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  • Writer's pictureJennifer

One Year as a Food Safety Consultant

May was the 1 year mark for my food safety consulting business. I’d posted at 2 weeks and 2 months, mainly about the “business” aspect of it. In this post, I’ll summarize the top 5 food safety client questions or needs that I’ve observed. In another post, I’ll go back to the “business” side, because in addition to learning a lot, my goals for the business and how to grow it have changed, so stay tuned!

1. The top thing that clients ask about is time-temperature control for safety. It’s astonishing how often this comes up. I think I am going to have to write a whole post on what I (and my collaborators) have found. You may be wondering what’s strategic about TTCS? I’ll get into detail in the blog post, but remember that FDA has yet to publish Chapter 7 of the draft preventive controls guidance. At the same time we have improved detection systems for foodborne illness, and pressures to reduce food waste, save energy— defending a program in light of all of these factors is very intellectually stimulating. I’ve always found the regulations interesting to untangle…the science is just as fun to dive into.

2. Reviewing and developing food safety plans is probably the next most common request. In some cases, doing this work makes me sad. It makes me sad how often people use their 3rd party audit as the basis for their food safety program, rather than looking to the audit to verify their food safety program. When I’ve had the opportunity to review food safety plans (especially hazard analyses) between facilities, or between products, it is fun to look for patterns (or lack thereof) and question a company's logic and underlying science and data used to assess risks.

3. The best way to bucket number 3 is “moving the needle for industry”. This is what I loved about association work: bringing groups of people (often business competitors) together around an issue of common concern, and collaborating for the good of public health. Facilitating difficult discussions, laying issues out on the table, finding common ground, and understating the basis of different perspectives is very satisfying work.

4. Helping companies through difficult situations comes in at number 4. I’ve been involved in enough recalls, crisis, and ‘inspections gone sideways’ that companies contact me to help walk them through these types of events. Sometimes it’s as a sounding board as they think through the situation, sometimes it’s to give insight on what to expect as things unfold, and sometimes it’s active engagement with regulators and analyzing data, trying to figure out the root cause of an issue.

5. Supporting companies that I believe are truly innovating rounds out the list. I am extremely selective about working with service providers (be them software companies, labs, etc.). As I wrote while on the association side of things, I am not in the business of selling someone else’s wares. For me, that holds true on the consulting side of things too. But occasionally something catches my attention, whether that’s because I really feel that it would benefit the industry, or because I believe in the people behind the product. Still, I’m not their sales rep. Instead I advise on strategic opportunities and demonstrating thought leadership.

A year ago, would I have anticipated that my consulting work would fall into these 5 buckets? No, probably not. But each inquiry gives me an opportunity to reflect on how I can best serve the industry, for the ultimate betterment of public health.



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