Frank Yiannas, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), aims to usher in a new era of food safety. Historically, the FDA has focused more on the pharmaceutical side of the organization and has not been proactive about food sanitation and safety, especially when compared to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This lack of attention has led to an antiquated, reactive approach to food safety. Yiannas believes that it’s time to modernize food safety and shift from a reactive approach to a proactive one.
The New Era of Smarter Food Safety
The FDA’s plan for a new era of food sanitation and safety has four core areas of focus:
- Tech-enabled traceability
- New business models and retail modernization
- Food safety culture
- New tools and approaches for prevention and outbreak response
When it comes to traceability, there is currently no centralized process, resulting in inconsistencies across the supply chain. Yiannis is a pioneer in using blockchain technology in the food supply chain to create a more transparent food system and reduce the time needed to trace the origin of food to a matter of minutes—versus the days or weeks it currently requires.
This traceability keeps consumers informed about potential safety risks, enables food processors to save money by quickly catching and addressing issues, and reduces the number of recalls required.
Yiannas is also a strong advocate for a food safety culture that embraces a proactive approach and relies on personal accountability. Specifically, he emphasizes an upfront investment in food safety rather than a reliance on insurance and the legal process.
Because this new era of smarter food safety relies on industry participation, the FDA launched events and provided resources for industry members, including:
- A summit on food safety in e-commerce.
- A host of educational webinars.
- A contest to come up with low-cost solutions for traceability.
What Does Smarter Food Safety Mean for Food Processors?
As the FDA’s initiatives ramp up, food processors and FSQA managers can expect to see changes. Get ahead of the game with these tips:
Prepare for change.
Start by reading the blueprint for a preview of what’s coming. Expect to see new technologies—particularly for traceability—and new policies supported by these technologies. Manufacturers should prepare for higher expectations and more attention from regulators.
We know change is coming. The more you do in advance, the more prepared your organization will be to adapt. What can your organization do to prepare? Here are some ideas:
- Update systems – If you’re still using paper forms and manual processes for monitoring sanitation, it’s time to get into the digital world to improve efficiency and transparency,
- Invest in modern technology – With traceability as a major focus in the new era of food safety, explore new tools and software for better traceability of your products.
- Train staff on new software – Any new system or software is only as good as the people who use it. Work with software vendors to provide professional training and get everybody on the same page.
Implement a culture of food safety.
It’s never too late (or too early) to implement a culture of food safety. Create a program that integrates food safety into daily operations to keep it top of mind. Don’t rely on annual or quarterly training—instead, conduct regular refresher courses to educate and motivate your team. You can even implement a learning management system that shepherds employees through training and delivers continual education.
You can also get a head start by reading books by Frank Yiannas, including Food Safety Culture: Creating a Behavior-Based Food Safety Management System and Food Safety = Behavior: 30 Proven Techniques to Enhance Employee Compliance.
Be Proactive with Decon7
If you’re concerned about meeting new food sanitation and safety requirements, the team at Decon7 is here to help. We will work with you to evaluate your sanitation needs, recommend products and processes to eliminate bacteria in your facility, and provide ongoing training and support to help you cultivate a culture of food safety in your organization. Schedule a consultation today to get started.