As food safety becomes more and more important to consumers and to everyone along the supply chain, high-tech developments are playing an increasingly central role in ensuring that the foods we eat are as safe as they can possibly be.

The latest food safety innovation from Troy, Ohio-based Hobart Food Equipment Group is the integrated pusher on its new meat saw.

Pushers have always been included with Hobart meat saws to aid the user in cutting meats in the meat room and butcher shop, said Carolyn Bilger, the company’s senior marketing manager.

The new integrated pusher feature, however, incorporates the pusher into the carriage of Hobart’s 6801 meat saw, making it more convenient for the user. The attachment can be flipped out of the way when not in use and disassembled without tools for easy cleaning.

“The presence of minimal parts simplifies sanitizing, aiding in overall food safety,” Bilger said.

The new integrated pusher is just one of Hobart’s recently introduced products to set the bar higher on food safety.

The company has also added stainless steel welded seams to its 6801 meat saw to eliminate RTV joints in most areas, Bilger said. The seams can handle up to 1800 psi of power wash spray, allowing for effective hose down and cleaning.

In addition, Hobart has incorporated angled sides on the saw for water run-off. The company’s double flanged pulleys don’t require tools and can be removed easily so the operator can thoroughly clean the machine, she said.

And more innovations, Bilger added, are sure to come, given Hobart’s decades-long commitment to food safety.

“Hobart is always working to improve the user’s overall experience with our meat room equipment,” she said. “We are focused on providing enhanced cleaning and sanitation features in our future designs. As the premier supplier of commercial food preparation equipment for over 100 years, Hobart is committed to providing solutions to our users that support food safety standards and operator assurance.”

Corbion alternative to salt curing protects against listeria

New Verdad Opti Powder N350 from Corbion, which has US offices in Lenexa, Kansas, provides an alternative to traditional salt curing.

While salt curing, or dry curing, has been used to preserve fish for millennia, today’s longer and more complex supply chains require better protection from human pathogens such as Listeria, Corbion said.

Verdad Opti Powder N350 uses a patent-pending process to combine the flavor and functionality of salt with the antimicrobial properties of vinegar to deliver both Listeria inhibition and extended shelf life. The product is applied to fish in a manner similar to traditional salting and does not create an additional processing step for manufacturers. Its uniform particle size minimizes dusting during application, prevents irregular distribution and decreases susceptibility to Listeria outgrowth.

The new offering earned the Food Tech Innovation Award at Fi Europe in Paris in December.

“Having a label-friendly way to boost antimicrobial efficacy without the need for processing changes will make it easy for manufacturers to achieve their food safety goals despite the challenges posed by modern value chains,” said Stephan Dobblestein, senior business development manager at Corbion. “That means greater protection for both consumer health and safety, and for our customers’ brand.”

Technology drives new leafy greens guidelines

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a Leafy Green STEC Action Plan on March 5. 

Between 2009 and 2018, the FDA and Centers for Disease Prevention (CDC) identified 40 foodborne outbreaks of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) in the U.S. with a confirmed or suspected link to leafy greens. 

STEC can cause potentially deadly conditions such as bloody diarrhea, anemia, blood-clotting problems and kidney failure. Since most leafy greens are consumed raw, grown outdoors and exposed to soil, animals and water which can all be potential sources of contamination, the FDA developed a specific action plan to avoid outbreaks of STEC stemming from leafy greens. 

The plan focuses on prevention, response and addressing knowledge gaps in 2020. 

Prevention is geared toward advancing agricultural water safety; enhancing inspection; auditing and certification programs; engaging retailers in strengthening their buyer specifications; better sharing data; enhanced surveys for STEC detection and sampling protocols; increased awareness and addressing of concerns of adjacent land use; and establishing outreach and communications programs for stakeholders in growing regions.  

The plan’s response tactics include publishing an investigation report on the outbreak in the Salinas Valley in California; conducting follow-up surveillance during the fall 2020 California growing season; promoting tech-enabled traceability; improving utilization of shopper card data; accelerating whole genome sequencing data submission; advancing root cause analysis activities; and enhancing outbreak and recall communications. 

The FDA also plans to address knowledge gaps by conducting longitudinal studies; data mining and analytics on previous outbreaks; gathering information on adjacent and nearby land use; and compost sampling assignment with California. 

Shortly after the plan was released, it was endorsed by FMI – The Food Industry Association. 

 “FMI will champion industry efforts to influence supplier and grower food safety practices and enhance regulatory engagement throughout the supply chain,” says Hilary Thesmar, chief food and product safety officer and senior vice president for food safety at FMI. “We support the agency’s action plan as a tool that will further the food industry’s focus on foodborne illness prevention efforts and strengthen food safety around leafy greens.” 

As a result of the FDA’s plan, FMI created the FMI Recommended Food Safety Practices for Leafy Greens guide to assist in further preventing contamination of leady greens. 

“The primary goal of all retailers and wholesalers is to maintain the health and safety of its customers,” Thesmar says. “The romaine lettuce outbreaks and consumer advisories that led to complete product withdrawals from the market in 2018 and 2019 were devastating to retailers and wholesalers, the produce industry and consumers. We look forward to our continued work with the FDA on its New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative and blueprint.” 

Corvium’s Mike Koeris on need-to-know food safety technology trends:

Food safety technology has become as critical to manufacturers as the ingredients they use to produce goods. Without it, no company is equipped to deliver safe food products, meet stringent government regulations and uphold the kind of positive brand reputation that’s required for business success.

Maintaining the status quo is no longer an option in the food safety arena. As information and technology progress, so must your efforts to integrate these advancements and make every effort to protect the consumer. If your organization is not staying current on the latest movements in food safety technology, your brand is at risk of experiencing financially and reputationally detrimental outcomes.

Here are five of the most important food safety technology trends you need to know.

1. Automated Monitoring

What used to require excessive time and effort to manage via paper-based methods and cumbersome monitoring strategies is now streamlined through digitization. Inefficient, labor-intensive processes for monitoring food quality and safety are being replaced by automated systems. And with tighter government controls on food safety requirements, this technology is essential to keeping up with the compliance landscape.

Automation through comprehensive software is no longer a luxury, but rather a necessity to protect your brand. Now is the time to ensure that your company is implementing automated preventive controls via a technology solution that delivers advantages such as:

  • Automatic scheduling and monitoring properties
  • Holistic plant visualization through color-coded floorplans
  • Immediate, accurate communication between departments
  • Customized and detailed workflows
  • Robust reporting
  • Functional checklists for effective change management
  • Digital, efficient means of documentation, archival and auditing preparation

2. Predictive Actions

IoT devices and connected technologies like wireless temperature sensors, video cameras and automated data management systems have forged a path to predictive analytics. Every opportunity for connectivity and communication presents a critical, valuable data point that can be leveraged to implement more proactive measures for food safety.

Under FSMA, food companies are required to “establish and implement a food safety system that includes an analysis of hazards and risk-based preventive controls.” To adopt the necessary preventive measures for monitoring, corrective action and verification, you must be able to harness your collected data to make informed decisions and take effective actions.

From quantitative and qualitative testing data to pathogenic and hygienic results, as well as indicator organisms, allergens, toxins and residues, it’s vital to utilize a dynamic technology solution that can synthesize your information and facilitate predictive actions.

3. Faster Recall Findings and Notifications

As a result of the industry’s greater focus on prevention and the government’s higher standards for evaluation, food recalls continue to rise in frequency. More advanced contamination identification efforts have led to increased positives in testing samples. And while this is great news for the evolution of food safety, it also necessitates quicker reactions.

Just one poorly managed food recall could irreparably damage your brand. Consumers have been known to change their purchasing and consumption practices, rejecting a product for years after a recall. Therefore, the sooner and more proactively your organization can identify and communicate food safety issues, the more effectively you can avoid jeopardizing your brand.

The latest innovations in food safety testing and software enable companies to both pinpoint recall precursors more quickly and relay alerts and notifications immediately, saving you immeasurably on recalled product and other damage-control efforts. An investment in this kind of technology is an investment in your brand, your consumer base and your success.

4. Digitally Connected Supply Chain

Consumers want visibility into the handling of their foods, and the government demands transparency into contamination prevention and remediation efforts. Therefore, traceability in your supply chain is paramount. In the case of a recall, it is used to differentiate and isolate safe products from the source of the problem. With a digitally connected supply chain, manufacturers wield the power of traceability to:

  • Improve supply management
  • Market foods with difficult-to-detect attributes
  • Maximize quality control

Digital traceability systems can lessen recall expenses, make distribution systems cheaper and increase the sales of high-value products. But more important than these competitive and financial benefits are the safety improvements gleaned from a digitally connect supply chain.

Traceability is key in decreasing the production and distribution of unsafe or low-quality food products. Being able to record and track every step of your product’s journey from farm to fork is invaluable — both to your consumers and to the well-being of your brand.

5. Food Packaging Technology

Speaking of transparency and visibility, some of the newest advancements in food safety have to do with technology designed to improve the packaging of foods. For instance, QR codes are giving consumers the ability to scan and link to web pages with detailed information on everything from the field in which their food was harvested to the final stages of packaging and labeling.

Even more impressive, researchers at UC Berkeley and Taiwan's National Chiao Tung University have been using additive manufacturing to make food safer. The development began with the creation of a smart cap that uses electronic circuits and wireless sensors to indicate the freshness of milk.

Once fully developed, the technology will enable customers and employees to scan a label in order to determine whether a food product is fresh based on the readings gathered by the sensor on the food packaging. These types of innovations minimize the risk of human error in food production and make significant strides in the progress of food safety as a whole.

To learn more about an industry-leading food safety technology that can help your company prevent food safety problems and preserve your brand, download your free copy of CONTROL-PRO: A Risk Management Solution to Protect Your Brand.

Mike Koeris is co-founder and chairman of Green Bay, Wis.-based Corvium