At the recent International Association for Food Protection
(IAFP) conference in Louisville, Kentucky, three Ecolab food safety experts shared new insights and emerging food safety trends for food and beverage manufacturers. As a global leader in food safety for more than half a century, Ecolab’s industry expertise and innovative solutions help customers achieve high quality and safe food, and satisfied customers.
Sima Hussein: Integrating digital technology
Ecolab Director of Food Safety and Customer Standards Sima Hussein discussed ways to use digital food safety technology to gain insights and develop risk mitigation strategies that deliver continuous performance improvements. Additionally, she stressed the importance of a food safety culture as the foundation of any food safety program.
“Without a strong food safety culture, executing the components of the food safety management program will be largely ineffective,” Hussein said. “For example, businesses can develop extensive standard operating procedures (SOPs) and train employees to correctly perform them. But employees need to understand the impact: Why are they important? How do they reduce foodborne illness risk factors and protect public health? What will happen if these SOPs are not executed the right way every time? They need to be committed to executing the task and have a sense of ownership and responsibility to ensuring the task is done the right way every time, no matter who is watching.”
She also discussed how data collection capabilities have improved, thanks to more sophisticated sensor and monitoring technology. However, the food industry needs to move beyond data collection to pull out relevant insights that can inform and prioritize risk management efforts and eventually move to predictive analytics that help flag potential food safety concerns before they occur. “These insights must drive actions to mitigate risk,” she said. “It’s an ongoing process of feeding the digital tools with relevant insights to drive action and continuous improvement,”
Rick Stokes: Effective sanitation
As Area Technical Support Manager for Food and Beverage, Rick Stokes has worked for more than 20 years in quality, sanitation, thermal process, sanitary design and food safety. He discussed the diversity of food manufacturing plants where Ecolab is a partner, and he offered up observations about how sanitation programs work together and are supported by other plant programs, such as pest control activities.
He shared insights into how Ecolab’s size and scope make it such an effective partner for customers who wants to improve their sanitation programs. “We’re in about 80% of the food and beverage plants, so we amass a lot of data,” Stokes said. “I’m able to tell a customer, ‘You’re in the top 10 percent for environmental results,’ and they know it really means something, since we have so much industry information to draw upon. That’s helpful because if they’re only really looking at their own numbers, they have no idea how they stack up against competitors or the industry overall. Talking with us gives them a good sense of where they are, and we can consult with them on ways to improve.”
He also shared information about supplier verification of sanitation programs, focusing on supplier questionnaires. “Those questionnaires can identify key sanitation program requirements, but people need to be careful not to take a one-size fits all approach,” he said. “Areas such as ingredients, sanitation chemicals and packaging are unique and should have customized questionnaires. Deciding whether or not to use questionnaires needs to be tied into a product’s overall risk assessment.”
Jeremy Adler: Environmental monitoring
Senior Technical Support Coordinator Jeremy Adler offered thoughts on the latest innovations in cleaning, sanitation and remediation. “Effective environmental monitoring can help verify that sanitation was done properly, and if issues are detected, targeted sanitation procedures can be deployed,” he said.
Adler describe the many ways Ecolab associates remain involved in the process of environmental monitoring. “Every night, we have account managers who are going into plants to walk along on the sanitation shift. They’re there to offer our expertise on proper cleaning and sanitizing to remove environmental hazards that can become contaminants.”
He also offered a recent example of a customer who had detected Salmonella on a conveyer belt in a food production facility. “We recommended spraying the belt with Synergex™, a mixed-peracid based sanitizer and disinfectant,” he said. “Not only was an intermittent application effective at eliminating the Salmonella, but it was also effective in removing it as a food safety hazard downstream in the production process. We were able to make the entire process cleaner by addressing the root issue at one point along the way.”
Ecolab and IAFP
Ecolab has a longstanding relationship with the IAFP as a Gold Sustaining Member, a 20+ year exhibitor at the IAFP Annual Meeting, as an active participant in the association’s meetings around the world and through roles on the IAFP Executive Board. Dr. Ruth Petran, Ecolab’s vice president of Food Safety and Public Health and 30- year member of IAFP, currently serves as vice president on IAFP’s Executive Board
“My role at Ecolab is to provide technical expertise and consultation to internal and external customers on food safety and public health issues.” Dr. Petran said. “We accomplish that by identifying and tracking emerging food safety trends and new control strategies. Our association with IAFP greatly helps in supporting these efforts.”