Tips from a food industry veteran to minimize recall risk

The 2017 ProFood Tech trade show in Chicago saw a host of food industry experts who gathered to share a wealth of insight and wisdom with one another.

One such figure was Scott Hood, director of global safety and regulatory affairs at General Mills.

Hood spoke at a symposium during the show, where he addressed his career history with food recalls and his advice for avoiding them, according to the April 7 edition of Cheese Market News. In his speech, he discussed the sanitation strategies, methods and attitudes that may help avoid damaging outbreaks.

“It’s not just about preventive measures — testing can lead to discovery and improvement,” he said. “Testing is one means to verify your preventive systems are working as intended.”

Hood advocates that producers take a holistic approach to sanitation and use testing to not just identify risk areas, but to begin to track and predict outbreaks in order to adopt a “prevention mindset.”

“Conduct risk assessments, and focus on the areas of greatest concern,” he said. “For example, if people are not trained well or if your plant has a high turnover rate, those factors can increase your risk.”

Risk assessments include being aware of the most common causes of food recalls, especially undeclared allergens, physical hazards and microbiological hazards.

“If you really want to prevent recalls, focus on your allergen programs,” he said.

Hood also took the time to talk about some of the cutting edge technology that the industry can take advantage of, such as whole genome sequencing, which can identify the DNA sequence of a pathogen’s genome in a production facility.

Hood advises producers to be thorough in testing, despite any misgivings about the unpleasantness of receiving positive results.

“The basic principle is that pathogens shouldn’t be present in ready-to-eat foods,” he said. “If we agree, why are we afraid to test? We shouldn’t be.”

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