President of Nestlé corporate affairs, Paul Bakus and Republican presidential candidate, John Kasich both attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the center last week.
The 82,000-square-foot facility is Nestlé’s largest quality assurance center globally. The facility includes an expanded 32,000 square-foot microbiology lab, a renovated chemistry lab and associated facilities where 60% of food testing is conducted.
Pathogens and allergens: major confectionery safety threats
Speaking to ConfectioneryNews, vice president of quality management at Nestlé, Gregory Pritchard, said confectionery is a “fairly unique” part of the company’s product portfolio.
Confectionery makes up about 13.3% Nestlé's sales in the US.
“Traditionally, my main concern with confectionery has been salmonella (an infection commonly caused by contaminated food),” he said, “ensuring ingredients, particularly cocoa, inclusions like nuts sultanas, are free-from pathogen organisms. All our factories are carefully set up to make sure those pathogens are not introduced to the products.”
Allergens are now another major threat to food safety, according to Pritchard. He said Nestlé focuses on developing safe products for a younger generation who grow up with allergens.
Chemists working at the expanded quality assurance center are conducting a large portion of pathogen monitoring both on raw material and finished goods with the latest technology, he added.
Nut-free facility possibly comes to the US
The BabyRuth-owner’s only nut-free manufacturing facility is located in Canada, according to the company.
In order to create nut-free confectionery products, Pritchard said the Canada facility has special protocols to test raw materials and also to manage the environment in terms of what’s coming into and out of the factory.
It is “certainly a possibility” that Nestlé will extend its nut-free facility to the US in the future, he added.
“[The] Confectionery business is a very competitive environment, and it’s also driven by the seasonality that’s associated with the Halloween, and other holidays here in the US… We’re exploring different opportunities [including expanding a nut-free facility] for our confectionery business in the US.”
Emerging challenge: foreign bodies
Compared to major food safety threats, such as allergens and pathogens, Pritchard explained that foreign bodies are often less talked about, but it is an emerging challenge to the industry.
If there is a foreign body from the agricultural environment, it could potentially be dangerous to many confectionery consumers, especially children, Pritchard said.
“This is something that’s only seen occasionally in our products, but it’s something the [food] industry as a whole needs to eliminate.”