A new U.S. report has found that while food safety progress has been made among many companies, there are still critical risks and opportunities that need to be explored as the food industry undergoes a large-scale, rapid transformation.
The report, called Food Safety: In a State of Transformation, was conducted by Cornerstone Capital Group (Cornerstone) and commissioned by the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRCi). It examines the food safety of approximately 60 publicly traded U.S. companies, as well as 30 companies that offer food safety solutions.
Among other things, the research identifies five emerging trends that present food safety opportunities and challenges. Here are the trends, as described in a IRRCi press release:
1. There is a growing preference for organic, antibiotic- and preservative-free, and locally sourced food in the developed world. As these products capture market share, they require food safety practices to adapt. For instance, Cargill says that it has been asked by some customers to remove additives to processed meat despite the fact that those additives inhibit Listeria growth. Also, the demand for raw/unpasteurized milk has grown, but raw milk products are 150 times more likely to cause health issues than their pasteurized counterparts.
2. The shift toward two-earner families and busier lifestyles in developed markets and some developing markets means that fewer meals are being cooked at home. Spending on pre-packaged and ready-to-eat foodstuffs is increasing. However, this category of food is most affected by recalls. Ready-to-eat meals require complex production processes with numerous ingredients from various suppliers coming together on a “just in time” basis. Consumers are also allocating a larger share of their food budget to “eating out” instead of at home.
3. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of food safety issues, and are demanding increased transparency from companies. In both developed and developing markets, a number of high-profile food safety incidents have led to heightened consumer awareness. The proliferation of mobile devices and social media means that the ability of companies to control the information around a food safety incident is greatly diminished.
4. Rising incomes in developing markets is driving growth in demand for animal protein and dairy. These products are resource-intensive and will put additional pressure on local supply chains. One implication is that bacteria found in animals may potentially cause more foodborne illness. Moreover, increasing global demand for animal protein has led to the rise of certain farming practices, which may more easily allow the transmission of foodborne parasites.
5. As populations in developed markets continue to age, more people will be at risk for foodborne diseases. Due to weaker immune systems, infants and older adults are particularly vulnerable to illnesses, including those caused by foodborne pathogens. For many pathogens, incident rates and/or the probability of severe outcomes tend to increase with age.