Food ingredients

Why is food safety indispensable when creating new products?

One of the indispensable concepts in human food formulation is Food Safety.

It is a broad concept that includes practices, studies and care that food industries must execute in its processes. The objective is to deliver to the consumer food that is safe and free from contaminant agents.

Cases of contamination with allergenic agents, contact with agents that transmit diseases and the use of deteriorated ingredients are some examples of situations covered by the concept and application of food safety in the food industry.

When the issue is food safety, we tend to associate it exclusively to the company’s Quality sector. However, that is not quite the way things should work.

Food safety must be thought holistically, putting together all product stages of elaboration, production and sales.

Speaking about elaboration, R&D professionals also need to be aware of all questions related to food safety when they create a new product or reformulate an existing one.

In this post, we will understand the role R&D formulators play in the safety of foods, and what these formulators must consider when they include food safety in the product’s research and development process.

The increasingly intense presence of food safety in the formulator’s routine

In food industries, frequently there is an unspoken war (sometimes not so unspoken) between the quality and R&D sectors.

While R&D is sure that quality professionals are a problem for the new products’ development, the quality department sees the R&D innovations more as a headache.

It is important to explain that in this classic conflict no one is completely good or bad. More than working together, both sectors must understand that their functions are complementary and that the role of each inside a company is not as strict as it looks like.

For R&D, it is necessary to keep in mind that the sector doesn’t live only of various experiments. When innovating, it is important to think about the production chain as one whole thing and that, obviously, will go through the food safety requirements.

To avoid future problems, it’s important to have control methods in R&D that follow the pyramid of innovation diagram. The bottom of this pyramid is the functionality, and there is no functional product if it offers a threat to the consumer’s health.

Food safety starts with the insertion of new ingredients

When receiving a briefing, it’s necessary to analyze the project’s viability even before testing formulations. This viability analysis includes topics such as technical requirements, how to best meet market demands, raw materials and ingredients acquisition, the production process, and the safety of consumption.

New ingredients acquisition requires a deeper analysis. Each new input added to a production routine has with it new security risks, imposing adaptation to the factory.

Therefore, this type of insertion must only be done if there is a real need. In case it’s indispensable, the supplier selection for it has to be conducted cautiously.

It’s important to choose suppliers committed to quality and the sanitary safety of acquired inputs. In this case, a choice based only in the lowest price may not be the most intelligent one.

Thus, the R&D professional needs to map possible dangers that might be added with the new ingredients arrival, making the quality department aware of them.

The replacement of ingredients in formulas already in use is also present in this equation. The R&D formulator needs to be alert, because this kind of change can alter the product’s expiration date, the allergenic list and the safety in eating the food.

After the formulation stage, the production line trials also must be planned cautiously. Hygiene in this step has to be designed to avoid cross contamination.

The R&D professional’s mind must be always opened when food safety is part of the project, because this can often change the initial concept of the product.

It would be amazing to offer that fresh, recently prepared orange juice. But, would it be safe to drink after a week, with no pasteurization?

This new product can follow the already stablished food safety protocols by the company, or does it need adaptations regarding that?

These questions have to be part of the routine of those who innovate inside companies.

The consequences of not taking food safety into consideration in R&D

There is no doubt that the main function of a R&D formulator is to innovate in products and processes. However, not taking food safety into consideration at this stage may bring serious consequences.

Considering any product, significant rework may be a necessity. Imagine arriving at the point of ideal formulation but having to return to stage zero because the product doesn’t meet the requirements for consumption safety standards.

Reworking, products outside normative settings, the need for adequacy of unplanned processes and even payment of fines for deadline delays are situations that may occur as a consequence of carelessness with food safety.

All this stress may still increase fights between different sectors, leading to project delays and general loss of efficiency.

The use of HACCP

To be truly committed to the safety of the formulated foods, the R&D professional must be familiar to the most used food safety tools in food industry. Among them, the HACCP stands out as one of the most popular ones.

The HACCP term is an abbreviation that stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point.

HACCP is a set of practices developed during the 1960s and which are still used today. The system was built in 12 stages:

•   Definition of teams that are part of the product’s development;

•   Description of the product being developed;

•   Analysis of the product’s use and intention;

•   Construction of Process Flow chart;

•   Application of Flow chart;

•   Listing of all potential hazards;

•   Determination of Critical Control Points (CCPs);

•   Decision of the critical limits of each CCP;

•   Analysis and definition of the monitoring option for each CCP;

•   Setting Remedial Actions;

•   Setting means of Verification;

•   Control of Documentation and Records.

All procedures mentioned above distinguish a good HACCP system application. Again, it’s worth mentioning the need of a holistic perspective on the production process and food consumption, analyzing how each part of the chain fit in the quality control and in foods’ safety parameters.

Conclusion

Food safety is not a trend, but rather an every time more relevant demand in industry. To ensure safe foods to a consumer that is increasingly demanding is a duty of companies that intend to be an authority in the market.

The R&D professional needs to be aware of this reality, incorporating the food safety requirements in the projects’ conception.

It is also important to go deep in this subject through training and courses to be more and more familiar with the theory and the practice of food safety.

As challenging as it may seem, constant innovation and consideration of food safety reduces the risks of severe impacts to the company and decreases the chances of developing a bad reputation with sanitary inspection authorities.

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