By Wendelyn Jones, PhD

According the United Nations Industrial Development Organization Corporate Social Responsibility is a management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns into their business  operations and stakeholder interactions. 

At IAFNS, we believe that food safety efforts — which can often be thankless tasks – should count in CSR tallies at companies. CSR is generally understood as the way through which a company achieves a balance of economic, environmental and social imperatives — the “Triple Bottom-Line Approach.” CSR can take many forms, from community volunteering to support of local charities to company programs and projects with a national scope. But food safety is a global good that companies should be proud of. 

In the food and beverage space, for example, IAFNS members track the safety of sodium and caffeine as part of ongoing initiatives. Producing food means companies take responsibility for food safety and other “public goods” from their supply chain to the consumer.

But let’s split “responsibility” into its constituent parts. The term “responsibility” implies obligation, and while there is a strong element of that in CSR, thinking of it in terms of “response-ability” is closer to what IAFNS endeavors to deliver in the food safety space. 

For example, foods like pistachios, chocolate and cereal are generally considered ready-to-eat, low-moisture food (LMFs) products. Some foodborne viral outbreaks associated with LMFs have been reported in recent years. IAFNS invested in understanding pathogens in low-moisture foods, giving firms and other organizations in the food sector the response-ability to change their food processing and storage protocols to address any residual pathogen risks. As foodborne pathogens can persist for some time, IAFNS-supported researchers found that a method called Advanced Oxidative Process treatment worked optimally as an inactivator.

Another example involves IAFNS-supported studies of protein in the diet. A recent analysis found that increasing protein intake while dieting leads to improved intake of green vegetables and healthier diets. Increasing dietary protein during caloric restriction improved diet quality and helped to maintain Lean Body Mass in the study. This particular paper has been cited in multiple media stories including the San Francisco Gate and Yahoo! News and gives both company formulators and interested consumers the response-ability to update their practices.

Finally, sodium consumption has been covered by Food Safety News previously. An IAFNS-supported study extracted analytical methods, broad and specific reduction categories, significant outcomes, and other strategies for decreasing sodium. Methods included salt removal, salt replacement, flavor modification, functional modification, or physical modification. Although salt removal and salt replacement were the main strategies, future public health improvement efforts may benefit from combining methods focused on the food supply. In addition, it’s important to look at sensory characteristics, technology and consumer perceptions. IAFNS response-ability in this area includes a searchable database of papers on options for salt reduction techniques for adoption in the food sector. Watch this space for our database of sodium reduction papers and other tools as they become available.

In this way, scientific research on food safety contributes to and shapes CSR. Research efforts empower companies, cooks and consumers to make key choices as a result of new knowledge which IAFNS helps generate. This response-ability provides new, well-informed options for those in the food and beverage ecosystem to optimize their food safety choices, reduce risks and interact constructively with their stakeholders.

About the author: Wendelyn Jones is Executive Director of the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences (IAFNS). She has a passion for bringing together science and society, drawing from her global experiences working across chemical, agricultural, food, and health sectors. She applies her PhD in life sciences to extend IAFNS’ contribution to, and impact within, diverse scientific and health communities.

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