Why We Love Food QA’s Future (And You Should, Too)
I love food, and I really mean it. I was fortunate enough to be born and raised in Europe to a mother who was a trained chef, and grandmother who had her own wonderful garden full of fresh vegetables and fruits. So, maybe I was a chubby kid, but at least I stuffed my face with French croissants and an assortment of amuse-bouches.
Food is in my blood. I believe in fresh ingredients, good quality products, science, and, most importantly, food safety. When I look back on my 30 years and see what kind of food I have had the privilege and honor of eating, I have to give respect for those who came before me in the food industry. I am also excited for future generations of foodies and QA’s because their generations will go on to discover even more. So, here are some reasons why I’m excited about the future of QA, and why you should be, too:
Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010
Let me start off by acknowledging the work of all the Food Safety professionals who dedicated long years of creating petitions and legislative movements, lobbying tirelessly, and who could finally celebrate the implementation of this law. Of course, this is just the beginning, and complacency in food safety should be avoided at all costs. In my humble opinion, FSMA will be able to open the door to other discussions about food safety, food processing, and better standards for GMO’s and Organics.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 10 years, I am sure that you’re already aware of the ongoing debate on labeling GMO’s and genetic hybrids. As a student of Genetics myself, I hope that in the near future, through proper scientific research, we can better understand the benefits or ailments of GMO’s. One result of this discussion, in my opinion, will inevitably result in the FDA establishing guidelines regarding GMO’s and approved methodologies in regards to food production/farming.
Foodie Movements – Local Growers
No, I am not a jorts wearing, moustache coifing, pretentious hipster. As a former chubby kid, and a cuisine enthusiast, I enjoy knowing where my food comes from, and having that connection with my community. When the local food and beverage movements starting taking off in the mid-2000’s, I was a bit skeptical as to whether it was going to be able to sustain its growth. Luckily for us, these movements remain strong and very alive in communities across the United States. Movements such as “Farm-to-Table” organizations are providing millions of people in the US the ability to find locally grown food as easily as checking their cell phone. Although many of us aren’t thinking about this yet, I foresee that in the next few years the local movement will move to urban growers. So it would be wise for the FDA/USDA to consider establishing guidelines for food grown and sold from “Urban Farms.”
In my previous article “How is Technology Changing the QA World” I wrote about the available technologies that some QA departments are using (and how some are still refusing to evolve). However, this is still small potatoes in regards to some of the developing prototypes we have heard about in food and food safety.
A great example would be the wireless NFP reader currently developed by TellSpec. This little hand held device uses NIR Spectroscopy to spectrophotometrically analyze the food that is sitting in front of you. Not only could it potentially give you the calories per serving, but imagine if the same technology could be used for detection of allergens. So questions like “ Is this Gluten free?” or “Does this food have any Peanuts?” could one day become virtually obsolete. You could just pull out this little device and do your own mass spec analysis. AWESOME!
The future of QA sounds pretty dang cool to me. It could be filled with appropriate GMO regulations, locally grown foods, and killer Start Trek tricorders that immediately beam down information about allergens and calories. With the world’s population growing, the need for greater food safety will always be there. So, to proudly show my Official Nerd Card by quoting the legendary Mr. Spock “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”