It's Food Safety 24-7-365

by Paul Schlossberg
Posted On: 8/21/2018

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Paul Schlossberg
How often do you think about food safety? What specific procedures and operational guidelines do you have in place? What do you do with products when they reach the expiration code date listed on the package? How do you minimize the financial loss before you have to dispose of an out-of-date product?

You're probably wondering what a food industry sales and marketing type is doing writing about food safety. You're also thinking that it can't be too difficult since most of the products we sell are packaged food, snacks and beverages.

What brought the subject of food safety to mind now was a recent article posted at  The title is, "How To Succeed At Food Safety", written by Francine Shaw, president of Savvy Food Safety Inc. Shaw notes that, "Foodborne illness is a widespread, serious problem, sickening 48 million people, hospitalizing 5,000, and killing 3,000 in the U.S. annually."

Have you thought about these food safety issues which apply in this industry? We always say 'clean, filled and working.' How well are we doing with 'clean?'

• How often should coffee equipment be cleaned? Is there a log to record the date and who did it? Cleaning a single-cup system can take some time. Have you allocated enough time on routes for this activity? Remember, the coffee will taste better if the equipment is clean.

• What is the clean-up procedure if a snack package is ripped or torn when being dispensed from a vending machine? How long should it take to clean it up (once we know about it)?  

• Who cleans the microwave oven(s)? If the oven is dirty, it will turn off shoppers from buying food. There is a way to be sure that it gets cleaned daily, if not more frequently. We've discussed the solution with clients. It's a test of your creativity.

• Are you transporting cold food at the proper temperature? Is cold food moved in cold boxes from the trucks to your selling shelves?  

Having worked for (and consulted at) leading food and beverage manufacturers, food safety is always a paramount issue throughout each organization. Here are just a few of the standards these companies apply diligently:   

• Ingredient and packaging suppliers are pre-qualified and inspected and tested periodically during the year.

• Production equipment is monitored on a regular basis during the day.

• Routine and comprehensive cleaning procedures are enforced and monitored daily, if not more often, depending on the products being made.

• Finished production samples are taken to quality control labs for testing to be certain that all taste, texture and food safety standards have been met.

Let me share some business examples of why food safety matters.

• My sales team was actively involved with a product recall in all channels, retail and foodservice, pulling product from store shelves and removing full cases from distributor and operator warehouses. Everything else stopped to deal with a food safety recall.

• A client was in development on a sophisticated robotic food vending machine. At this same time a restaurant chain had a food safety problem which made national news. The client ultimately decided not to proceed with the project.  

• Another client was evaluating a new product line for vending which would require frozen food production. Since they were not producing any frozen products, we involved their food safety department in assessing what additional resources and testing would be required.

• In the kitchen at popular restaurant chain, about $100 of frozen shrimp was being force-thawed under hot water to be ready for lunch service. The corporate food & beverage manager, who was there that day working with the local kitchen team, tossed the shrimp into the trash. He knew that the shrimp dishes on the menu would not meet the company's standards. It was better to be "86"1 on shrimp, than to serve an inferior product.

There is a simple solution when products get close to code date expiration. It was suggested to me years ago by one of the smartest operators in our industry. Just lower the price. You might think about how to make shoppers aware of the new short-term price. It's a sales discount so that you can avoid the total loss. Or you can donate it to a local food bank.  

In the article "How To Succeed At Food Safety" are ten important tips for convenience stores to "create a food safety culture." Among the action steps you should adopt immediately are:

•  On-going food safety training: This is much more than a one-and-done issue. Every employee who handles or transports food must be trained. You should provide continuing training on a regularly scheduled basis.

• No one works when they are sick: They're handling edible products. Even if the products are in sealed packages, germs can be spread on the outer packaging and your onsite equipment. Let me repeat that, "No one works when they are sick."

• Avoid what could be small mistakes: Post signs in your warehouse and in the back of delivery vehicles where everyone can see the warnings and cautionary words. When you see someone doing it right, reinforce the job well done. Use mistakes you catch as learning experiences (not for public scolding).  

You're betting your reputation every day when you sell food, snacks and beverages. Be 100% certain that you have high standards for food safety. You, and everybody on your team, should work to be very proud of how well you perform on food safety 24-7-365. Food safety is one of the critical steps on the road to selling more stuff.

[1] From Wikipeida: "86" is most commonly used to refer to throwing something away or refusing service. "86","86ed", "86'd", or eighty-sixed when used as a verb in American English, is a slang term for getting rid of something,

» Paul Schlossberg is president of D/FW Consulting, working with clients to merchandise and market products in impulse-intense selling environments, such as vending, onsite foodservice and convenience stores. Based in the Austin, TX, area, he can be reached at or (972) 877-2972 or