- Food safety trends identified in a new report include the increased demand for organic, antibiotic-free, preservative-free and locally sourced foods, particularly in developing areas, which requires alternative food safety strategies. "Food Safety: In a State of Transformation," was commissioned by the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute and conducted by Cornerstone Capital Group. It looked at practices of about 60 publicly traded U.S. companies and 30 companies that provide food safety-related services.
- Consumers are more aware of food safety issues and are demanding increased transparency from companies. This forces executives to stay on top of all communication channels during recalls, including mobile and social media.
- The increased prevalence of two-earner households and busier lifestyles means fewer meals are cooked at home. The safety of packaged foods and RTE meals is becoming even more important, though their production is more complex. Consumers in developing markets are also making more money, leading to a higher demand for meat and dairy.
Consumers are increasingly demanding clean labels from food and beverage manufacturers. However, some of the artificial ingredients they want removed from the product, such as preservatives and antibiotics, are also what helps manufacturers achieve a certain level of food safety.
Manufacturers have to be more creative when it comes to developing food safety strategies that don't require additives consumers might deem to be artificial. Cargill has recently developed a way to use essential oils instead of antibiotics to treat poultry while still promoting weight gain and gut health. This could be integral to companies like Tyson and Perdue, which have made promises to reduce or eliminate certain antibiotics from their supply chains.
Transparency is now a focal point of any recall scenario. With mobile devices and social media, manufacturers can make the most of a food safety scare by being proactive and honest across communication channels with consumers and regulators. It means explaining the "why" instead of just the "what," and sharing both the positive and negative aspects of the situation with consumers, Charlie Arnot, CEO of The Center for Food Integrity, said at a media briefing for the 2015 Food Integrity Summit last November.
The final trend is being mindful of the aging populations in developed markets, as older consumers with compromised immune systems could be more susceptible to foodborne illnesses. That's especially true for manufacturers that create products specifically for this generation in mind, and even more so if those foods are RTE meals designed for convenience with little preparation and clean-up.
Medical foods can serve the health and nutritional needs of consumers with chronic illnesses and other ailments while being convenient and easy to prepare. But if they are contaminated and lead to a recall, damage to the company's reputation could be even more extensive than usual.