Dispatches from GFSI 2017 in Houston

Ecolab: Consumer demand changing potential hazards

Ruth Petran of Ecolab spoke to FoodQualityNews at GFSI

Consumer demand for all types of food year-round is changing the nature of the hazards and controls, according to Ecolab.

Ruth Petran, VP of food safety and public health, said it is seeing the reality of food choices and people essentially wanting access to all kinds of food regardless of the time of year.

“We want to eat tropical fruit in the middle of winter in Minnesota and we can get it. But it means that fruit travelled a long way to get there,” she told FoodQualityNews at the Global Food Safety Conference in Houston, Texas.

“Food needs to be available but certainly needs to be safe. So people who may not be familiar with cooking a certain way need to learn new techniques and skills and be paying attention to food safety.

“A recurring one but yet still very relevant is globalisation, partly because we demand it, partly because we travel more and we eat interesting things in different places and want to come home and have that same sort of experience.”

Managing hazard and communicating risk

Because of these demands there are potential stresses on the food system, said Petran.

“The way you do food safety is to be aware of the potential hazards that might be in a food product and make sure there are the appropriate valid controls in place continuously to address them,” she said. 

“The challenge is as we look to different kinds of foods or source them from further away so that they travel more miles the hazards may change, be magnified or be different. It is still the same approach of what are the relevant hazards, it is just the list of those relevant ones may be a little bit longer.

“We as food safety professionals need to be attuned to what are the risks in this particular country or when travelling for days on a truck or on a ship because it may exacerbate things that we don’t have to think about when it is coming from the next state.

“There are provisions in FSMA that extend for food that is sourced outside the US and sold in the country regardless of where it is produced or imported from. There is a recognition that needs to be as much on the radar screen as what is produced by the plant down the street.”

Petran said she uses analogies from other industries to communicate risk.

“I think everyone understands theoretically driving a car or flying in a plane is risky and they have a role and responsibility of things that they need to do, yet they are also relying on the manufacturer or the pilot to have done their jobs,” she said.

“If all goes well things are fine yet we know things are not always fine, I am not saying that is acceptable, but I think we need to frame it up better and communicate what risk really is and put some numbers on it.

“It is not zero risk but it is not like it is a 50% risk, it is a one in something with a lot of zeros.”  

Ecolab highlighted three products at the Global Food Safety Conference. 

Marketguard 365 is a network of data collection and consolidation paired with on-site expertise.

Synergex is a mixed-peracid based sanitizer and disinfectant for use on most hard, non-porous surfaces and in clean-in-place (CIP) applications and DrySan Duo is a cleaner and sanitizer for dry processing environments.

Data quality control and interpretation

Petran also said there was a need for curators of data to do quality control and for industry to get smarter in how it interprets it.

“One, to make sure the data collection is being done accurately so you are getting what you think you get. But there is a personal expertise element that can’t be lost in all of this,” she said.

“Just too continually rely on numbers and readings coming towards you is one thing but it takes a human to really interpret what it means and then take it to the next step. What needs to be done in response to these results that may be higher or lower, even if it is looking if everything is status quo and in place, can you drive that to further improvement to get better.”

“Our systems and technologies are getting smarter to pull these together and integrate it. What we need to do is relate that to research that tells us about the insights that can be pulled from that. So being aware of how that ties together is key and then framing it within the risk continuum.”

Ecolab also recently completed its 36,000-square-foot Kay business office expansion in Greensboro.

This is the company’s fourth expansion at the Capital Drive facility since 1987.

The 1,600 employees serve the cleaning, sanitation and food safety needs of quick service restaurants and food retail locations worldwide.

“This expansion is an important milestone for Ecolab and a reflection of the growth we’ve achieved through our Greensboro-based Kay Quick Service Restaurants and Food Retail Services businesses, and will help position us for continued growth in the future,” said Bobby Mendez, executive VP and president, Global Services and Specialty. 

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