AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — The recent series of national food safety crises underscores a need for more proactive product testing and traceability efforts among suppliers, according to Norm Rich, the recently retired president and chief executive officer of Weis Markets.
Rich, speaking to a bakery industry supplier audience here, called on manufacturers to embrace real-time testing and traceback efforts.
“Traditionally, industry and regulators depend on spot checks and random samples of products to ensure food is safe,” he said. “Food manufacturers have to be more proactive rather than reactive by taking samples as required on a real-time basis throughout the manufacturing process, not just testing the finished product.”
Rich, addressing attendees at the American Bakers Association Convention, put a few questions to the supplier audience.
“How many of your organizations have a full-time person who is the [Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point] officer? In your industry, can you comfortably trace back not only the supply source of an ingredient, but also when it was produced, at what location and what if any quality tests were performed?”
Rich said that a recent study by the Department of Health and Human Services found that 25% of food facilities contacted were not aware they were supposed to have traceability initiatives in place.
Rich applauded the cooperative industry efforts that led to creation of the Food Marketing Institute's Product Recall Portal, and emphasized that operators such as Weis Markets need timely information to react quickly during a crisis.
“We can take recall action right away by locking products out of the registers,” he said. “A recall can be expensive, but losing credibility as a company would be even more expensive.”
Rich said he has always focused on food quality and safety during his long career, which included 44 years at Weis, the final 14 as president and CEO. Rich's early career was spent in food quality control roles, and today he is a consultant for food safety and strategic planning. Rich was awarded the Food Marketing Institute's 2005 Glen P. Woodard Jr. Public Affairs Award in recognition of outstanding leadership in government affairs.