My previous post, “How Reliable is Your Supplier’s Non-GMO ‘Verified’ Claim?” raised the question of whether incorrect, unsubstantiated or fraudulent non-Genetically Modified Organism (non-GMO) claims would result in a recall, FDA warning or some other sanction. The answer is found in a greater discussion about accountability and liability within the food industry.

With summer fast approaching, let’s think of this in terms of a carnival metaphor. There’s potential for food manufacturers to get caught up in a non-GMO verification “shell game.” You might know the classic shell game, in which a pea is placed underneath three shells and then they are shuffled around to confuse the player. At the end, the player needs to guess which shell the pea is under. As you monitor your supply chain, “verified” non-GMO certificates from suppliers may be shuffled around in your supply chain and you may lose sight of the “pea,” or an ingredient that is not up to specification. Come one, come all – step on up and find the hot sample. Continue Reading

Here at Mérieux NutriSciences, our team of expert scientists upholds our mission of protecting consumers’ health through their daily work. Dr. Angela Nguyen joined our team this year to lead our molecular services laboratory, which covers our suite of services, including foodborne virus testing, Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS), Vitek MS, Sanger Sequencing and Riboprinter Platform with bionumerics software. I recently met with Dr. Nguyen to learn more about her background, coming from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and where she sees the future of molecular biology headed within the food industry. Continue Reading

Food industry associations and consumer advocacy groups have influenced the development of many key U.S. food policies and regulations, but the impact of consumer lawsuits upon the regulatory process cannot be denied. Since 2008, the number of class action lawsuits filed against food and beverage companies has increased from approximately twenty to more than a hundred lawsuits annually in recent years. While some of the legal challenges could be dismissed as frivolous, several cases have fueled the evolution of significant labeling and safety regulatory initiatives that are now under consideration by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).    Continue Reading

Today, there seem to be more grocery store chains than ever before. However, despite the variety of options, if you explore any of them you will find a similar pattern – an expansive brand of products unique to that store, otherwise known as a Private Label Brand. In recent years, chain-style grocery stores have shifted their focus to increasing their brand recognition. In order to accomplish that, they need to deliver quality consumer packaged goods at a competitive price. The resulting “private label war” has been driving down the prices of store brand food products, thus creating more competition for well-known national brands. Continue Reading

Despite continuing technological advancements, preventing products from becoming contaminated with pathogens remains a challenge in the food industry. To monitor foodborne illness, the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) actively conducts surveillance of laboratory-diagnosed infections caused by pathogens commonly transmitted through food sources.

FoodNet is a partnership between the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, 10 state health departments and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It monitors infections due to: Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora, Listeria, Salmonella, STEC, Shigella, Vibrio and Yersinia. To gather the data, outbreaks are monitored at 10 sites throughout the country that account for approximately 15% of the U.S. population. In 2016, FoodNet tracked outbreaks for an estimated 49 million people. The preliminary 2017 FoodNet surveillance data shows that foodborne illness continues to be a considerable health burden despite ongoing food safety measures. Below are three key questions raised by examining the 2017 FoodNet data: Continue Reading

If you’re manufacturing organic products, it’s vital to understand the labeling requirements and what claims you can make based on your products’ ingredients. For example, do you understand the difference between a food labeled as “organic” and one that’s “made with organic ingredients?” While these statements may seem interchangeable at first glance, the USDA organic labeling guidelines specifically define which claims you can and cannot use, based on the composition of your product.

The labeling of organic foods in the U.S. is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) according to the National Organic Program detailed in 7 CFR Part 205. This set of rules is separate from the overall Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food labeling regulations, outlined in 21 CFR Part 101, which apply to all food products. While these two sets of regulations differ in several aspects, both are applicable to organic packaged food products available in the U.S. Continue Reading

I’ll be honest – from time to time, I enjoy throwing on my teal yoga pants and visiting my favorite organic supermarket. I love perusing the endless rows of organic and otherwise non-Genetically Modified Organism (non-GMO) products adorning shelf upon shelf. With all of those “verified” and “certified” products smiling down at me, how can I not smile back? After all, like many shoppers, I place my trust in progressive statements on food labels, such as “Organic,” “non-GMO,” “Fair Trade,” “Hormone-Free,” “Allergen-Free,” and the list goes on. Before I leave the store, my cart is adorned with at least three or four items bearing one of these claims. Continue Reading

An integral part of choosing your ingredient suppliers is verifying the safety and quality of the product they’re sending you. Perhaps you work in a quality assurance or food safety role at an FDA-registered facility. Perhaps your facility’s hazard analysis states the ingredient in question is associated with a hazard that requires a supply chain-applied control. Do you know what to do if you’re volunteered to conduct the onsite audit of a potential ingredient supplier? Maybe you’re an ASQ Certified Quality Auditor, but you’ve never actually audited a supplier before. You may be panicking a bit… wondering where to start, yes? Of course you are!

To help with this process, I’ve broken down the seven steps you can take to ensure the successful audit of an ingredient supplier: Continue Reading