COVID-19 has made food traceability, transparency and protection all the more important – and difficult, particularly as meat facility workers have fallen ill in recent weeks and social distancing rules have limited in-person audits and inspections. So what can operators do to ensure their food supply is as safe as possible? Take this time to urge transparency from your vendors and understand what systems they are using to trace food through the supply chain. Uncertainty in the global food supply chain is also likely going to drive food businesses to think even more locally. Is there an opportunity right now for you to source more ingredients locally – or adjust your menu so you can?
A recent survey from Cornell University and the National Farmers Union found that more than 50 percent of local U.S. produce growers say they need more adequate financial resources to implement food safety practices. But if your guests are sickened after consuming contaminated produce you serve, they are likely going to hold your business responsible for causing the problem. How can you protect yourself? Food Safety Nation advises operators take three steps to help: First, inspect your suppliers to assess the quality of their safety program and training, as well as the controls in place to monitor their compliance. If possible, require a hold-harmless agreement that absolves your business of responsibility to pay claims related to the consumption of a contaminated product. Finally, seek out suppliers with certification from the Global Food Safety Initiative as an additional precaution.
As you fine-tune your menu based on seasonal changes, trending ingredients or problems with current suppliers, you are likely speaking with potential suppliers on a regular basis. At the 2018 Food Safety Consortium, Doug Marshall, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at Eurofins, recommended some key questions companies should ask when sourcing ingredients and building a strong supply chain verification program. For one, ask the supplier if they have a food safety plan and if you can review it. Second, ask if they have been part of a Global Food Safety Initiative-based audit and if they can share the results of their last audit with you. Finally, ask if the supplier has ever been part of a recall or outbreak. If so, you can research the event and find out how the company resolved it. It may not disqualify them — particularly if the event occurred just once and ushered in a retooling of safety practices that have protected the company since.
As you look for ways to protect your food supply before it reaches you and while it’s sitting on your shelf, talk to your suppliers about high-pressure processing (HPP). The method uses cold water and extreme pressure to disable foodborne pathogens and microorganisms that spoil food. HPP is on the rise around the world as a means of protecting food safety, extending shelf life, ensuring clean labels and reducing waste, Food Safety Tech reports. It also protects the flavor and nutrient content of foods. It is used most often to preserve proteins, as well as juices, dips, coffee, tea and broth. The market for HPP is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years in response to growing consumer and foodservice industry demand.