Whether a consumer is going to a restaurant or shopping at a grocery store, they shouldn’t have to worry about the safety of their food. Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration reports 48 million foodborne illness cases annually.
How many of those cases could businesses have prevented with a simple inspection?
There’s no doubt about it: The food industry must prioritize safety through inspections and good manufacturing practices. But what is the impact of food inspection on food prices? While you can’t put a price on consumer safety, you can certainly put one on the cost of food safety.
Considering Food Safety Costs
Food safety costs vary depending on the type of program (preventive or corrective) and the size of the business.
A corrective program will have costs for legal fees and fines, a decrease in overall commodity share, and a decrease in public trust and interest.
When a food supplier suffers a public outbreak of a foodborne illness, contamination, or pest problem, it loses customers. On top of that, it must pay legal fees and possibly medical fees for those who get sick from their food.
According to the CDC, the economic impact of food safety outbreaks reaches billions of dollars every year. A study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported that foodborne illness costs the food service industry $5.5 billion annually.
To avoid paying these astronomical fees, food suppliers must take preventative measures. Preventative food safety programs involve the costs of prevention, appraisal, and failure.
Prevention costs include:
- Employee training
- Process improvement to prevent damage
- Quality planning and research
Appraisal costs include:
- Product tests
- Vendor evaluation
- Monitoring performance
Failure costs include:
- Reworking products
- Scrapped products
- Lost time
- Product recalls
- Warranty claims
These costs will range greatly in value depending on the scope of a business, the complexity of its operations, and whether the risk of contamination is high or not. As a general rule, the cost of food safety increases with the size of the business.
In addition, the more success a business has, the more facilities it is likely to have and the more ground it has to cover. Any business that houses an established brand will also be subject to more scrutiny from consumers and media outlets, which means the standards you must meet consistently will be higher than a start-up, for example.
Food Safety Programs: Prevention vs. Correction
Knowing the large price difference between prevention and correction food programs, how do these programs operate differently?
Any business that produces, processes, or serves food in any capacity needs a food safety protocol. A prevention program takes a proactive approach, where a business takes measures to ensure food safety before potential issues happen. On the other hand, a business with a correction program will only act when a food safety issue has already occurred. Companies adopt this approach more than most think. Business owners assume a low likelihood of being involved in a food safety issue. They might also feel dissuaded by the cost of a preventative program.
While a preventative program requires a larger upfront investment, it can save a lot of money and legal trouble later. To take on a preventative program, the entire business must be on board — such an effort requires all hands on deck.
Next, a business should design a plan of action. Working with a food safety professional will ensure the business enacts the best safety procedures to reduce risk. This may require new tools like metal detectors, x-rays, or packaging automation systems.
The Economic Consequences of Food Inspections and Safety
The economic impact of food safety is significant. Making good-quality food is an investment. There are extra costs associated with guaranteeing the best quality for all foods a company produces. However, it isn’t without its benefits.
The better the food quality, the more customers will feel satisfied. Therefore, they will be more likely to return. Customer loyalty leads to word-of-mouth promotion. Businesses want to guarantee a good reputation.
Investing in quality food ahead of time will also prevent extra costs from defective products, the time it takes to rework or scrap a product, and legal fees.
The overall productivity of a business will improve with food safety protocols. Since implementing food safety requires a close review of existing food production procedures, businesses may find ways to boost productivity.
Ultimately, the increased cost of food safety could lead to price increases in a business’ food products.
The Importance of Company Compliance
Food safety is all about teamwork. The operation will fail if the entire team doesn’t dedicate itself to the quality and safety of the food it produces.
This begins with leadership and trickles down to every individual worker. Establishing an understanding of the importance of food safety, the long-term benefits, and the high risk of foodborne illnesses is vital to this process.
The required cost and resources of preventative food safety programs deter many businesses from prioritizing food safety. Workers may also be resistant at first to adopting a new protocol. Companies should remember that this is an investment and that all of this work will pay off in the end.
The Role of Pest Control in Food Safety and Inspections
The food industry is uniquely vulnerable to pest infestations. These infestations pose severe health risks. They carry diseases that can infect a company’s food and workers. Businesses must take preventative measures to deter pests from entering their facilities.
The following are some of the most common pests in the food industry:
- Rodents – Rats and mice leave droppings and bite marks on wires. They breed quickly, so infestations happen fast.
- Birds – Some birds can remove roof tiles and find their way into facilities, instantly contaminating the food and tools inside.
- Cockroaches – Infamous for how hard they are to kill, cockroaches carry various bacteria and diseases.
- Ants and flies – Just because they’re small doesn’t mean they can’t inflict major damage. Ants and flies can contaminate food and workspaces in a short period.
Any of these pests can cause:
- Physical damage
- Loss of customers
- Loss of employees
- Damage to reputation
- Legal consequences
If a business fails to handle a pest issue thoroughly, it could lead to the business’s closure entirely.
How Will All of These Impact Our Food Prices?
Food safety standards provide guidance for food companies and protect consumers from unsafe foods. They also mean all food companies have equal expectations regarding food safety.
Part of these safety standards involves inspection. A major impact of food inspection, like other food safety measures, is an increase in food prices. The government and food companies pay to enforce food safety programs and inspections. In turn, consumers pay more through taxes and the price of food.
Safety First: The Importance of Food Inspection
The impact of food inspection on food prices is important to know as a food supplier. Companies must adhere to regular food and facility inspections. This is the only way to identify whether there is an issue of safety and, if there is, how to fix it.