Food safety is always important, but now more than ever food safety and sanitation is paramount. While the level of accountability has certainly been raised since the landmark PR/HAACP report in 1996, food safety is an ever-evolving process. New threats to the food chain are discovered all the time, therefore it is important that the search for food pathogen solutions never stops.
The reason that food safety is even more important now is that it is part of food security. The safer the food supply, the more people it can feed. With recent events around the world, our food supply has never been more at risk. Creative and effective food pathogen reduction will be imperative in keeping more healthy food on our tables.
Some of the best minds on the planet are working on food security issues. There has been a lot of innovation since HAACP became the norm in the late 1990s. The HAACP rules were implemented for meat and poultry, but their impact has extended to every corner of the food supply. Fruits and vegetables are safer, overall. So, are grains and the millions of products that are made from them. At the forefront of that are committed scientists that work for both private companies and the government.
New technologies, chemical innovations, and methods of application of both are the result of the hard work being put in over the last 25 years since HAACP. The impetus for these changes was a series of high-profile food poisoning incidents in the mid-1990s. While there are still incidents of food contamination all over the United States, modern food pathogen solutions continue to save lives and make our food supply safer overall.
Reducing food borne illnesses.
The most important aspect of the work for the people trying to make food safer is to reduce the incidents of food borne illness. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) there are still over 48 million instances of foodborne illnesses per year in America. While this is a big number, only about 128,000 of those end up in the hospital. Many incidents of food poisoning are mild and wholly preventable.
From harvesting and production to preparation and consumption, there are many steps along the way where actions need to be taken to avoid contamination. At each point, there are protocols in place that are there to help reduce the incidences of foodborne pathogens. Many of these have evolved exponentially since the implementation of the HAACP recommendations. Some of these are as basic as people washing their hands or properly storing food. Others involve proper machine maintenance and cleansing with special solutions.
Many of the innovations in pathogen control techniques have happened with new machinery and devices. However, even more people are affected by chemical solutions that treat the surfaces where food products are prepared as well as the food products themselves. This aspect is a bit of a double-edged sword for the food chain. While the use of these chemicals is imperative to food safety, they can be inherently risky for human consumption.
Finding the balance of food pathogen reduction while keeping food safe for consumption is a key component to food supply management. There are companies that have gotten to the point where their chemical solutions are finely tuned. Many of the cutting-edge solutions are so effective that they wipe out 99.9 percent of pathogens, yet they are virtually non-toxic.
Making more food available for more people.
While the most important aspect of the last 25 years has been a safer food supply, what is becoming more prescient is how these methods make more food available for consumption. Nearly every time there is contamination in a product and a recall is issued, food is wasted. Usually, it is a lot of food. For instance, there was a major recall of ground beef in 2020 that caused over 40,000 pounds of processed ground beef to be destroyed.
One major component of FDA recalls is that retailers must not only remove the items, but they also must destroy them. Every time there is even a minor recall of a food product it is a tremendous waste of food. Food safety measures can help prevent recalls from happening, thereby reducing food waste.
Food pathogen reduction innovations are going to help make our food go further. With supply chain issues around the world threatening food production, innovations like those virtually non-toxic chemical solutions are going to be critical. The science and technology that goes into keeping our foods safer could also be used to enable more food to get to as many humans as possible. Reducing spoilage and contamination will be as important for the food security of millions as food safety has been moving forward.