In a time when our industry is already in the crosshairs of regulators and the media, product safety and consumer protection should top the list of concerns for any brand. Most product defects are preventable, and with better quality practices the industry should be able to change the conversation. Safety may not “sell,” but product safety or consumer issues can kill even the most successful brand quickly.
At the core of what we do in the natural products industry is to deliver safe products that keep our consumers protected. We take this aspect of our business very, very seriously. At the end of the day, it’s about shipping products that are—to the very best of your capabilities—safe as well as efficacious.
When dialing in a product safety and consumer protection program, there are two main areas of preventative focus:
1) Eliminate potential for microbes that cause food-borne illness during the manufacturing process. Food-borne microbes include bacteria, fungi and pathogens. Because most ingredients are from nature, the potential for such contamination is inherent in natural products. Therefore, it is imperative that manufacturers stay on top of their quality and cleaning programs to avoid potential contamination.
2) Avoid cross-contamination with common food allergens. Food allergens and/or sensitivities now affect a large portion of the population.
The top 8 allergens are:
- Tree nuts
Although not in the “top 8,” gluten is also of major concern for a growing number of people. For highly-sensitive consumers, exposure to any of these allergens can be life-threatening. Therefore, developing prevention programs to address these issues is crucial.
How do functional food manufacturing facilities avoid these issues?
Thoroughly assess risks. Organic, natural and fermented foods are minimally processed by nature and therefore, are at higher risk for undesirable microbiological growth. Assessing risk at every stage of production is essential. Consider your facilities and continuously evaluate for potential risk areas. A simple crack in wet concrete can harbor pathogens such as listeria. Keep your eyes peeled and fix facility issues immediately as they become known.
Assess the supply chain. Risk assessment should include the raw materials in your supply chain, no matter how many. Begin with a supply chain management program that qualifies suppliers and their products. Assess which ingredients are at highest risk and address those issues in your procedures. By being proactive with your supply chain and mitigating potential risks, the easier it is to build quality into the manufacturing stages of the process.
Employ procedures that minimize risk. Manufacture at “audit quality” every day and train production staff on proper cleaning procedures. Use checklists, on-floor training and signatures to ensure proper procedures are followed at critical control points.
Build the capacity to test as often as necessary to assure safety. Use best practices in analysis and if applicable, qualify your third party laboratories. Ensure they are accredited and will perform to the highest industry standards.
Lastly, ensure constant communication between the different stakeholders within the company. The manufacturing process involves three major stakeholders, each one with potentially different interests: Sales wants to sell more, Production (and Logistics) wishes to enhance output and efficiency, while Quality ensures that what goes out is safest and of the highest quality. These three stakeholders don’t always agree, which makes the communication among them ever more important. The better the communication, the better the quality and the greater the efficiency–both of which will make sales happy.
The best way to avoid contamination during the manufacturing process is to use sound QA/QC procedures that are backed up by documented training and hands-on retraining on the production floor.
When unforeseen delays do occur, it is critical that the company has a plan for communicating the shipment and other delays. Every action has a cascading effect down the supply chain to the consumer. Strong communication among the parties is key to minimizing the disruptions.
Safety Comes First at RFI
Our extensive quality programs focus on GMPs, cleanliness and hazard minimization through verified methods.
Our in-house lab:
- Produces faster test results turnaround – 2-5 days rather than the standard 5-7 days.
- Includes full microbiological testing.
- Allows us to act quickly if something does come up, ultimately leading to less waste and down time.
- Is AOAC Accredited under the A2L2 program.
- Includes a full analytical chemistry lab.
- Has the capacity to do product identification, stability, shelf life and allergen testing.
Have an idea for a product?
We can help you bring it to market!
RFI’s Manufacturing Capabilities Include:
- Raw material sourcing and cultivation
- Dry powders, extracts and blends
- Liquid extracts, concentrates and blends
- Turnkey custom ingredients
- Custom milling and blending
- Encapsulation, bottling and packaging
Click here to learn more or call (845) 358-8600 to speak with us today!