FDA Hosts New Era of Smarter Food Safety Summit on E-Commerce
The FDA New Era of Smarter Food Safety Summit on E-Commerce: Ensuring the Safety of Foods Ordered Online and Delivered Directly to Consumers will take place virtually Oct. 19-21, 2021
New Food Freezing Concept Aims to Improve Quality, Increases Safety and Cuts Energy Use
The new freezing method, called isochoric freezing, works by storing foods in a sealed, rigid container — typically made of hard plastic or metal — completely filled with a liquid such as water.
National Food Safety Education Month is a Chance to Spread the Food Safety Message
While the national month is more focused on consumer awareness, that doesn't mean food safety and quality assurance pros don't have a role to play.
Experts Encourage Food Delivery Users to #PrepYourself with New Outreach Campaign
The Partnership for Food Safety Education is behind one of the first national food safety campaigns for food delivery.
Editor's Note: This story was updated Sept. 9, 2021, to include a quote from Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response.
SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Federal Register Notice to formally announce a three-day public meeting to discuss the safety of foods sold online and delivered directly to consumers.
The FDA New Era of Smarter Food Safety Summit on E-Commerce: Ensuring the Safety of Foods Ordered Online and Delivered Directly to Consumers will take place virtually Oct. 19-21, 2021. The summit is designed to help the agency improve its understanding of how human and animal foods are sold through business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce models across the United States and globally.
Because of the increasing number of consumers ordering their foods online, convening this summit is a goal set in FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint. The number of consumers ordering food online has been steadily increasing over the years, but it has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to reports of consumer buying patterns. The blueprint goal is to convene a summit to identify courses of action to address potential food safety vulnerabilities, including those that may arise in the “last mile” of delivery.
The FDA intends to use what we learn during the public meeting, and from comments submitted to the Federal Register, to help determine what actions, if any, may be needed to keep consumers safe.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for the FDA to help ensure that foods ordered online and delivered directly to consumers are safe to eat and not at risk of contamination, said Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response. "We said in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint that we would hold a summit to address the potential safety vulnerabilities of these foods, especially during the critical 'last mile' of delivery.
"That’s exactly what we’re doing. The FDA recently announced that we will hold a virtual public meeting on Oct. 19-21 entitled The FDA New Era of Smarter Food Safety Summit on E-Commerce: Ensuring the Safety of Foods Ordered Online and Delivered Directly to Consumers. This is a critical first step in a broader effort to address the safety of foods as new business models emerge. Addressing this issue is especially important now because so many of us are getting our food this way, whether we’re looking for convenience or just staying at home more often.
Over the years, consumers have increasingly been ordering their food online, whether it’s from a grocery store, a restaurant, or another kind of retail establishment. However, during the pandemic the number of Americans ordering food for delivery has skyrocketed, according to reports of consumer spending. As the food system continues to rapidly change, including how foods are produced and delivered, meetings like this will help the FDA keep pace with that change and fulfill our mission to protect public health.”
The summit is an opportunity for FDA to further its collaboration on food safety with federal, state, local and tribal regulatory partners, and a broad array of stakeholders, including industry, consumers, consumer and public health organizations and academia.
Topics for discussion during the summit include:
- Types of B2C e-commerce models (e.g., produce and meal kit subscription services, ghost kitchens, dark stores)
- Safety risks associated with foods sold through B2C e-commerce
- Standards of care used by industry to control these safety risks
- Types of delivery models (e.g., third-party delivery, autonomous delivery models)
- Regulatory approaches to food sold through B2C e-commerce, including challenges and gaps that need to be addressed
- Labeling of foods sold through B2C e-commerce
ALBANY, Calif. — Shifting to a new food freezing method could make for safer and better quality frozen foods while saving energy and reducing carbon emissions, according to a new study by Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and University of California-Berkeley scientists.
“A complete change over to this new method of food freezing worldwide could cut energy use by as much as 6.5 billion kilowatt-hours each year while reducing the carbon emissions that go along with generating that power by 4.6 billion kilograms, the equivalent of removing roughly one million cars from roads,” said ARS research food technologist Cristina Bilbao-Sainz. She is with the Healthy Processed Foods Research Unit, part of ARS’s Western Regional Research Center (WRRC) in Albany.
“These savings could be achieved without requiring any significant changes in current frozen food manufacturing equipment and infrastructure, if food manufacturers adopt this concept,” Bilbao-Sainz added.
The new freezing method, called isochoric freezing, works by storing foods in a sealed, rigid container — typically made of hard plastic or metal — completely filled with a liquid such as water. Unlike conventional freezing in which the food is exposed to the air and freezes solid at temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, isochoric freezing preserves food without turning it to solid ice.
As long as the food stays immersed in the liquid portion, it is protected from ice crystallization, which is the main threat to food quality.
“Energy savings come from not having to freeze foods completely solid, which uses a huge amount of energy, plus there is no need to resort to energy-intensive cold storage protocols such as quick freezing to avoid ice crystal formation,” Bilbao-Sainz said.
Isochoric freezing also allows for higher quality storage of fresh foods such as tomatoes, sweet cherries and potatoes that are otherwise difficult to preserve with conventional freezing.
Another benefit of isochoric freezing is that it also kills microbial contaminants during processing.
“The entire food production chain could use isochoric freezing — everyone from growers to food processors, product producers to wholesalers, to retailers. The process will even work in a person’s freezer at home after they purchase a product — all without requiring any major investments in new equipment,” said WRRC center director Tara McHugh, co-leader of this study. “With all of the many potential benefits, if this innovative concept catches on, it could be the next revolution in freezing foods.”
UC-Berkeley biomedical engineer Boris Rubinsky, co-leader of this project, first developed the isochoric freezing method to cryopreserve tissues and organs for transplants.
Since then, ARS and UC-Berkeley have applied for a joint patent for applying isochoric freezing to preserving food. The research team is now developing the best applications for this technology in the frozen foods industry, especially scaling up the technology to an industrial level. They also are seeking commercial partners to help transfer the technology to the commercial sector.
National or international awareness days, weeks and months may seem like some shrug-worthy social media fad (remember Follow Fridays?), but they can be an honest-to-goodness way to reach people and raise understanding of important topics.
They can also be a way to grow your business, as Cindy Mannes, senior vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association, wrote in our sister publication PCT.
"While we leave participation in National Mac and Cheese Day up to you, it is important to choose designations that are meaningful to you and align with your business’ core values and services because such designations provide a great touchpoint opportunity with consumers," wrote Mannes, who is also a Quality Assurance & Food Safety magazine columnist.
"The purpose of awareness days, weeks and months is to spark dialogue on a given topic to elicit meaningful conversations that raise awareness and engender change."
With that all in mind, to commemorate National Food Safety Education month, we reached out to food safety industry insiders, advisory board members and others to get their takes on why consumer education is important.
(Editor's Note: We will update this page as we get more responses.)
"Food safety education for consumers is critical. Industry will never find some silver bullet or Hercules to protect food from all threats — but will instead depend on our Herculean efforts — the enormous amount of work, strength and courage from all stakeholders from the farm to the table, including consumers." — Darin Detwiler, assistant dean, College of Professional Studies, Northeastern University
"The food manufacturing industry works hard every day to produce safe foods for consumers. However, food manufacturers are not the only people responsible for food safety. Food safety starts at the farm and continues all the way to the consumer. Consumers have a responsibility to keep food safe while stored and prepared in their homes, and thus need to understand food safety procedures." — Bruce Ferree, independent trainer/consultant at Eurofins Laboratories
"Improper home cooking and food storage is said to cause 55% of food poisoning cases (FoodPoisongNews.com). But the food industry has to ask itself: Are we sufficiently educating consumers on how – and why – to properly cook and store our products? If you’re not telling them the right way, there are plenty of social media posts telling them wrong ways!" — Lisa Jo Lupo, director, communications, The Acheson Group (TAG) and former editor of QA
"If fresh produce is contaminated with foodborne pathogens, there isn’t much consumers can do to guarantee safety. However, there are things consumers can do to make produce unsafe! Consumer education on storage temperatures, handwashing, and cross contamination are critical to making sure the efforts industry puts into safe food production aren’t undone." — Jennifer McEntire, senior vice president of food safety, United Fresh Produce Association
"To make sure our messaging resonates with consumers, we need to find a way to engage, keep the message simple and powerful, tell a story and don’t try to scare them with the negatives. If we want to protect those we love, follow the key steps: clean; keep raw and cooked foods separate; cook foods thoroughly; keep cold foods chilled and hot foods hot; and source your water and raw materials from known safe sources. — Bruce Perkin, principal consultant at Robust Food Solutions
"To help keep consumers safe, manufacturers must have valid food safety or HACCP plans. These hinge on having a complete and robust hazard analysis that considers all possible biological, chemical and physical risks from ingredients, each processing step, the facility itself and what controls are needed to manage the hazards. Without this crucial step, it’s quite likely that threats may be missed! With these food industry efforts, it makes it that much more important that consumers also treat their food safely." — Ruth Petran, president of the International Association of Food Protection and independent industry consultant
"While most of the responsibility lies with the food industry itself, many foodborne illnesses happen at home due to a lack of food safety education. Consumers tend to be more focused on convenience and saving time than proper food handling and preparation. Consumers must understand that their food safety practices can be a hazard. Educating consumers will reduce foodborne illnesses, potentially easing the industry burden." — Francine L. Shaw, founder and CEO of Savvy Food Safety
"It is vitally important for the future of our food that consumers are educated on food safety. Consumers essentially cast votes with their purchases, shaping the demand side of the food system. The more discerning consumers are of environmental sustainability, farm animal welfare and food integrity, the more conscious the industry may become." — Gabriela Steier, founder, Food Law International, part-time lecturer, Northeastern University, College of Professional Studies
“I can’t think of a time when it’s more important that consumers be educated on best food safety practices. In this unprecedented public health crisis, people are doing their best to protect themselves and their families. The FDA provides and will continue to update resources for consumers on topics that include safe food handling, shopping, storage and preparation.” — Frank Yiannas, Food and Drug Administration deputy commissioner for food policy and response