It can be mind-boggling to think about the changes that have taken place in standards, equipment, tools, research, technology, and training in the food industry during just the past decade, let alone since 1939 when the Peanut and Tree Nut Processors Association (PTNPA) was founded. To help our members and the nut industry as a whole continue to adapt and innovate, PTNPA conducts an annual Technical Forum focused on today's most pressing challenges, expectations, and potential solutions. It includes everything from supply chain disruptions—which can occur anywhere along the path of growing, processing, testing, packaging, storing, and shipping—and geopolitical influence on import and export markets to ingredient shortages, labeling accuracy, allergen management, and even the security of food facilities. To put it mildly, it is a complex system.
PTNPA members focused on these issues and more during the 2022 Technical Forum, held over the summer. Event attendees shared authentic, real-world scenarios, evaluated risks and decisions, established best practices, and left with a better understanding of regulatory management and applicable solutions for today's unparalleled challenges.
"The PTNPA Technical Forum offered a timely opportunity for candid conversations with Food and Drug Administration [FDA] leaders and food safety experts, who engaged with us on critical topics for today's market. Highlighted discussions centered on traceability, cross-contamination, best practices for oil roasting, and so much more. The experience was invaluable," said John Larsen, chair of the PTNPA Board of Directors and President and Co-Owner of Marathon Ventures Inc.
A key outcome of the 2022 Technical Forum was the presentation of the newly-released fourth edition of the Industry Handbook for Safe Processing of Nuts—an industry-wide reference tool for training, development, and operations in any facility that handles nuts at any point in the supply chain. Led by members of the PTNPA Technical Committee, this latest edition includes an update to the Food Fraud section and the addition of two new sections: Food Safety Culture and Traceability.
Industry Handbook: Food Safety Culture
In its blueprint for the New Era of Smarter Food Safety, FDA identifies food safety culture as one of four key elements tied to achievable goals. During last year's Technical Forum, PTNPA focused on deep-dive discussions, ideas, and suggestions to build and lead a culture of food safety in its operations and across the entire industry. This year, member companies shared best practices, new priorities, and outcomes around embracing and cultivating a culture of food safety. Demonstrated successes included new employee onboarding in all departments, which included food safety expectations, examples, and resources; in-house food safety task forces that review challenges and lead organizational change; reward and recognition programs for employees who take action to improve food safety; and leadership/management meetings to strategically lead and budget for food safety initiatives.
The new Food Safety Culture section of the Industry Handbook outlines key elements for success in building a culture of food safety:
- Leadership: Food safety starts at the top
- People: Food safety is everyone's responsibility
- Communication: Communicating food safety organization-wide must be a priority
- Measurement: Continuous improvement is required to raise the bar.
Additionally, the Industry Handbook includes a list of references and resources for further theory and implementation around building a culture of food safety.
Industry Handbook: Traceability
Another key element of FDA's New Era of Smarter Food Safety is creating a safer, more digital, and more traceable food system. Anticipating FDA's release of the final Traceability Rule in November 2022, PTNPA, our Technical Committee, and our member companies have been working diligently to interpret the draft guidance in preparation for the increased expectation of tracing capabilities. During the 2022 Technical Forum, members of the PTNPA Technical Committee presented the Industry Handbook's second new section, Traceability, which delivers step-by-step planning for process innovation and meeting any new regulations:
- Creating a traceability plan
- Nine main components of traceability
- Supply chain structure
- Product destination
- Lot identification
- Time requirements for a trace
- Integrity of the traceability method
- Data standardization
- Data identification methods
- Traceability and information management integration
- Traceability legislation
- FDA expectations.
Industry Handbook: Expanding Access and Distribution
Knowing the invaluable resource the Industry Handbook provides to the nut industry, PTNPA has expanded its access. Initially intended only for PTNPA members, the Industry Handbook is now a free public resource available for download by anyone in the food industry. Additionally, PTNPA proactively distributes each edition of the Industry Handbook to regulatory agencies and industry stakeholders.
Each new edition reevaluates content for current relevance and broadens sections, as needed, to address the ever-changing regulatory, food safety, and supply chain landscapes. With the third edition, PTNPA began presenting sections as webinars that can be downloaded by members and viewed by teams and organizations during trainings and orientations. In the past year, PTNPA is proud to have presented a Spanish translation of these webinars.
The Industry Handbook for Safe Processing of Nuts is available at PTNPA.org.