Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

SEP 2018

Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazines is an industry resource connecting foodservice operators, equipment and supplies manufacturers and dealers, and facility design consultants.

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32 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • SEPTEMBER 2018 This spring's romaine-related E. coli outbreak alone is believed to have sickened at least 210 people from 36 states. Of those, 96 were hospital- ized, 27 experienced kidney failure and 5 died — surpassing the impact of the E. coli-contaminated spinach outbreak in 2006 and resulting in more deaths than the infamous 1993 E. coli out- break traced to undercooked Jack in the Box burger patties. Yes, progress has been made over the years — a lot of progress in many areas, including significant advancements in testing and investigation to determine the likely cause and source when foodborne illness incidents arise. And bolstering existing regulatory efforts, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is beginning to shift focus from reactionary to preventative, mandating verification and documentation of measures that manufacturers, importers and distributors must take to reduce risk of contamination farther up the supply chain. But as the steady stream of outbreaks suggests, and as the food supply chain becomes increasingly global and complex, it's clear that winning future food safety battles will require new thinking, broader commitment and a few shots of disruptive innovation. Reflecting on the state of food safety, Dr. Stephen Ostroff, M.D., deputy commissioner for Food and Veterinary Medicine at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, admitted to attendees at a recent food safety conference, simply, "We have a lot of work to do." Jorge Hernandez, chief food safety officer at Cleveland-based Whole- some Foods International, a Five Guys Burgers & Fries franchisee and parent of the upstart Choolaah Indian BBQ fast-casual brand, likens the current environment to Renaissance times. "The world at that time was chang- ing in so many directions. My world, at the ground level today, is changing very fast too," says Hernandez, who spent more than a decade leading food safety and quality assurance at US Foods before joining Wholesome Foods International. "The changes are massive — supply chain, globalization, scientific, technological. We don't even understand some of them yet. Whatever I knew before might give me a frame of reference, but it doesn't give me the answers for the future." One example, Hernandez says, is test- ing and detection. "We're now able to de- tect pathogens or allergens, in some cases to the DNA or genomic level, and match them very quickly. It used to take 10 to 12 days to detect salmonella in products us- ing traditional culture-dependent testing methods," he adds. "That's been reduced to 24 to 48 hours, and I read recently about a new test that can do it in 30 min- utes to 3 hours. That means we could now test fresh product at the supplier level, in the field or the processing facility, assess risk and apply preventive controls before that product is shipped. In the past, we couldn't wait for that kind of testing to be done on fresh items because we'd lose too much shelf life waiting for the results." While new tests for many strains of pathogens are fast, they're also costly, requiring expensive equipment and trained personnel. "You can't do it with everything," Hernandez notes, "but it's a promising development for high-risk product categories." Tom Chestnut, senior vice president, Global Food Division, at NSF Interna- tional, agrees, noting that, while such advancements are positive, they also pres- ent challenges. "The technology to detect many of these problems is outpacing our ability to be proactive in preventing them," he says. "Everything is faster and more complex, and it really stresses our ability to make sure things are done prop- erly, that we can eliminate human error." TECH, BIG DATA DRIVE ADVANCEMENTS Food safety experts and operators agree that bringing about real, preventive change in the future requires holistic, systemic and verifiable approaches to pro- ducing foods and moving them through the supply chain safely. At the operations level, broader embrace of HACCP-driven strategies proven to improve safety and quality in manufacturing will help move the needle. And, as costs come down and understanding rises, technology and data THE FUTURE OF FOOD SAFETY Wearable technology systems in development enable foodservice operators to train and guide employees in real time via augmented reality, ulti- mately reducing risks by reducing human errors. Photo courtesy of EyeSucceed

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