IFST SC21 - Smart Food Safety Event Highlight

This event highlight covers the seventh session of our IFST Spring conference 2021 (SC21) food science and technology Thinking Smart, Acting Smart

Opening our session on 'Smart Food Safety' within the food sector, Rick Mumford - Deputy Director of Science & Head of Science at Food Standards Agency (FSA) provided us with insight into his role at FSA and how they are managing risk in an increasingly multidisciplinary way. Rick explained ‘’One of the challenges is creating a science and evidence base that is fit for the future’’. He spoke about the different components of risk analysis, pointing out that ‘’risk communication is often forgotten about, however, it’s important to communicate effectively to consumers and citizens so that they understand the risks of what they are getting into’’. Rick outlined FSA’s interdisciplinary approach for dealing with research and evidence and how ‘’critical to that has been the development of areas of interest programs’’. Rick went on to provide examples of how the right research and evidence can be used to inform prioritisation, mentioning that ‘’One of the reasons why it is critical to get research and evidence right is because we are increasingly having to fill gaps in our knowledge and inform prioritisation’’. 

Following Rick’s presentation, Nick Meakin, CEO and Chief Science Officer at Aqualution Systems explored some commercial methods for the management of Norovirus contamination in raspberries. To begin his presentation, Nick shared some interesting facts about food safety, commenting that ‘’two-thirds of foodborne illness are caused by viruses, not bacteria’’. Interestingly, he pointed out that ‘’as long as you can wash the produce, the bacterial procedures that are in place will control the majority of viral contamination. But what happens to produce such as raspberries that cannot be washed?’’. Nick went on to address this question and shared some practical solutions for how we can apply biocides to raspberries using different methodology including ‘’washing the raspberries with high purity hypochlorite solutions’’. 

To conclude our session on Smart Food Safety, Marie-Claude Quentin and Erica Sheward from the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) discussed how technologies are changing third party certification. Erica started by busting some myths about the role of GFSI, she explained ‘’Whilst we are focused on certification and audit activity, we also think about all of the interconnected issues that are facing the food industry and consumers alike’’. Marie-Claude proceeded to address an important question ‘’If technology can already do it all, do we need to have audits?’’. She informed us that ‘’the role of auditing will still be required, but the competence of the auditor will change dramatically because they will need to understand the new technology being used within the industry’’. Marie-Claude also raised a critical point ‘’Every system needs verification and validation’’, however ‘’it’s important to understand new trends so they are reflecting in benchmark requirements and standards’’.