FOOD SAFETY INSIGHTS
• The regulations, programs, policies, and procedures that ensure the safe production, packaging, distribution, and delivery of food.
• Ensuring manufactured and prepared food is safe to consume through a variety
of controls throughout the supply chain.
• Food safety is a scientific discipline describing the safe processes and practices to
grow, harvest, store, transport, handle, prepare, and serve food and food ingredients to prevent foodborne illness.
• All things related to the growing, harvest, production, and handling of foods and
beverages that will not cause acute or chronic illness in humans or animals.
“There is no consistent, or accepted, definition of
• Food safety is a way of life; it is how you store, handle, [and] distribute product
to avoid any contamination or risk to the product/ingredients.
• The practices and protocols put in place to maintain the integrity of food products, ensuring that they are free from harmful contaminants and diseases, from
farm to table.
Thus, it appears that the general definition of “food safety” that emerges from
this survey could be summarized as: the production, manufacturing, processing, packing,
or holding practices known to result in safe (wholesome) foods.
Because we targeted primarily food manufacturers, the survey has several limitations in its interpretation. Similar surveys, or in-depth interviews, could help verify
whether a larger group of participants would provide similar responses. We also
don’t know whether similar answers would be obtained from individuals working in
primary food production, such as farms, or individuals who grow their own foods
for consumption. In addition, the source of information could play an important
role in how people define food safety. This is especially true when we know some
players may amplify information on social media that may not correlate directly
with what is known to impact food safety.
In summary, there were many definitions of food safety. Yet, the words
management, handling, practices, procedures, preparation, and/or manufacturing were cited the
most. Also, respondents did not perceive quality as a determinant of safety, departing from the results of previous surveys. Thus, more studies should be done to understand these variations in food safety definitions. n
While new technologies and scien-
tific advances are changing food safety,
few of these advances have been more
impactful than whole-genome sequenc-
ing (WGS). Much of the impact from
WGS has come from its use in traceback
analysis and the potential to match the
cause of an outbreak to its source. This
impact has been amplified by FDA’s
practice of collecting swab samples dur-
ing inspections and submitting them
for WGS analyses. This has led some to
hypothesize that processors will want
to collect their own samples for WGS
analyses either as a defense against these
efforts by FDA or as a way to find and
rid their plants of harborage pathogens
before FDA can find them. While we
have seen a clearly increasing trend to
employ seek-and-destroy projects to rid
plants of pathogens, the use of WGS
does not seem to be growing. Over the
past 3 years, when asked about WGS
use, no more than 7 percent of the
processors that we spoke with in any
survey—and typically fewer than that—
said that they will be submitting their
samples for WGS. We will continue to
ask this question in our surveys on an
annual basis and report when and if we
see a change in this trend.
Omar A. Oyarzabal, Ph.D., is an associate professor of food safety at the University of Vermont.
Barbara B. VanRenterghem, Ph.D., is the editorial director of Food Safety Magazine.
3. Nelson, P. 1970. “Information and Consumer Behavior.” J Political Econ 78:51–57.
4. Van Rijswijk, W and LJ Frewer. 2008. “Consumer Perceptions of Food Quality and Safety and Their
Relation to Traceability.” Brit Food J 110( 10):1034–1046.
5. Ortega, DL, et al. 2011. “Modelling Heterogeneity in Consumer Preferences for Select Food Safety
Attributes in China.” Food Policy 36( 2):318–324.
6. Verbeke, W and RW Ward. 2006. “Consumer Interest in Information Cues Denoting Quality,
Traceability and Origin: An Application of Ordered Probit Models to Beef Labels.” Food Qual Prefer
7. Wilcock, A and B Ball, “Food Safety: Consumer Perceptions and Practices,” in Practical Food
Safety: Contemporary Issues and Future Directions, eds. Bhat R and VC Gomez-Lopez (Chichester:
John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2014).
And as with WGS and all of these
other topics, we will continue to study,
test, and determine what is happening
in food processing and bring you the
most accurate market and reporting
on trends as we have been doing since
2017. If you have something you would
like us to find out, send us an email and
let us know. We are always looking for
new food safety insights. n
Bob Ferguson is president of Strategic Consulting Inc.
and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or on Twitter at @SCI_Ferguson.