Risk Reduction in Retail and Restaurant Quality Assurance Practices
Food withdrawals, rejections and recalls cost the food industry $7 billion dollars annually.
Assuring the quality of the food and identifying its risks is an increasing focus for retail, restaurant and manufacturing industries, along with U.S. and foreign countries. In selecting the applicable quality assurance program, companies should analyze the risks, benefits and costs of the program. Quality assurance is gaining higher visibility as the many quality attributes of a product become more valuable to customers.
The lack of a food safety and quality assurance programs that fail to mitigate risks may lead to many problems. “The majority of the food withdrawals, rejections and recalls cost are not just from “worst case” recall scenarios where people fall ill and lawsuits occur. A large portion of these costs are created by internal reworking, commodity loss, inventory replacement, removing goods from shelves, lost sales and public relations/customer confidence repair. Increasingly, these losses are being spread across participants in the supply chain, including suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, retail/services sellers, 3rd party labs and auditors.”
Basic risk prevention that should be part of a good food safety program includes:
- Physical adulteration and supplier evaluation
- Physical adulteration is a growing concern and a plan should be in place for removing those physical objects that could contaminate the food while being manufactured, packaged, transported and handled before it gets into the hands of the end-consumer.
- Suppliers should have effective and consistently executed food safety systems to provide safe products to manufacturing facilities. This is critical to protect company brands which are typically put at risk during foodborne illness outbreaks and/or during the recall of unsafe adulterated products. Supplier evaluations and constant monitoring of those suppliers is crucial to maintaining food safety and providing additional quality assurance to those brands while effectively reducing ingredient costs.
- Allergen contamination/control
- Allergen contamination, whether direct or indirect, plays an important role in food safety and sanitation. Allergic reactions may be major causes of foodborne illness outbreaks, customer dissatisfaction and even death.
- An effective allergen management system and control program is encouraged to include several prerequisite programs for an effective overall system. Sanitation standard operating procedures (SSOPs) and standard operating procedures (SOPs) are written methods that specify practices and programs to prevent food from becoming contaminated due to allergen mismanagement.
- Correct nutrition labels on food are important for customers on a diet that limits or restricts sodium, cholesterol, sugar or certain nutrients due to health risks.
- Although food labels are regulated, they may be deceiving and incorrect without proper oversight and a compliance program which may lead to regulatory actions. There is a concern on understanding and having uniform definitions for nutrient claims such as: trans-fat, reduced, light (lite) and the use of the term natural.
Stakeholders should be engaged to reduce the risks across the food supply. Protecting consumers, brands and corporate image is important and requires a true commitment to reduce foodborne illnesses and provide a high quality competitive product to the marketplace.