The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news.
Across the country farmers, packers and food processors are losing sleep these days over the slew of food safety regulations impacting their businesses. Some of these requirements are the result of international trade agreements but many of the new regulations stem from concerns about the quality and safety of our country's food supply. An increase in incidences involving food poisoning and product recalls prompted the recent passage of the national Food Safety Modernization Act.
At the May Industry Roundtable meeting, guest speaker Bill Paugh told the audience that government and industry requirements overlap and recognized that it can be dizzying to try and stay on top of the different food safety systems. This was borne out by some of our attendees who shared that they have to comply with at least a dozen different standards and related audits to meet customer and government requirements.
The chief concern for local agribusiness is the cost and challenge of complying with all these standards. At our meeting we saw that many companies have needed to hire one or more people to focus exclusively on regulatory compliance and food safety audits. These safety professionals also typically need the ongoing attention from quite a few plant managers and executives in order to get their jobs done.
Local companies have concerns about the rationale for compliance too. With so many different food safety standards out there it is easy to discern the many cases of overlap in requirements and processes. And while the Food Safety Modernization Act responds to critical public health issues it is not as clear how the new requirements will rest within the existing quality control framework.
Paugh suggested that these requirements are here to stay and if anything- regulations impacting our food supply will get even tougher. As a result Paugh suggested that companies look hard at adopting lean manufacturing processes.
The benefit of lean is that is standardizes plant processes and can be used to build a productive company culture around safety. Paugh also noted that special steps must be taken in order to make lean work on a regulatory front.
Companies must review and analyze their food and plant safety processes carefully using lean tools like value stream mapping in order to pinpoint how to control risk throughout their facilities. This is not a common part of the lean initiatives and Paugh has spent a lot of time working with food processors to integrate regulatory compliance and plant safety into them.
Our meeting featured a full house of attendees over half of which were agribusinesses. Our exceptional turnout demonstrates how important this issue is to our business community and we were pleased that Paugh shared his 30+ years of experience and vast knowledge of food and plant safety practices with the group. Bill is currently working with Tree Top and is very willing to meet with other businesses that need help or want to get out ahead of food safety requirements. If you would like to meet with Bill or learn more about some of our tools to help local business please contact us at 509-575-1140 or email@example.com.
To learn more about the Food Safety Modernization Act click here. To learn more about our industry roundtable click here.