Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a series on food safety costs for businesses. The series is sponsored by CERTUS Food Safety. This piece explores the question: Are hidden costs eating away business profits?

When analyzing the cost required to run a profitable food processing facility, expenses like staff, equipment, and facility maintenance tend to be the most carefully examined. However, hidden costs caused by inefficient processes may be having a knock-on effect on the overall profit margin of a business.

John Bodner, PhD, Director of Product Development for CERTUS Food Safety, says there is a huge opportunity for food processing companies to save time and money by making investments into their food safety programs. According to Bodner, one of the most impactful, yet easily achieved process changes is to bring pathogen testing in-house. 

“Pathogen testing is one of the most important elements of a food business. It can also be one of the greatest contributors to hidden costs when sourced to an outside lab. Sample collection, supplies, shipping and lab fees add up very quickly,” Bodner says. “However, it’s the cost of time that is dipping into business profits the most.” 

While timing varies amongst test methods, it’s common for businesses who outsource testing to experience a delay of 48-96 hours from the start of pathogen testing to receiving results – not including the time it takes to transport samples from the producer site to the lab. This can be mitigated, explains Bodner, by bringing pathogen testing in-house. Depending on the test, there are in-house pathogen testing products on the market capable of delivering results in a span of 8-24 hours.

“The sooner the result, the sooner a plant can commence remediation at the site of the presumptive positive findings. The sooner they can conduct vector analyses to find the root source. The sooner they can resample the area based on their Pathogen Environmental Monitoring Program (PEMP) to verify the destruction of the offending organism,” he says.

“Not to mention, the sooner the result – the sooner the business can release their product. Paying for storage to maintain the product until it can be released is a hidden cost that can easily creep into a business. Getting actionable results sooner allows for less storage time and the ability to move inventory sooner.” 

Food safety is an investment
Developing an effective PEMP should be viewed as an investment instead of a cost, says Bodner. Food companies should take a comprehensive approach, selecting the most capable personnel to contribute to HACCP, GFSI and lab personnel teams. This should also include evaluating the need for laboratory equipment and a cost-benefit analysis of using a third-party lab.

“Food producers need to make the investment to protect consumers and their brand. Brand reputation is significant in any business, but in the food industry it takes on added importance given the products’ potential to negatively impact human health,” concludes Bodner. “Beyond damage to the brand, there are legal and financial consequences. Investments must be made to mitigate risk and expedite business to provide customers with a safe product.” 

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