Tackling food safety challenges

17th of February 2015 Article by Dr Ilham Kadri
Tackling food safety challenges

Dr Ilham Kadri, president of the Sealed Air Diversey Care business, writes her latest blog for ECJ. She focuses on the role of scientific innovation in overcoming challenges affecting the food service sector.

I recently spoke at the World Cuisine Summit in Lyon, France on the role scientific innovation can play in overcoming challenges affecting the food service sector. With many of ECJ's readers involved in ensuring cleanliness in food service locations, and with a number of facility management companies actually operating food service businesses themselves, this is a topic that I believe will surely also resonate here.

Do you know how many people will die in the time it takes to read this blog due to poor food safety? In just five minutes, 12 people will die from foodborne and waterborne diarrheal diseases or a total of 2,000,000 people annually according to WHO. Yet the simple act of washing hands at critical junctures can reduce the number of diarrheal cases by up to 35 per cent.

Restaurant employee turnover in many Western countries such as the United States and France is above 62 per cent per annum with an estimated 30 per cent changing professions completely. Sadly, nobody currently dreams of becoming a cleaner, and, while becoming a leading chef is a big dream, working in a kitchen is not a dream job. This is a significant challenge for restaurant owners because they need to be constantly training new employees while staying profitable and focusing on their customers.

Research also shows that unreliable food safety and hygiene is a key concern for consumers in Europe rating 8.4 points on a scale of 10 - greater than air pollution, global warming and pesticides. We also all too easily recall recent food safety scandals such as horse meat in meatballs, melamine in China, the E.coli outbreak in Germany.

The inevitable conclusion is that foodborne illness outbreaks seriously damage brands. Happily scientific innovations that are already available, or due in the near term, can help the food service industry overcome these big challenges. These innovations include

• Solutions like food temperature monitoring along the supply chain allow for total visibility of potential incidents in the cold chain, preventing damaged food getting to restaurant kitchens or a retailers' shelves for that matter

• New packaging technologies that extend 'best before' dates for perishable food stuffs

• Smart dosing and dispensing systems that allow restaurant owners to know the rate of usage of their hand soap dispensers from both employees and customers, remotely! This allows for higher levels of food safety thanks to clean hands, and higher levels of guest satisfaction due to dispensers that are never out of soap or paper

• New training systems and platforms that allow employees to be constantly up to speed with the latest innovations and knowledge, which will make our jobs a lot more interesting

•And, last but not least, new technology is leading to decentralised and mobile monitoring. Imagine a day when you can monitor all your assets remotely, conduct inspections, run usage reports, or receive alerts when your machines are down. That day is today.

In summary, the main food service sector challenges are food safety and people management. Running the kind of complex operations found in this sector, with all its critical areas, demands using all available scientific innovation to make solid business progress. And the cleaning and hygiene industry has a lot of expertise and innovation to offer.

I would like to invite you to share your views with me in Twitter at @kadriilham


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