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If Menu Nutritional Labeling Laws Used Facebook

Menu Labeling Laws

If the pending regulation on menu nutritional labeling was on social media, they would easily be your lamest friend. 

Are we there yet? How long does Food Safety Testing Take?

Zen and the art of Food Testing

If you ask a scientist a question, you would think you would get a highly precise answer. 

“How long is this leaf?”

“2.356 centimeters”

But get into more complicated scenarios and you will often find the first answer is “It Depends.” 

“What is the weather going to be like today?”

“It depends [on time/place].”

“What is the most efficient way to cook a steak?”

“It depends [on doneness level, fat %, etc., etc.]”

*Sigh*  You ask an expert and all you get is more questions!  Today, I would like to explore the “It Depends” scenarios for a question we are routinely asked:
How long will my food testing take?

The turnaround time on food testing varies greatly depending on the type of test and the matrix of the sample.  For simplicity’s sake, let’s split up testing into two subsets:  Microbiological and Chemical testing.

The Proposed FSMA Food Defense Rule & You. Should you care?

FSMA Food Defense Rule

The Proposed Food Defense Rule:  Focused Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against
Intentional Adulteration

As part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the FDA is proposing what is called the Food Defense Rule.   If finalized as proposed this rule would require domestic and foreign firms registered under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) to have a written food defense plan that includes plans to mitigate intentional contamination meant to cause wide-spread health issues.  The key principle is the prevention of acts intended to cause wide-spread public health harm (terrorism) by considering vulnerabilities and risks related to intentional adulteration and to have actionable process steps to mitigate those risks.  This rule was proposed on 12/20/13 and FDA is taking comments on this proposed rule through 3/31/14.

What facilities does the proposed Food Defense Rule affect?

Improvisation and Food Safety: The Strange Tools of the Trade

Food Safety Hacks

We all grew up watching MacGyver get out of any situation using everyday materials he had at his disposal.  A gum wrapper to fix a blown fuse, a fire extinguisher and metal hooks as a bomb against bad guys….once, he even used eggs to fix a busted radiator.  And although Mythbusters deemed the egg/radiator trick “plausible”, I still can’t rank MacGyver above my own Food Testing Experts for ingenuity.  Keep reading to discover some of our best MacGyver moments in the lab.

Food Safety Mom Rant: The Ugly Truth about Kids Menus

Truth about Kids Menus

As a parent, it is often a head shaking moment when I peruse the children’s menu at a restaurant.  Grilled cheese, chicken fingers, hamburgers….oh, yeah—and my favorite---pasta with butter.  In our family we call it “the tan plate.”  Not a smidge of color to be seen except the ketchup that may accompany these dishes.  Has anyone noticed kids like color?  The candy industry understands this fact.  Kids clothes and shoes come in every rainbow pattern imaginable and you certainly don’t see kids movies made in black and white.  So why deny them the same visual display (and nutritive value!) on the kids menu?

What you don't see on your supply chain CAN hurt.

Supply Chain Food Industry

Knowing what's going on at every level of your supply chain is critical in any industry, especially if your supply chain deals with food. There are many gaps to fill in from farm to fork, and missing even one of them can lead to disaster for your company. So what's the best way to see (and fill) those gaps? The Product Specification Compliance Program by ABC Research Laboratories may be just what you need to lower your risk and protect your brand.

The ABC Research Laboratories Product Specification Compliance Program was designed to aid restaurant operators, retailers, wholesalers, and processors insuring quality through increased visibility in their supply chains. ABC offers the PSC as an objective, 3rd party laboratory, combining our analytical services, sensory evaluation, and problem solving capabilities to present a nonbiased view of your products’ quality statistics. By assuring that you have full visibility with your suppliers and that you are receiving products made within specification, financial losses due to diminished quality, increased waste, improper labeling, or low cook yield, can be minimized. 

Why should I outsource product cuttings? 

Product cuttings should be outsourced to take subjectivity and bias out of the testing.  By having a 3rd party evaluate your product, you can insure that the data will not be skewed by things like supplier relationships and the cost of the product versus others in your supply chain.  Further, ABC research has invested in trained food scientists to manage product evaluations and review the data--something most restaurant chains cannot invest in.  When an issue is identified with a product, the restaurant can either work side by side with the supplier to rectify the issue or allow the trained food scientists at the lab to talk the supplier through the issue and help them prevent the same issue again.

Meat Safety: Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea & the future of Pork

Piglet disease pork

As reported in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PED) is sweeping across the US pork industry.  In the article (along with a punster's dream interview with a Piggly Wiggly manager), it mentions the virus appeared for the first time in the US in April and has killed thousands of piglets thus far.  The virus causes severe diarrhea and vomiting is fatal only to young pigs and does not pose a threat to human health or food safety. So, wiggling pig jokes aside, will US consumers be affected?  The only pain they will feel for now will be in the wallets. 

Customer Service & Food Safety Testing: Does it really matter?

Customer Service in a Lab

"You'll never have a product or price advantage again. They can be easily duplicated, but a strong customer service culture can't be copied."
Jerry Fritz - Director of Management Institute
University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 

Any business will tell you that they pride themselves on a job well done.  But in the food testing business, what does that mean?  Is a job well done equal to accurate data or timely results?  I would argue that those do not constitute a job well done, but instead accurate data and timely results are inarguable necessities to exist in this business.  When you combine accurate and timely data with compassion, communication, and charisma you have customer service.  A job well done for an ABC-R food testing expert is customer service at its finest.

But how do you quantify customer service? 


4 Thanksgiving Dinner Questions with a Food Safety Expert

Food Safety Questions Answered

We have all seen the comical Thanksgiving dinner portrayed in American movies and television.  The family gathers. Grandma drinks too much. Everyone avoids talking about Uncle's unfortunate incarceration...

You try and explain for the 40th time what you do for a living...

This year, I am thankful that life does not always imitate art.  Our Thanksgiving will be much more run-of-the-mill, but the questions of my job and my opinion on certain food topics will definitely be in play.  Here is a sneak preview of what I'm expecting:

Q:  What's up with all the issues with dog treats?

A:  This has been a hell of a year for pets, but things are going to get better.  There are new regulations that will be released soon. These regulations will increase the frequency of testing on our pet foods. These pet foods will be considered as safe as food for human consumption.  Although most problems have come from imported product, we have also had issues with domestically produced pet food and treats.  We routinely do testing on FDA detained treats, but I guarantee we would find the same issues in domestic product if asked to test it.  Because of the Food Safety Modernization Act, all pet food will be scrutinized much more closely in the future.  For now, I think the pets of the world would agree that a few table scraps during Thanksgiving would be just fine.

5 Crazy Questions every Food Safety Scientist Gets Asked

5 Crazy Questions

It has happened to all of us.  Doctors are shown rashes and moles at parties.  Investment managers get hit up for free advice at their children’s soccer games.  And with Thanksgiving right around the corner, we are subject to two additional captive audience moments:  plane travel and Thanksgiving dinner.  This article will be 1 of 2 addressing the crazy questions I get asked as a food scientist by strangers.  Part 2 will be dedicated to on-going explanation of our careers to our family. 

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