Explore this issueApril/May 2013
Listeria in wild Alaskan sockeye salmon and apples. Salmonella in peanut butter and cantaloupe. E.coli in spinach and lettuce. These are only a few of the recent reasons that the FDA continues to implement stricter and more specific food safety standards for both domestic and imported foods. The latest advancement is the announcement of two long-awaited food safety rules that will force entire supply chains to evaluate processes and procedures. Facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold human food must look for ways and means to implement the changes before compliance deadlines.
In the next phase of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the FDA plans to address the fact that approximately 15 percent of the food consumed in the U.S. is imported by proposing rules that would target importers. By implementing a means to verify that food products grown or processed overseas are as safe as domestically produced food and determining accreditation standards to improve third-party food safety audits overseas, the FDA will move another step closer to its goal of ensuring that the U.S. food supply is safe.
The FDA is not the only voice to be heard. In October, restaurant owners, culinary leaders, and more than 500 of the nation’s top chefs—Barton Seaver, Mario Batali, Rick Bayless, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Jacques Pepin, Eric Ripert, and Michael Symon, among them—joined Oceana, the largest advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, in a letter to the U.S. government calling for traceability for seafood from boat to plate “in order to prevent seafood fraud and keep illegal fish out of the U.S. market.”
Ninety-one percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, but less than 2 percent is inspected. This, and the fact that many fish when filleted look quite similar, makes it simple for an anticipated shipment of white tuna to actually be escolar, which can lead to severe intestinal issues due to the laxative effect of the wax esters in its flesh. Recent studies show that seafood mislabeling can happen as often as 70 percent of the time for these types of fish—at any point of the supply chain including the restaurant, the distributor, or the processing and packaging plants.
Beyond cheating the customers, seafood fraud can have costly—even deadly—consequences. For example, it can threaten human health with unexpected contaminants, toxins or allergens; create a market for illegal fish taking business from honest fishermen; make it nearly impossible to sustain conservation efforts when consumers cannot make eco-friendly, informed decisions; and mislead the general public to believe the marine environment is healthy, when in reality overfishing is abundant and many species are in serious trouble.
This does not have to be the state of the seafood industry. In reality, the chefs’ demands can easily be met by going beyond the basic regulations and implementing available technologies.
Global Quality Hub
A major shift can be seen across the food market as manufacturers are utilizing cloud computing and manufacturing intelligence to improve product quality, ensure current and future compliance, and minimize IT expenditure and support costs. Cloud computing enables facilities at all points of the food supply chain to collect, input, and analyze data through a global quality hub. Therefore, a grocer can ensure that there are no metal fragments in the frozen pizza it sells, a creamery feels confident that the milk it receives to make ice cream has been properly flash pasteurized, and chefs know they will be serving the same fish to their patrons that they ordered from their suppliers.
Powered by a statistical process control (SPC) engine, a global quality hub can create the “boat-to-plate” traceability for the seafood industry. With multi-lingual, mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, data can be easily collected from anywhere around the world, from nearly any system, and made immediately available to the manufacturer. This means knowing whether or not a product meets specific requirements as soon as it is produced. There would not be a need to wait for shipments to arrive at the receiving dock when Certificates of Analysis (COAs) could be created in real-time—at the time the product is being produced by the supplier.