released the ANSR Listeria Right Now test system, the fastest available Listeria test, which provides results in under 60 minutes. This represented a marked development over previous rapid tests, which required 24 hours to produce results.

Additionally, the development of blockchain technology has the potential to increase the transparency and efficiency of the food supply chain by providing unalterable data. This data can be used to track products at every level of the supply chain, helping to prevent food safety incidents and find vulnerabilities while also assuring consumers that products are safe by making this data easily accessible.

Smart labels and tags such as Avery Dennison’s TT Sensor Plus are already used to track food characteristics such as temperature and time. Combined with blockchain, smart labels and packaging elements could provide increased data to consumers, regulators, and food companies in order to prevent illnesses by removing unsafe products from the supply chain more quickly than previously possible.

For More Information

Propelled by implementation of new regulations and consumer preferences, demand for all food safety products is expected to continue growing. For more information on food safety products, check out the Freedonia Group’s industry study Food Safety Products in the US, which offers:

  • historical data and forecasts
  • demand for food safety products by type and market
  • consumer survey research
  • information on regulations such as the FSMA
  • analysis of factors affecting demand for food safety products
  • a breakdown of industry players

About the Author

Cara Brosius holds a B.A. in economics. She is an industry analyst at the Freedonia Group, where she writes industry studies on US consumer & commercial goods.