Safe Food: Driving Collaboration Across the Food Manufacturing Industry to Decrease Consumer Risk

Image of presentation during the September 2023 Food Safety Symposium held in London

Ecolab recently brought together some of our customers for a symposium to discuss how to improve food safety and mitigate risk within their respective facilities.  These global and regional producers along with industry partners and Ecolab experts examined multiple areas of opportunities and I had the privilege of facilitating some of those conversations.

Over the two days of sessions, I heard many stories about customer’s experiences with food safety and the importance of it to their organizations.  From these conversations I want to share three key takeaways that I think really sums up what we heard.

  1. There are many challenges across the industry and no set way to solve them.
    One person talked about the steps their company was taking to keep the raw materials safe before they ever made the finished food product. This was important because that finished product was an ingredient in other finished products.  Had there been a food safety event, that would have created a ripple effect within the food supply chain and the broader industry, leading to multiple recalls and multiple millions of dollars in costs.

    Another individual shared some of the digital tools they were using to track a number of KPIs they have related to food safety as well as some of the insights these tools helped uncover. This enabled them to identify potential issues and take action to solve those issues, before they could cause a food safety event.

    Another challenge individuals identified was overall hygienic design.  Mitigating food safety risk starts when designing the facility and the production process.  The best efforts at keeping the raw ingredients safe become immaterial if the overall manufacturing process has flaws.  Keeping equipment properly maintained and cleaned can help manage this but these folks aren’t experts in how to maintain and repair equipment.

  2. Producers need to work with each other and outside experts to get better.
    One thing I didn’t expect to hear was that they believe food safety is not a competitive advantage.  Everyone is trying to ensure that they produce items that are safe for consumption as a recall can set the entire industry back.

    Just as there are many challenges and solutions identified, there are many more that need solutions and best practices.  That is where this group thought they could help as they are all trying different things.  Sharing that knowledge around successes, failures and overall best practices will only advance risk mitigation strategies at all producers. 

    They key message though was that the producers can’t solve it by themselves; they need subject matter experts across the industry to help them.  Whether it’s equipment manufacturers, regulatory specialists or cleaning and sanitizing experts, everyone has critical knowledge to share and a role to play in ensuring the food supply is safe.

  3. Food safety is a journey; it’s never done and producers are at different points on the path.
    As long as humans need to eat, there will always be a need for safe food and producers have a lot of levers to pull to make that a reality.  Whether their focus is on cleaning and sanitizing, supply chain management, better use of digital tools, all of the above or something else entirely, we are all walking this path together.  

Regulatory requirements can change, new microbiological contaminants can emerge and both will require new ways of solving problems.  No matter where producers are on their journey, as long as everyone is moving forward, then we will continue to make progress in minimizing food safety risk.

About the Author

Scott Engelken headshot

Scott Engelken

Vice President Global Accounts; Ecolab, Inc.

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