The U.S Food and Drug Administration recently began implementing the rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act, with the final rules going into effect on August 31, according to the Food Processing Suppliers Association. Plus, this past December, Congress announced that $2.72 billion of the $1.1 trillion-spending bill granted to the federal government for the remainder of the year would go toward the FDA, Food Safety News reported. A portion of this would be dedicated to food safety activities.
The forward steps the government is taking with FSMA represent a positive change for the food industry. According to Food Manufacturing, 48 million Americans get sick as a result of foodborne illnesses – that's almost 15 percent of the U.S. population. The implementation of the FSMA rules will put more emphasis on accountability and could reduce preventable food-related illnesses. Plus, the money Congress granted the FDA will help to move the process along.
"The FSMA rules will put more emphasis on accountability."
"We are thrilled," Sandra Eskin, The Pew Charitable Trusts' director of food safety, said to Food Safety News. "Congress understands that this is a pivotal year for FSMA implementation and they responded accordingly."
Adjusting to the new rules
Though the progress is good for consumers and companies alike, it also means many people will have to change the way their businesses are run. According to Food Safety News, one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of the rule is actually knowing where exactly food is coming from.
Food is often supplied to a restaurant or other food service operation through distributors or brokers who promised confidentiality to their supplier clients. Because of this, it is difficult to know what happened to food before it reached the buyer. Despite the obstacles, having this information is crucial, especially when dealing with products commonly associated with pathogens like Listeria, E. coli or Salmonella. Food Manufacturing explained traceability works two ways; Companies are also responsible for knowing where the food they work with is going.
Businesses are advised to make a list of their suppliers and what risk factors they have. For instance, a company that deals with non-risky ingredients – those that aren't commonly associated with illness and have a good track record – would be on the non-hazardous list. On the other hand, companies that deal with risky foods or have a history of foodborne illness problems should be watched more carefully. If the company is risky enough, a buyer may even want to cut ties with it.
Traceability software is widely available to companies big and small. This can help keep track of various suppliers and aid them in making decisions moving forward.
There are many steps throughout the food-processing supply chain and FSMA affects all of them. It encourages everyone to be accountable for their contribution to the chain, and that means knowing where food is coming from and where it is going. Now that the rules are fully implemented, companies should not only pay attention to how food is handled before and after it reaches them, but also what they can do in their own facility to make sure to improve their own reputation.
"Not knowing how to prevent fouling can damage a company's reputation."
Using the proper equipment and knowing how to maintain it to decrease risk of contamination is crucial. For instance, proper surface finishes and effective cleaning protocols are critical to the sanitary safety of process equipment. Many companies in the food and beverage industry use shell and tube heat exchangers as a way to pasteurize products, such as dairy or craft beer. However, not knowing how to handle or prevent fouling can seriously hurt their products and, in some cases, damage their reputation.
Adding too much heat too quickly could bake the product onto the insides of the tubes, leading to cross contamination or fouling. It could also change the color or flavor of the product – something companies in the food industry need to avoid. A feature that can help with this is an annular distributor, which administers steam evenly throughout the exchanger. This prevents uneven heating and pocketing overheating within the exchanger.
Finding cost-effective solutions, such as the annular distributor, can help companies take part in a greater effort to decrease foodborne illnesses while also boosting their reputation among buyers.
To learn more about how custom features like annular distributors can help improve your food processing company, talk to Enerquip's heat exchanger experts at the Northwest Food & Beverage Distributors Expo & Conference this month.