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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38 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • SEPTEMBER 2018 Such was the case with a local Amish producer from which Choolaah's buy- ers wanted to source fresh cheese. "We brought a recipe for very authentic Indian paneer and asked if they could make it for us, but they didn't have the controls in place that we needed," Hernandez says. "I ended up working with them to implement systems that could meet our standards. Ultimately, they became SQF [Safe Quality Food] certified. Making cheese isn't our business, but by partnering with them they improved their business and can now safely sell to us as well as to other customers." Scott Brooks, founder of River Run Consulting, agrees supply chain man- agement from a food-safety standpoint is becoming increasingly important. And while its actual implementation and impact will take some time to be realized, particularly as medium- and small-size manufacturers work to come into compliance, FSMA's focus on haz- ard analysis and risk-based preventive controls will be a boon to the industry. "It won't be a magic bullet, but ultimately it will raise the bar on food- safety performance across the board," says Brooks, who held food safety, quality assurance and regulatory affairs positions at Kraft, PepsiCo and Yum! Brands prior to founding River Run. "Bottom-feeder companies and buyers out there who have skimped on food safety controls to lower costs will no longer be able to do so. Coming into compliance with the new regulations, however, is a long and expensive pro- cess. It won't happen overnight." Execution at the operator level, that is, adhering to FDA Food Code guide- lines for temperature maintenance, hand washing and preventing cross- contamination, and management prac- tices such as not allowing sick employees to work, will continue to be critical, adds Brooks. "That's all an ongoing challenge for operators, but it's a matter of execu- tion not rocket science. Where things re- ally need to change for many companies is supply chain related," he says. This spring's romaine-related E. coli outbreak illustrates both the impor- tance of creating better traceability systems and the difficulty of doing so. The FDA eventually traced the origin of the outbreak to lettuce grown in the Yuma, Ariz., region, where E. coli- contaminated canal water is believed to have tainted the lettuce. From there, however, the FDA reported that the p roduct was "supplied to restaurants and retailers through multiple proces- sors, grower/shipper companies and farms" and that the information it collected "indicates that the illnesses associated with this outbreak cannot be explained by a single grower, har- vester, processor or distributor." Enter blockchain, an emerging technology that proponents say stands to make a dramatic and positive impact on supply chain transparency, accuracy and accountability. Initially developed for the cryptocurrency market, the technology has since been embraced as an important supply chain management and traceability tool. In simple terms, a blockchain cre- ates an immutable, digital, open-source record of every transaction in a prod- uct's journey to restaurant or retailer. "Let's say there are five parties in a particular supply chain. Each one push- es data into the system, and the system programmatically connects those pieces, or blocks, of data," explains Suzanne Livingston, an IBM Food Trust Offering director who is helping to lead that company's blockchain initiatives. "The data is locked in the block- chain; once a transaction has been submitted, it is immutable," Livingston says. "If you need to make a change be- cause of human error, you must submit another entry into the digital ledger, and there's always a record. Data own- ership and rights are distributive. You own your data, and you have a copy of every record that's in the system, even if you may not have direct access to it. Only the parties that need to know have access, which encourages the shar- ing of data and trust in the system." Ultimately, a blockchain gives participating companies the ability to quickly and easily trace products at any point in their supply chain that may be implicated in foodborne illness. With that basic mission of providing transparency and traceability, blockchain is evolving to provide broader benefits and applications as well, Livingston adds. For instance, companies can submit documentation about their products and facilities, such as organic certifications, certificate expiration dates, temperature maintenance logs and audit reports. "If a particular food product has been sent for testing, results can be uploaded into the system for that batch," Livings- ton says. "If I have organic romaine, here's my certificate proving that it's or- ganic. That gets stored in the blockchain too. If my organic certification is set to expire in August, the system will alert me ahead of time that I need to update it." Looking to the future, Livingston foresees the day when companies in a blockchain could choose to make information within in it accessible to consumers also. "Our goal right now is to help identify and get at-risk foods out of the supply chain as quickly as possible," she says. "But just imagine a consumer placing an order from a mobile device being able to tap in to find out where in- gredients are coming from, which menu items have the most organic ingredients or allergens, what's sourced locally. It's great to have the supply chain data and traceability, but we're not far off from blockchain being something that could be put in the hands of consumers too, and that's pretty exciting." FE&S THE FUTURE OF FOOD SAFETY This spring's romaine-related E. coli outbreak illustrates both the importance of creating better traceability systems and the difficulty of doing so.

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