Bruce Smith has postponed indefinitely a press conference to announce his book, How Pink Slime Ate My Job, and his lawsuit apparently arising out of the LFTB/pink slime controversy.
Today’s top story on Marler Clark’s Food Safety News site discusses a study (re-)confirming that people are willing to pay more for safer food. (The March 2011 Deloitte Consumer Food Safety Survey reached a similar conclusion.) However, as with most risk management plans, this recent study confirms consumers consider a cost/benefit analysis and will not pay an unlimited amount for minor safety improvements.
The bottom line for manufacturers, grocers, and restauranteurs: your customers will pay more to avoid food-borne illness (although they will not pay unlimited sums for minor food safety improvements), and a comprehensive food safety risk management plan may also reduce the costs and risks of litigation and lost brand value.
The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics published a new study today which concluded that “the prevalence and severity of childhood food allergy is greater than previously reported.” Some six million children in the U.S. have food allergies, and almost 40 percent of food allergy reactions are “severe.”
Although there is some research indicating that a novel food processing method may reduce peanut allergenicity, until there is a highly-effective treatment or cure for food allergies, food-allergic consumers must avoid foods that cause their reactions.
When accommodating a food-allergic consumer, restaurants may want to consider whether their staff are aware of not just the potentially life-threatening allergic reactions, but also some persistent myths about food allergies. Troublingly, some people believe that eating just a little bit of an allergic food may be okay, or that cooking makes a food less allergenic.
Food Allergy Awareness Week is May 8-14, 2011.
Have you considered whether this is an opportunity for your restaurant to reach out to the community of food-allergic consumers? If not, why not? Food-allergic consumers are loyal, repeat customers. Restaurants that accommodate them can grow their business.
Perhaps your staff are not sufficiently trained to handle requests from allergic customers? The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and the National Restaurant Association published Welcoming Guests with Food Allergies, a free guide to help restaurants train staff to serve food safely to their food-allergic patrons.
Your restaurant serves wholesome food and artisinal cocktails; the menu touts all of the fresh ingredients, including the farms where you obtain your fresh produce and meats. Did you also disclose a Proposition 65 warning about potential food safety hazards?
California’s Proposition 65 requires businesses to notify consumers that hazardous chemicals may be present in products purchased on the premises. A consumer may sue your restaurant and allege that it does not comply with this requirement. Even if such a lawsuit is frivolous, litigation can be quite expensive.
Fortunately, a business can take cost-effective steps to protect itself from the risks of this litigation by posting prescribed warnings, such as:
“WARNING: Chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, or birth defects or other reproductive harm may be present in foods or beverages sold or served here.”
I know, a warning label may not be the most enticing way to upsell your customers. However, think about this simple fact: the U.S. government has required warning labels on alcoholic beverages since 1989, but there is little (if any) evidence that they have affected sales. (There is also a specific Proposition 65 warning for alcoholic beverages.)
However, there are emerging Proposition 65 litigation risks, such as neurotoxic acrylamide in fried foods and carcinogenic heterocyclic amines (HCAs) in grilled foods. The San Francisco Department of Public Health publishes this handy (and free) FAQ about Proposition 65 for restaurants and other food establishments.
For more information, feel free to read the article I co-authored regarding Proposition 65 Risk Management.
Developing, implementing, and verifying effective written Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans can seem like a daunting task for startup and small-scale food processing companies. (The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act requires food processing companies to do so.) Climb this hill one step at a time, and you may realize that it is not so hard after all. The Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA offers guidance and free information to help small and very small companies increase food safety by validating, verifying, and documenting their HACCP risk management plans. Several universities and other organizations publish guidelines for how processing companies can develop HACCP SOPs. Sample HACCP SOPs are also available for restaurants and foodservice companies.