Top 5 Challenges Facing the Food and Beverage Industry

In the aftermath of COVID-19 and its impact on the global economy, food industry challenges continue as new opportunities arise. With the strain in labor force participation beginning to ease, businesses have been able to hire more workers to both produce and distribute goods. In fact, in 2021 USDA invested $4 billion to strengthen critical infrastructure to help alleviate food industry challenges. Top challenges facing the food and beverage industry include:

  1. New Food Safety Legislation & Regulation Challenges
  2. Loading Dock Safety Requirements
  3. Food Integrity In Any Environment
  4. Controlling Foodborne Disease Outbreaks
  5. Theft, Food Tampering, and Defense

1. New Food Safety Legislation & Regulation Challenges

The passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011 marked a new era for the food industry. This era of legislation led to new challenges in the food and beverage industry. As the first piece of federal legislation on food safety since 1938, it gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) increased authority to regulate the way foods are grown, harvested and processed, with particular emphasis on prevention of foodborne illnesses. This led to new food industry challenges as companies adjusted to meet the requirements of the new legislation.

While most of the FSMA’s rules are now fully phased in, adhering to the FSMA is a critical part of how you structure your daily operations. The first step in maintaining compliance is to know where your company stands concerning the legislation and to ensure your employees are aware of any operational requirements under the law.

For more information about maintaining compliance with food and beverage regulations, read “Food and Beverage Industry Compliance Plan.”

Additionally, the FDA has increasingly focused on its New Era of Smarter Food Safety strategy. According to news from the FDA, the 2020 New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint outlined the various approaches to improve food safety over the next decade. These core elements include:

  • Tech-enabled Traceability
  • Smarter Tools and Approaches for Prevention and Outbreak Response
  • New Business Models and Retail Modernization
  • Food Safety Culture

2. Ensuring the Loading Dock Meets Food Safety Requirements

There are a number of companies involved in various points in the food and beverage industry supply chain. Challenges in the food and beverage industry often arise when passing food and beverage products from one environment to another. This is especially true at the loading dock. When food is fresh and frozen, climate is essential in maintaining the integrity of the food. To respond to these issues facing the food and beverage industry, the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI) updated its SQF System. In particular, the SQF System is an assurance that a site’s food safety plans have been implemented in accordance with the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) method, as well as applicable regulatory requirements.

On January 2, 2018, sites with existing SQF certification were required to upgrade their systems to meet the requirements outlined in the new edition of the SQF code. One of the key pieces to this code as it relates to the loading dock is to make sure docks “shall be designed to protect product during loading and unloading."

These upgrades ensure that a comprehensive food safety management system includes proper equipment, loading dock upgrades and compliant processes. The SQF code addresses important food industry challenges. Our unique line of loading dock products and solutions are designed to meet SQFI safety standards designed to safely move products, food and beverages from one environment to another.

3. Food Integrity In Any Environment

Quality control is a primary concern at every level in the food and beverage supply chain. Food contamination and cross contamination are major challenges facing the food and beverage industry. This impacts all parts of the supply chain, especially food processing facilities.

What are some contamination issues for food processing facilities?

Inside your facility, temperature and humidity control, as well as harbor points for bacteria and fungi pose a threat to product integrity if not properly addressed with the right equipment.

Outside your facility, food processing facilities also face product contamination challenges along their exterior, in the loading dock and on the drive approach. Open dock doors are an opportunity for outside contaminants. Some sources of contamination include:

  • Insects like beetles, flies, moths, and roaches
  • Rodents
  • Birds
  • Heat
  • Wind
  • Rain
  • Dust
  • Bacteria and other food-borne pathogens

Make sure your facility manager is diligent in having the right equipment, particularly interior freezer/cooler doors, dock doors, seals and shelters for the loading dock and air circulation systems such as HVLS fans. Proper equipment maintenance will also help reduce product integrity issues as it relates to damaged or heavily used facility equipment that may not be performing at its peak efficiency.

4. Controlling Foodborne Disease Outbreaks

As businesses continue to navigate the impact of COVID-19 on the global supply chain, simpler and smarter processes have developed. With changes in consumer behavior in response to contamination, food traceability has scaled through digital technology to solve food industry challenges. These innovations have led to increased scrutinization of facility cleanliness and food safety, which impact equipment operations and facilities.

While complying with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules, the design and setup of the loading dock becomes extremely important in solving challenges facing the food and beverage industry. The FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety strategy includes the Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan (FORIP). FORIP intensifies the government's efforts to identify the root cause of contamination.

5. Theft, Food Tampering, and Defense

The FBI estimates that cargo theft is a $30 billion a year problem. This presents a challenge to the food and beverage industry. In fact, in 2017, the food industry was deemed the most targeted product category. Per the FSMA and other food safety laws, even if food is recovered after a theft, it can no longer be sold.

Loading docks with unsecured trailers are increasingly becoming more and more susceptible to theft. To be in compliance with FSMA, companies must develop a Food Defense Plan for specific outside security measures, including at the loading dock.

Learn more about the food and beverage industry by downloading the "Essential Guide to: Protecting Food Integrity."

The Essential Guide: Protecting Food Integrity

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