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From: Food Quality & Safety magazine, February/March 2010

QA/QC Finally Gets Some Respect

by Ken Potuznik

Ken Potuznik

Nearly two decades ago, Food Quality was launched as the first publication to exclusively target the food quality and safety market. The world—and the food industry—were a lot different back then. When Food Quality magazine was launched, most food industry quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) departments were like Rodney Dangerfield—they didn’t get any respect. The management of most food companies considered QA/QC departments an expense they had to incur, not an opportunity to take advantage of.

Well, a lot has changed. Food quality and safety are on the minds of many people, from consumers to growers and everyone in between. The government has gotten into the act, and food safety is getting much needed attention from Congress and the two federal agencies chiefly charged with safeguarding the nation’s food supply, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the Department of Agriculture.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) was sent this past December to the full U.S. Senate for consideration. The bill would require each food facility to identify and evaluate all types of known or reasonably foreseeable hazards, as well as intentionally introduced hazards, and develop a written analysis of those hazards.

When Food Quality magazine was launched, most food industry quality assurance/quality control departments were like Rodney Dangerfield—they didn’t get any respect.

Food processing plants would also have to implement what the bill calls “preventive controls,” defined as “risk-based, reasonably appropriate procedures, practices, and processes that a person knowledgeable about the safe manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding of food would employ to significantly minimize or prevent the hazards identified under the hazard analysis … and that are consistent with the current scientific understanding of safe food manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding at the time of the analysis.” These include sanitation procedures for food contact surfaces, hygiene training at all plant levels, an environmental monitoring program, a food allergen control program, and a recall plan.

The bill would also require the FDA to inspect all food facilities more often, in addition to inspecting high-risk facilities at least annually. The FDA could order a mandatory recall of a food product that would cause serious adverse health consequences if the company did not voluntarily recall it.

From multi-million dollar brand-name companies to mom-and-pop bakeries, every sector of the food industry faces the same common enemy, contamination. Salmonella and Escherichia coli are well-known threats, as are allergens. Any tainted food product introduced to consumers can cost a company millions in product recalls, lost customers, lawsuits, and fines.

Now the QA/QC departments are getting the respect they deserve. There’s an opportunity for QA/QC personnel and industry suppliers to be the heroes who keep our food supply safe. It’s a huge undertaking and responsibility, but now that the government and food companies have increased investments in food quality and safety, QA/QC will have the tools needed to strengthen the food quality and safety system. It seems Rodney is finally getting some respect!

In an effort to garner even more respect for the industry, please join Food Quality in discussions aimed at winning the war against recalls, as well as for a host of conversations with your industry peers. This industry is packed with great people who care deeply about keeping the food supply safe. Together, we can help each other create a safer food supply. I look forward to sharing insights and thoughts and collaborating with you. Feel free to e-mail me with your comments and join the group “Food Quality Magazine” on LinkedIn.com.

All the Best,
Ken Potuznik
Associate Publisher

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