The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009: Staying ahead of the curve

October 07, 2009

It’s time for a whole new set of rules when it comes to food safety –

It’s time for a whole new set of rules when it comes to food safety – one where there is zero tolerance for error. Food credibility is non-negotiable, and as it has been proven, as a result of outbreaks, some products have never regained their position in the marketplace.

The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, an intitative to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act for the purpose of improving the safety of food in the global market, will give the FDA increased oversight of the nation’s food supply and the ability to conduct more inspections of the food chain from field to store. This will ultimately have a significant impact on suppliers, large and small, as well as consumers. It’s time for retailers and manufacturers to be proactive as opposed to being reactive and ask these questions:

•    What is the next big recall?
•    What are the things we as individuals want and need to know about food safety today?
•    What’s the technology and food innovation we need to bring into the world of food safety in order to reduce labor costs and regain consumer confidence?

Hosted by Progressive Grocer Magazine and sponsored by IBM, in a webcast titled The Impact of The Food Safety Enhancement Act on Your Business: Creating a Smarter, Safer Food Supply, industry analysts spoke on the important role retailers and manufacturers must take on to stay ahead of the curve on food safety in efforts to achieve consumer confidence and brand empowerment. Panelists included Phil Lempert, The SupermarketGuru, David Acheson, M.D., Managing Director of Food Safety and Import Practice for Leavitt Partners, and Guy Blisset, Consumer Products Leader, Instiute for Business Value, IBM. 

In a question posed to the audience, “What media do you currently use to inform your customers about a food recall?,” fifty-eight percent said they use email, almost 16% said they use phone calls, another 16% said they use nothing, and eight percent said they use Twitter. Zero percent said they use an automated phone call.

Today’s consumer is hungry for health and food information, and technology has put the consumer in command making instant information available that can place food suppliers in a positive position as well as have negative effects as seen in the past year’s Domino’s YouTube fiasco. Devices such as DoCoMo, ScanBuy, Cell Fire, and the plethora of iPhone apps have now replaced the shopping list, credit card machines, and the search engine. “Word of Mouth” is a whole new ball game where social networks as a form of communication are exceeding the number of emails and as a result operate in a more timely fashion. As an example, Whole Foods alone has over 1.2 million followers on Twitter. And while the recent boycott of this company generated approximately 50% negative results through a search engine, with Twitter here lies an opportunity for the company to communicate with their shoppers a positive response. 

The fact of the matter is that email is simply not quick enough when it comes to a food safety issue as people are inundated with messages in their electronic mailboxes and may delay in reading them. In the recent peanut recall, Costco made about one million “robo-calls” to their card-carrying shoppers who had purchased specific products that could potentially be affected, an effort met with much praise from consumers as a surprising number of people had no idea about the recall or its affect on products they had recently purchased.

Guy Blisset points out that today’s “omni-consumer” is different than ever before as a result of technology. Companies don’t play an active role in the many food blogs and social networks that are setup for food information. However, by monitoring these sites, companies have an opportunity to stay in tune with discussions and participate with postings in a way that empowers consumers as ingredient detectors. Blisset says that how traceability is communicated, plays an important role in brand value and brand protection.  

Included in the webcast, David Acheson, walks through the key elements of the Food  Safety Enhancement Act 2009, HR 2749, the reportable food registry, what challenges to expect with new food safety legislation and solutions that will keep food suppliers ahead of the curve. 

To view this webcast, click here