Long thought of as the lazy cousin of pharmaceutical industry, food safety is now finding its voice within the b2b food sector. And nowhere was this more evident than at the recent IFT in Las Vegas.
While the pharmaceutical industry has been regulated almost since its inception, the food industry has historically been lagging behind. With Europe’s move towards better regulations for food safety with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the U.S. is following suit with more detailed legislation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Both organisations aim to improve food safety, ensure a high level of consumer protection and restore and maintain confidence in their food supply.
The latest FDA reform, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the most sweeping reform of FDA’s food safety authority in more than 70 years, giving the FDA new and enhanced authorities to protect consumers and promote public health. At its core, it shifts the industry’s focus from responding to contamination to preventing it – a significant change in approach.
As a former research scientist, it was great for me to experience the closer connection between food and science at IFT. That relationship is actually two-fold – firstly, it was evident from an R&D perspective, helping to create new innovations in nutritional and functional foods that are rooted in robust science. From a European perspective, we’ve already seen this market driver expand in recent years due to the increased scrutiny of health claims by EFSA. Secondly, food safety testing firms were out in force at IFT– reinforcing the demand for routine microbiology testing for pathogens, and also analytical methods such as mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography to detect contaminants such as pesticides or drugs.
On both counts, the relationship between food and science should be encouraged and nurtured even further. Strong innovation will continue to drive the food industry forward and perhaps help to feed the growing global population. Plus, with consumers demanding access to all types of food year-round, the industry has to increasingly draw from a global food supply chain. Here, food safety testing brings assurance and confidence to prevent risks to public health and preserve brand equity.
What’s your experience of the food and science crossover? Do you think the food industry is responding to regulatory change fast enough?
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