Between recalls and the natural foods movement, as well as other trends, the food and beverage industry is seeing many new concerning issues today.
As a result, law firm Michael Best & Friedrich LLP’s Milwaukee office recently presented an event on “What Every Food and Beverage Company Must Know About Issues in Food Safety – From ‘A’ to ‘Z.’”
“The integrity of our food and beverage supply is top of mind with most of the consuming public,” said attorney Paul Benson, who led the presentation. “There was a time when I could very easily go to a conference or speak to a group and say with 100 percent certainty, and not be challenged, that the U.S. food supply is the safest and best in the world. If I made that claim today, I would likely be challenged.”
One of the major prevailing issues for the industry is consumers’ desire for natural or organic food and beverages.
“That is a very laudable concept, but the reality is the role of technology in the food and beverage industry is tremendous, and attempting to get products to consumers that are totally pristine or all natural is in many instances impossible and in other instances is just very, very difficult,” Benson said. “So there’s a tension between the need for people to have foods and beverages they consider to be convenient and healthy and tasty and at the same time be all natural or all organic, because the FDA refuses to actually provide a definition of what it means to be ‘all natural.’”
Another murky area, according to Benson, relates to weight loss supplements, because regulations fail to identify them as food or drugs. He said some might consider them drugs because they come in pill form, yet their ingredients are typically sold to the consuming public as food extracts.
Weight loss supplements are further problematic because of their potential risks. For instance, he said a chemical in OxyElite Pro has been linked to two deaths.
Consumers should also be cautious of energy and caffeine products.
“Anything that has ‘energy’ attached to it right now is hot,” Benson said.
Besides energy drinks, energy gum, caffeine waffles and caffeine powder exist in the marketplace. Many people are concerned about their safety risks, he said, including overdosing on too much caffeine.
Finally, Benson advised the audience to be careful when it comes to the power of social and national media “experts.”
“If you’re in the industry, you have to be monitoring all this social media stuff to find out what is out there, so if there’s an impact on your product and you have a scientific basis to refute it that you get that part of the story out as well,” he said.