The Next Step Towards
Smarter Food Safety
What Does the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Mean?
Many of you may already be familiar with FSMA, the Food Safety Modernization Act that was put in place in 2011 to guide the food producers towards safer working methods and tools. For the last decade, the FSMA has helped food manufacturers to build risk-based protection and to develop their processes to make sure that any food safety hazards (biological, chemical, and physical contaminants) are identified, controlled, and addressed sufficiently.
Recently, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) released an update to the existing legislation, taking it to the next level by introducing modern technologies, work methods, and tools that weren’t available back in 2011. These tools will guide food producers into a more reliable, automated, and comprehensive food safety culture.
The development of the new blueprint started already in 2019 when over 100 industry experts joined together and created the four core elements for the new era of smarter food safety. In this blog, we will go through these elements and explain how X-ray inspection plays an important part in many of them.
How to Achieve Tech-Enabled Traceability with X-ray?
The ultimate goal for the first core element ‘Tech-Enabled Traceability’ is to protect consumers from contaminated food products by rapidly identifying, tracing, and recalling these products. The first step towards that is to harmonize key data points and critical tracking events that are needed to achieve full traceability across the supply chain.
The FDA wants to encourage food companies to voluntarily utilize new traceability technologies that gather and share accurate data of the production process. This is where X-ray technology and primary packaging inspection provide a major advantage.
Food producers who implement X-ray systems into their primary packaging lines will gather valuable data from each food product and every production batch, which can be utilized in various ways:
- Compiling the data, creating reports, and forming a full audit trail
- Connecting the system into a factory-wide network to share data
- Storing X-ray images of each product and having visual proof of the product safety
- Improving the production process by identifying repeated quality defects or contaminations
And as the director of FDA’s Center of Veterinary Medicine said: “Whether you’re working on the safety of human or animal food, we will all benefit from being able to more rapidly trace contaminated food to its source.”
X-ray Inspection System Works as A Tool for Contamination Prevention
The second core element of the FSMA’s new blueprint is to utilize smarter tools and approaches for the prevention of contaminations and outbreaks. To achieve this, food producers are encouraged to use better technologies to monitor the critical and preventative control points, leverage reliable 3rd party audits, and use new tools to analyze the root causes for contaminations/outbreaks.
In practice, this could mean implementing X-ray inspection systems as your critical control points because the technology is capable of detecting various foreign materials from food products, no matter the product’s properties or packaging materials. It’s the most efficient tool in preventing contaminated food products from reaching retailers and consumers by automatically detecting and removing any and all non-conforming products from the packaging lines.
Retail Modernization Brings Its Own Challenges
In a 2018 study, it was estimated that during the next few years consumers would buy around 20% of their foods online. This number was of course surpassed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic which had a massive impact on consumers’ buying behavior, increasing the online grocery shopping percentage to 31 in the US alone.
These changes in retail and consumer behavior are also taken into account in the FSMA’s new era of smarter food safety by making ‘New Business Models and Retail Modernization’ the third core element. The goal of this element is to find ways to educate food producers, distributors, and retailers on the importance of temperature control, avoiding cross-contamination, and other safety issues, such as the safety of novel ingredients and new production methods.
Food Safety Culture Starts from Within
Last but definitely not least, is the core element of ‘Food Safety Culture’. FDA wants to be at the forefront in promoting comprehensive food safety culture, starting from the farms and production facilities all the way to the kitchens of consumers.
The importance of food safety culture has been highlighted especially during the global pandemic, but it should be a household element in every food company and among the staff. It starts from the food company’s management by leading their operations towards safer working methods, tools, and technologies, mitigating the risk of biological, chemical, and physical contamination of food.
How Mekitec Can Help?
If you are now wondering where to start with all of this, we recommend you download the FDA’s ‘Food for Thought’ guide where they list ideas on how to start your new era of smarter food safety.
If you’d like to know more about the traceability that Mekitec X-ray systems can offer, you can download our product demo ‘Increase Food Traceability with Primary Packaging X-ray Inspection’ for free.
All you need to do is fill in the form and a link to the 15-minute video will be delivered to your inbox, it’s that simple!