When a recall occurs due to a food safety issue, the consequences are widespread and lasting.
Eggs, ground beef, onions, peanuts, peppers, spinach, and most recently, romaine lettuce, have all been in the spotlight due to food safety concerns. And with each incident, the pressure on food manufacturers increases as consumer confidence declines.
Manufacturers will find themselves with greater problems if they do not address food safety issues quickly and efficiently. According to a recent study conducted by the Center for Food Integrity (CFI), consumers rank food companies last among 12 entities when asked who they trust to ensure food safety.
“If you are held responsible and trusted for ensuring safe and healthy food, you are seen as a credible source,” Charlie Arnot, Chief Executive of CFI, said in a press release. “However, if you are held responsible but not trusted, that is a dangerous disconnect that cannot be ignored.”
Consider the following ways food manufacturers can earn consumer trust on food safety:
Educate the Workforce on Food Safety Best Practices
According to the CFI survey, only 33% of consumers are “strongly” confident in the safety of the food they consume, down from 47% in 2017. While the recall issue may not be at the fault of the manufacturer, inevitably most consumers cast blame on the brand associated with that food.
In an effort to build consumer trust on food safety, manufacturers need to advocate for more effective communication and continuing education of the workforce. The staff should be trained on the importance of safety, best practices, and any core processes used to proactively identify potential risks in the supply chain.
From certifications to food safety training, there are a variety of education programs available nationally including courses on product quality, food handling, social and environmental sustainability, and food systems and processes. Additionally, the FDA offers various webinars and other educational materials to promote food safety.
Provide Transparency and Visibility Across the Supply Chain
Historically, food manufacturers have not addressed their customers’ underlying concerns with regard to the production and processing of food. Providing more visibility into where a customer’s food comes from is one of the most effective ways to build trust.
Food companies should begin by engaging with their customers — such as through videos and blogs that prompt questions — to identify key drivers of concern, rather than simply providing consumers with information. Consumers want to know that the manufacturer shares their values. When customers hear and see where their food is produced, they often establish a personal connection with the company which promotes engagement and effective communication.
Additionally, if a recall arises, food companies need to focus on transparency throughout the entire crisis procedure. According to the CFI survey, customers want to know all information, both good and bad, when it comes to their food.
Invest in Technology of the Future
Food safety has made great strides over the last 20 years thanks to advancements in technology. From infrared thermometers and pH meters to automatic cleaning systems, technology is vital in the food industry.
And new technologies are beginning to take a foothold in the market as manufacturers strive to build consumer trust on food safety and enhance operational efficiency. For example, automated systems are replacing lengthy, manual processes for monitoring food quality.
The government requires transparency in contamination prevention and customers want visibility in the handling of their food. Technologies, such as a digitally connected supply chain, help manufacturers maximize quality control and improve supply management.
Closing the Consumer Trust Gap
Building consumer trust takes time and consistency. It requires food companies to constantly adapt to new ways of thinking, communicating, and operating as technology continues to advance and consumers demand more from manufacturers. With technology in place and full visibility into the supply chain, food manufacturers are not only able to earn consumer trust on food safety, but also boost brand revenue.