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5 Ways We're Eating Differently and What That Means for Food Safety

June 04, 2019
Woman in grocery store image for Ruth Petran blog

We have higher expectations of our food than ever before. Today, consumers are paying attention to ingredient labels, wanting to know what exactly is in their food and that what they’re eating is “clean.”  We’re also buying more food that what was once considered niche: local, organic and plant-based proteins. 

These demands have caused major changes for the food industry – now, it’s about figuring out how we continue to ensure food safety. Here are five major food trends that can have significant implications in the way we keep our food safe. 

1. Customized eating
Gone are the days when your friends and neighbors ate the same food as you. Instead, there is a greater amount of choice, allowing you to eat a diet tailored to your unique wants and needs. These choices run the gamut from ketogenic options to plant-based protein to food and drink infused with CBD, a cannabis compound that’s currently in the media spotlight, particularly in parts of the U.S. 

This increased customization means that it’s critical to be proactive in understanding and addressing potential risks from new foods and ingredients that may be less familiar to the food industry. It also means navigating new food safety regulations – for example, we should expect further regulatory guidance related to food delivery systems in the future.  

2. Clean labels
While we have more food choices than ever, consumers are also demanding greater simplicity and transparency in food ingredients. Demand for “clean food” takes many forms, including lack of preservatives and easily recognizable ingredients. 

Removing preservatives, including sodium, from food may translate into shorter shelf lives – it also means we need ever-more innovative methods to keep food quality and safety high. From a brand reputation perspective, it also means that companies have to embrace more transparency and will need to respond quickly to consumers’ requests for more information about the food they eat. 

3. Global foods
As our world has grown more interconnected, we now have access to more global cuisines than ever before. We’re also sourcing more food, especially seafood, from countries such as China, Thailand, Canada, Indonesia, Vietnam and Ecuador

That means we’re often consuming food that has traveled longer distances to get to our plates, which can mean greater risk to food quality. The risk is also exacerbated by inconsistent food safety legislation and enforcement in different parts of the world.   
 
4. Growth of e-commerce
According to the International Food Information Council’s 2017 Food and Health Survey, 55 percent of millennials say convenience is a top driver when buying food. It’s no surprise that they are a driving force behind the growth in food delivery. In fact, restaurants who don’t offer food delivery are at a major risk of losing customers. 

As food delivery continues to increase in popularity, restaurants (and delivery companies) will need to evaluate the risks that are introduced in the delivery process. Top concerns include temperature control and minimising the potential for cross-contamination. 

5. Growing demand for safe food
Underpinning all of this is that food industry players are facing increased demands from an ever-growing population that needs more calories and governments that are toughening up food safety regulations. 

The path forward is to have consistent food safety risk management strategies which includes having a strong food safety culture in your organization. Our world is only going to grow more complex – proactively addressing food safety will mean the difference between failure and success in public health. 
 

About the Author

Ruth Petran, Ecolab Food Safety Expert
Ruth Petran, PH.D, CFS

Vice President

Research, Development & Engineering, Food Safety and Public Health

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