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The 3 P’s of Food Safety

(Inspired by @marcuslemonis)

If you haven’t seen “The Profit” on ABC, it’s about billionaire investor Marcus Lemonis who helps small businesses by investing his own money and turning their operations around by taking complete control of their company. The show features a variety of businesses such as restaurants, furniture makers and even musical instrument manufacturers. His process to turn any failing business around is to focus on three core segments of the operation:

People, Product and Process.

 

As a food safety inspector, I couldn’t help but associate these three things with what I look at when conducting an inspection. It makes sense because producing a safe and quality product will make for good business. Let me explain:

 

1. People:

As many industries now utilize computers and robots, the food industry still relies heavily on humans to run many of the critical operations. Sure, you can program a robot to pack cases or fill bottles, but you still need people to carry out product development, cleaning/sanitation and make products that require manual manipulation. You also need people with critical thinking skills who can evaluate a situation and make important decisions on the fly.

Because we rely on people to get things done in the food industry, we need to make sure they are properly trained on food safety and good manufacturing practices. This means they should know what to do and why they are doing it. Cooks, production line employees and quality assurance staff are our first line of food safety defense. As with any business operation, food employees also need to be treated well. Manufacturing can be a difficult and labor-intensive job. People should have the right equipment, proper training and management support to get the job done.

 

2. Product:

The right product can make or break a business. In food, it’s also important to understand that all foods carry some risk with them. Some foods, (like raw oysters, for example) carry greater risk than others (like oyster crackers, for example). It’s critical to understand the intrinsic and extrinsic microbiological factors that impact food safety of certain foods. This means taking into account things like water activity, pH, salt content and susceptibility to certain microorganisms. Is the product ready-to-eat? Is it a low acid canned food, which must be subject to intensive heating to ensure safety? Is it a seafood or juice product that requires a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan?

 

3. Process

Anything that undergoes a process (several steps of actions to create a desired outcome) in a business should be done efficiently and effectively. Most foods that are not raw agricultural commodities undergo some sort of process, whether that may be cutting, separating, cooking, chilling or freezing. We consider the process in food safety and while conducting a hazard analysis. This is because anything in the process (manufacturing equipment, holding conditions, personnel) can affect the safety of the product. We have to consider each processing step. How long is a product being cooled for? How long is it being cooked for? Are there moving metal parts that could potentially grind together and cause metal contamination to enter the product? Maybe there is a cooler or freezer in the process, which must be continuously monitored to maintain product safety and quality.

 

In short, I think the factors that make a business successful, also parallel the factors that make a product safe. Interestingly enough, if you are making a safe, quality product and follow food safety regulations, you will likely have a successful business.

 

 

 

Thomas is a food safety inspector, writer and food science aficionado who holds a BS in Food Science from Kansas State University. He started in the trenches as a QA Technician. He has written for Science Meets Food, Chews-Worthy and other food-related publications. You can follow him on twitter @mmbagelz.