Regulatory Consensus, Education Needed for Consistent Food Safety

Conflicting regulation from local, state and federal authorities can cause inconsistent safety practices in the food retail business, but aggressive education can allow food handlers to better comply with safety measures according to food safety experts at this week’s annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists, the international not-for-profit scientific society.

In the retail sector, regulatory inconsistencies can be a problem when stores deliver products to off-site facilities and avoid placing them “in commerce,” said J. Lee Budd, of Prepcheck Food Safety Services in Ocean View, N.J.

For example, Lee described how Caesars Entertainment’s consolidated operations has improved consistency and eliminated duplicated labor within the operation, but when supplying products to other states, and to Indian gaming venues in particular, multiple regulatory bodies have come into play.

“You have to set up communications in these projects to make sure you have a reasonable flow of food safety knowledge, both to the food safety regulators and your customers,” he said.

A big issue is that local regulators are not familiar with the manufacturing equipment, said Budd. “They don’t classify time and temperature relationships the same way as the USDA. We really need standards.” Other areas he sees needing more consistent regulation include tolerance standards, labeling and shelf life requirements, and classification of “fully cooked” products versus reheated.

When educating food handlers, programs must not only be informative but effective, said Angie Fraser, with North Carolina State University’s Cooperative Extension Service. She advocates interactive programs to ensure food handlers apply the information that’s provided.

Since the food industry is exceptionally multicultural, programs must also offer education in different languages, she added.

The Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Food Expo is the world’s largest annual food science and ingredient conference. Now in it’s 64th year, the IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo attracts up to 20,000 attendees and 1,000 exhibiting companies. The convention runs through Friday.

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