A proactive approach to food safety is significantly more effective than a reactive one — it can prevent your company from facing the consequences of food safety lapses, including long-term damage to consumer trust, your brand reputation, and, ultimately, your bottom line.

However, ensuring all your products are safe for consumption doesn’t rely solely on your facility’s PCQI or food safety team; instead, it’s a process that should involve every department. In fact, food safety can even play a role in informing new product development for consumer-facing food companies.

How are food safety and product development related?

The production and distribution of safe and high-quality food have become a growing concern not only among food safety professionals but also among general consumers who are more informed than ever about food safety practices and foodborne illnesses.

This newfound focus on food safety has led to changes in product development, with many companies now incorporating food safety early in the process to ensure all new products meet regulatory requirements, such as those in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). By demonstrating food safety leadership in organizational practices beyond manufacturing processes, companies also benefit from a brand differentiator that consumers actively seek out.

How food safety can inform new product development

Early-stage product development

While product developers may be familiar with raw materials and manufacturing processes, they may be less knowledgeable about the principles of HACCP and how they apply to the development process. That’s why companies that prioritize food safety create collaborative environments integrating all teams responsible for bringing products to market, including marketing, sales, R&D, production, customer service, and food safety.

In such a collaborative environment, once the marketing or product development team comes up with an idea for a new product or expansion of an existing one, the R&D team gives input on the idea’s feasibility and any potential barriers to development. Meanwhile, the food safety team can provide insight into potential hazards and food safety concerns at this early stage.

Mid-stage product development

Beyond conducting early hazard analyses, the food safety team should be intimately involved in the rest of the product development process, paying special attention to the nature of potential hazards, regulatory requirements, and facility production capabilities.

For example, before making a final decision on any ingredient or process, the food safety team may analyze the time and money required to develop, modify, or implement HACCP plans, such as an allergen control program if the potential new products contain nuts or eggs. This analysis should also consider factors such as how much training frontline workers must undergo, what changes to implement for cleaning procedures, and how to revise production schedules to minimize the risk of contamination.

Late-stage product development

As the new product moves from R&D to your production facility for real-world or market testing, the food safety team’s responsibilities may include training frontline employees on how food safety principles apply to the new product and what specific measures they have to take to ensure that it’s fit for consumption. They may also collect employee feedback on new processes to identify opportunities for improving efficiency.

It’s clear the benefits of fostering a collaborative product development culture in consumer-facing food companies are massive — by targeting food safety early on, you save time and resources otherwise spent iterating and testing new products.

Ready to level up the skills of your PCQI and food safety team so they can better contribute to the product development process? AIB International’s PCQI Online training program helps your company not only meet FSMA’s Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule, but also go above and beyond ensuring food safety in every product. Learn more today.

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