Food recalls can be devastating for a company, as we’ve seen recently with Chipotle, Blue Bell creameries and others.
As our infographic shows, 81% of respondents to a recent survey said that financial risk from a recall is “significant to catastrophic.” And 56% of those respondents have been affected by a product recall in the last five years.
Fortunately, new technology is helping businesses manage and avoid these problems.
New testing technology has been developed by a biotech startup in Philadelphia that features a hand-held device to detect the DNA of micro-organisms such as E. coli, salmonella and listeria quickly and more affordably than other technologies. The company, Invisible Sentinel, says that 114 companies in the U.S. and more than 50 outside the U.S. are using the technology at more than 250 different sites in 18 countries.
According to a recent New York Times article, the technology has been approved by AOAC International, an association that sets standards for microbial food testing. “It’s like a pregnancy test—one line negative and two lines positive—except that it’s amplified DNA that you’re reading,” according to Benjamin Pascal, one of the co-founders of Invisible Sentinel.
One of the companies using the technology, Wawa, Inc., which owns dairy and beverage manufacturing plants as well as 715 convenience stores in 6 states, tested the technology for about six months before signing up in March 2013. “Invisible Sentinel’s technology was 2-3 times faster than others,” said Wawa’s chief executive, Chris Gheysens.
Large food companies can set up their own in-house labs, but costs normally run into the tens of thousands of dollars and require highly trained lab technicians or microbiologists to run them.
The new technology by Invisible Sentinel allows companies to set up an in-house lab for about $5,000 and train almost anyone to use it in less than a day. The company makes money by selling its proprietary test kits for $240 for a package of 24 tests. The model seems to be working, as the New York Times article reports that Invisible Sentinel’s sales have grown from $50,000 in 2013, its first year, to more than $4 million in 2015.
Food testing is big business; worldwide, two billion tests are performed annually for pathogens and spoilage organisms, and the rate is growing at about 5 percent per year, according to Thomas R. Weschler, founder of Strategic Consulting, Inc., a research and consulting firm in the industrial diagnostics industry.
Some of that growth is due to the Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in 2011 by President Obama and considered the most sweeping reform of food safety laws in more than 70 years. FDA compliance audits are set to begin in 2016, which may lead to increased testing.
Additional software for food processors often used to protect companies from a recall is enterprise resource planning software, or ERP for food manufacturers. The right technology can help protect your company from costly recalls with:
- Extensive quality control and traceability of lots, sub-lots, ingredients and allergen
- Formula/recipe and potency management
- And more
Regardless of the weapons used to combat food recalls, experts agree that companies cannot afford to skimp, since recalls and closures due to contamination can cause a great deal of damage to a brand, or even destroy it.
“It’s the worst possible public relations nightmare you can face,” said Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, a brand research and consulting firm.