Pack Expo aims at safety across the food chain

by Jeffrey Barach, PhD, consultant, PMMI
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In January 2011, President Obama signed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most extensive update to food safety laws in the United States in more than 70 years, into law. For food manufacturers, FSMA requires comprehensive tracking and tracing capabilities, expands the FDA’s ability to access records during food emergencies and requires manufacturers to identify potential hazards and have prevention plans in place.

From the consumer's perspective, the need for FSMA is clear, especially in light of well-publicized food-borne disease outbreaks in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in six Americans gets sick from food-borne diseases each year — roughly 48 million people, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths — all from illnesses that are largely preventable.

For some manufacturers, the new regulations have necessitated equipment modernization and improvements to record-keeping. For others, compliance with FSMA does not present a challenge per se, but demonstrating compliance does. The reasons for some trepidation in the industry are clear: FSMA will increase FDA and USDA plant inspections, and it will expand the ability of regulators to impose mandatory recalls. Furthermore, a food facility’s registration can be suspended if there is “reasonable probability” that public safety could be compromised.

While food manufacturers adjust to the new realities of FSMA, processing and packaging suppliers are rolling out new technologies to help businesses stay ahead of the curve, and many will be featured this fall at Pack Expo International, Oct. 28-31 in Chicago, IL. In addition to more than 1,800 exhibitors in more than 1.1 million net square feet, attendees will also have access to sessions in The Conference at Pack Expo and industry experts in the Food Safety Summit Resource Center to ensure they have all the information they need to achieve compliance.

A central goal of FSMA is to shift the food industry’s focus from contamination response to contamination prevention. According to Tampa, FL-based Eagle Product Inspection, FSMA is increasing demand for accurate product inspection on manufacturing lines.

“Our X-ray inspection systems improve food safety by inspecting products for contaminants such as metal, glass, stone and bone,” said Terry Woolford, General Manager at Eagle Product Inspection. “With increasingly stringent industry regulations and retailer guidelines being put in place, enhanced contamination detection has never been more important.”

An example of a technology supplier hoping to leverage the record-keeping requirements of FSMA is Walla Walla, WA-based Key Technology, Inc. The company recently introduced a program called FoodSafetyPRO for its optical sorters and defect removal systems that provides food manufacturers with a comprehensive suite of products including a system audit, remote equipment monitoring and training on  Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP).

John Kadinger, PROliance program manager at Key Technology, said he believes that most food processors are still in the “learning mode” regarding FSMA and that the industry is basically ready for the change.

“I don’t think most of our customers are worried, since they already have good processes in place. Now it’s just a matter of ensuring their processes meet the law’s requirements,” he added.

Several other companies will be showcasing technology designed to For more information about Pack Expo International 2012 or to register, visit www.packexpo.com or contact PMMI’s show department at (703) 243-8555 or expo@pmmi.org.

Jeffrey Barach, PhD, consultant, PMMI, is a food scientist who has been responsible for research and development, regulatory liaison activities, teaching, problem solving and troubleshooting. Formerly with Grocery Manufacturers Association as head of its Science Policy Group, Dr. Barach previously ran the GMA Laboratory in Washington, DC. His education includes receiving his MS and PhD in food science from North Carolina State University and his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of North Carolina.

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