Safety - industry driver

Food safety is always a priority. Current needs are centered around the traditional areas of contamination prevention, formulation, shelf-life and processing. New requirements now encompass more virology, as well as the impact of changing consumer preference and the drive to produce a more sustainable product.

Fundamental needs

  • Predicting and mitigating the risk of contamination at any point in the food supply chain. Tools such as HACCP, TACCP and VACCP are useful, however emerging contamination risks need to be addressed. A pervasive food safety culture is also needed throughout the industry. There is also a need for accurate risk assessments of novel technologies and processing methods. Improvements in traceability systems are also required to allow the impact of any lapses in vigilance to be reduced.
  • Allergen testing is becoming more sensitive. There are needs for validation of the test methods used, as well as clear, evidence-based guidance on the acceptable quantified limits for identified allergens. There is also a need for standard allergen labelling to reduce ambiguity of interpretation. How much risk does a 'may contain' statement represent?
  • Antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat to human health. There is a need for guidance for food producers on the strategies that can be used to reduce its emergence and to prevent its spread.
  • Guidance is required in the following safety-related areas: Sampling frequency of ingredients; Procurement strategies; Labelling, and the impact of mis-labelling; The impact of climate change; Interpretation of test results; Safety implications of novel foods and packaging; Consumer engagement to create better food safety culture; Remote auditing.
  • Food production and processing will always demand improvement in hygienic design of equipment and facilities. Improvements to cleaning practices and materials will also be needed.
  • Reductions in fat, salt, sugar and preservatives are being carried out by the industry. The impact of these reductions on safety needs to be clearly defined.
  • Novel ingredients and packaging are being driven by dietary changes (e.g. increased adoption of Vegan diets) and a desire to improve sustainability. These changes to product and package will impact food safety. There is a need to accurately assess the risk.
  • Faster and more accurate detection of contaminants (e.g. pathogens, foreign bodies, chemicals) is always needed. These methods must be properly validated according to international standards, and acceptable limits for contaminants must be agreed on.

Emerging needs

  • Precautionary allergen labelling is increasingly relevant as cross contamination instances such as peanut in garlic and mustard in cereal crops are detected. There is a need to accurately quantify the risk, and to reduce it by (for example) developing methods of growing and harvesting combinable crops in a maner that does not allow cross-contamination.
  • Audits are essential to maintain good standards in industry, however they are also a cost to a business. There is a need to harmonise methodology between customers to allow one audit to be accepted as having met multiple customer requirements.
  • Following a recent Cronobacter outbreak, there is a need to define cleaning strategies in dry powder producing factories to target this organism.
  • Contamination by non-biological substances is always being assessed. Recent substances which are being examined include mineral oils in canned products, glyphosate in beer, titanium dioxide, PFAS compounds and nanomaterials.
  • Cooking instructions are frequently used as a microbiological safety step. There is a need to accurately assess whether they should be used this way in products such as pizza for which components may be consumed without cooking.
  • Cultured meat is becoming closer to being commercially viable. There is a need to accurately define the safety of this product from microbiological, allergenic and toxicological perspectives.
  • Raw flour is often contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms. There is a need to assess the risk this poses not only by the flour itself, but also in products it is incorporated into such as soup mixes.
  • As pressure on supply chains increases, there is a greater risk of food fraud. There is an urgent need to identify potential fraudulent activity and increase testing for it.
  • BRCGS V9 has been introduced. There is a need for competent authorities to familiarise themselves with its content and the implications for their inspections.
  • Packaging is integral to food safety, however it can pose a risk from the materials it is made from. Recent discussions have highlighted the need for safe PFAS replacements, a database of inks and how they can be used, and the safety implications of recycled packaging.
  • There has been a recent high-profile Salmonella outbreak in chocolate. This led to discussion for the need for validated kill steps in chocolate, nuts and seeds as well as dry powder products. Raw pet food was also mentioned as needing more attention in light of Salmonella outbreaks associated with it.
  • Foodborne virus outbreaks are being detected more frequently. There is a need to identify and mitigate the risk of virus contamination. Particular scenarios discussed were Norovirus in frozen soft fruit and Hepatitis E in pork.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of Campden BRI but are a summary of industrial feedback obtained from Campden BRI’s Member Interest Groups and interactions with government bodies and wider industry.

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