The COVID-19 pandemic was indeed a challenging time for food companies and the supply chain. It was a period where businesses are not compromising food safety at any moment.
Staff hygiene and safety awareness are two of the most vital attributes in preventing COVID-19 in any food establishment. Companies confirmed their response in various health protocols by implementing restrictive hygiene procedures and using additional personal protective equipment (PPE).
Companies that offer food service solutions such as Lakeside Manufacturing are also responding to the health crisis by offering quick ship support items, sanitation stations, and PPE storage. All these tools allowed restaurants to ensure proper food handling with food safety protocols in mind.
Although more people are now getting their vaccines, food companies aren’t taking a backseat from observing food safety in their businesses. People have become more critical about what they consume and how companies are responding to the health situation. That said, it’s about time we start assessing how newly introduced food safety practices will change the food industry in the post-pandemic era.
Digital approach to food safety
The pandemic has highlighted how virtual tools are proving their speed, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness in meeting food safety concerns both for food companies and supply chains at local, regional, and global levels.
Food companies may expect consumers’ trust will be of utmost importance post-pandemic. People are putting their confidence in businesses that the food they will consume remains free from any health hazards. To bolster consumers’ trust, we’ll be seeing more food manufacturers, suppliers, and companies utilize technology to meet food safety standards and monitor hazards, such as fraud cases, border rejections, and food recalls.
The digital era will further promote a culture of smarter food safety that will cause radical changes in the food supply chain. Companies will share and collaborate their knowledge in the food system while promoting mobilization, empowerment, and connection to food supply data. From there, companies will be able to identify trends, risks, and patterns surrounding food safety.
Data platforms will also prove their capabilities in generating insights and identifying trends related to food sectors and detect potential hazards for raw materials. Having access to this information will prove useful in enhancing the quality and safety of food.
Reevaluating food sustainability
The year 2020 was an era of reckoning for the global food system. COVID-19 revealed the many faults of food supply chains which remain to be centralized and operate on a just-in-time basis. This approach has caused considerable delays in the food supply through supply shortages, panic buying, and increasing food waste problems. Meanwhile, agencies are expecting developing countries are likely to suffer from the ‘hunger pandemic’ as more people starve because of food insecurity.
As we reevaluate the basic concepts of the food sector such as supply and safety, other food safety concepts such as visibility and transparency will also come into focus in terms of product manufacturing and sourcing. This will encourage global consumers to prioritize food products they believe are healthy and locally made.
Food production practices involving large-scale animal farming and chemical overuse in monoculture cropping processes negatively affect the supply of natural resources, causing alarming levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Another concern is the poor farming practices in industrial animal farming that gather large populations of livestock in small spaces, making them a potential breeding ground for other viruses.
Revamping food safety policies
Although people can only contract COVID-19 through airborne transmission, and the risk of acquiring it through food is very low, people are still having concerns about this possibility.
The pandemic has pushed people to reevaluate food concepts, from wet markets to the consumption of wild animals. This increased alertness on food safety can cause shifts in consumer behaviors and changes in food safety policies, such as offering supplies for direct sales, formalizing micro and small food enterprises, and leveraging digital tools to ensure safety and better investments in food infrastructure,
The Food and Drug Administration is currently doing its initiatives in learning how to strengthen modern technology in food companies, including the role of the Internet of things (IoT) (e.g., data logs, probes, and digital sensors). Integrating IoT in the global supply chain can provide a significant impact in automating data capture and allowing businesses to survive in these uncertain times while prioritizing potential hazards and risks.
The pandemic has caused significant shifts in the food industry, pushing restaurant owners and food retailers to rethink their food safety practices. As the current food safety culture incorporates updates into government regulations and food safety system standards, business owners should use this opportunity to shift and plan their food preparation habits to better prepare them for future health risks.