Advances in information technology, rapid advances in diagnostic sensitivity, and shifting regulatory requirements are changing the nature of food safety, while macroeconomic trends like globalization, competitive consolidation, and maturation of the industry are altering the structure of the markets. These trends are colliding with shorter-term disruptions like the economic recovery from COVID-19, inflation, and the war in Ukraine, making the near-term future difficult to see.
We have been monitoring the relationships between food processors and regulators for a number of years. Our attention to this topic started with the implementation of FSMA to watch the evolution of the FDA's enforcement posture, as well as inspection and sampling procedures related to the new requirements. Now that the FDA has resumed its regular in-person inspections, we asked processors: (1) whether they have had an inspection so far in 2022 and, if so, did FDA collect any samples; (2) now that processors are seeing inspectors again, do they still agree that FDA "educates before it regulates"; and (3) with their experiences from recent and previous inspections, what do processors wish that regulators understood better? This column presents answers from more than 300 food processors in every category on these and related regulatory questions.
With the COVID-19 pandemic (hopefully) solidly in the rearview mirror, we wanted to find out what projects and initiatives food companies are focusing on for the rest of this year and into 2023. We heard from more than 200 food processors in every major category. They reported a wide-ranging wish list of projects and priorities, with improving their food safety culture, more training, improving their supply chain management (especially with their foreign suppliers), and improving their sanitation and environmental monitoring programs at the top of the list.
As the issues related to COVID-19 continue to subside and more restrictions are lifted, will we see food companies return to business travel, including in-person meetings and food conferences? We asked more than 250 companies about their travel plans for 2022 and beyond to find out. Our survey found a wide variety of policies depending on the company, the location of the travel, and the purpose of the trip.
In our ongoing coverage of the supply chain crisis and how it is affecting food processors, Food Safety Insights surveyed more than 150 food processors in North America and around the world about how they are managing their recovery, the difficulties they are still coping with, what changes they have made and will be making in the future. Most processors told us that they continue to have some level of difficulty with high prices, availability of employees (including truck drivers), and supply shortages. A large majority (about 75 percent) also tell us that they plan to implement changes and to manage their supply chains differently to avoid these issues in the future.
This column will expand on the findings of the FDA study of the economic evaluation of the GenomeTrakr whole genome sequencing (WGS) program, adding data on the use of sequencing and how it will continue to change food safety practices and markets. It will also discuss what FDA is doing with GenomeTrackr to uncover previously unseen outbreaks and how this is keeping pressure on processors to expand environmental monitoring and controls.
Supply chain is critical to any food safety program. Having full control and traceability of raw materials and end products is no longer an option, but rather a requirement. In the past two years, the pandemic has exposed new weaknesses and made visible the business risks posed by an unstable supply chain.
In our last column, we revisited some of the testing-related topics we have covered since the inception of Food Safety Insights. This article looks at a few of the other subjects that have made an impact on our markets in these past 5 years.
The Food Safety Insights column began in 2017, and for the past 5 years, it has been providing insights on changes and developments in the food safety marketplace. How has the market changed and what are the key drivers and trends that continue to drive food safety markets?