Book:LIMS Selection Guide for Food Safety and Quality/Introduction to food and beverage laboratories/Safety and quality in the food and beverage industry

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1.3 Safety and quality in the food and beverage industry

FDA Food Safety & Applied Nutrition Lab (3852) (7944691158).jpg

According to 2011 estimates by the CDC, "48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year in the United States."[1] As of December 2022, the CDC has yet to issue revised estimates of these numbers. However, one can wonder if those numbers are higher post-COVID. On a more global scale, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in ten people worldwide fall ill to consuming contaminated food.[2] These and other statistics highlight the vital nature of improving safety and quality in the world's food supplies. As the world's population continues to grow and modernize—particularly in the face of the challenges that climate change brings[3][4]—the demand for a stronger focus on food safety and quality will continue to grow. Without a continued focus on food and water security—including all the quality and safety assurances that come with it—many elements of the world population face a grim reality of insufficient food, limited access to clean water, and malnutrition.[5][6]

The drivers for this safety and quality are most obvious when viewed from the governmental level. In the U.S., several government bodies play a roll in testing and monitoring food safety and quality. For example, the USDA estimated in 2017 that some "7,500 food safety inspection personnel go to work in more than 6,000 regulated food facilities and 122 ports of entry," and "[a]nother 2,000 food safety professionals go to work in three public health laboratories, 10 district offices, and our headquarters office. These employees run test results, dispatch outbreak investigators, and unpack data to reveal telling trends and inform proactive, prevention-based policies that will lead to safer food and fewer illnesses."[7] In another example, the CDC and its FoodNet surveillance program conducts "active surveillance; surveys of laboratories, physicians, and the general population; and population-based epidemiologic studies" for roughly 15 percent of the U.S. population..[8] Additionally, entities like the USDA and the FDA are significant forces behind the development of regulations that affect how and when other entities—governmental and non-governmental—conduct their food and beverage testing and production activities.

We also must look outside the government level, to presumably the bulk of food and beverage labs located in the private sector. We have to use "presumably" because, as Robin Stombler of Food Safety Tech noted in April 2016, no one really knows how many food laboratories exist in, for example, the U.S.[9] As Stombler noted, this causes several problems[9]:

For example, we do not have a centralized way of determining if a particular laboratory has deficiencies in testing practices or if its accreditation has been revoked. Without knowing where and by whom testing is conducted, we are at a disadvantage in developing nationwide systems for tracking foodborne disease outbreaks and notifying laboratory professionals of emerging pathogens. We most certainly do not know if all food laboratories are following recognized testing methods and standards that affect the food we all consume.

The FDA finally made some minor progress in this department, announcing in December 2021 that food and beverage labs conducting a specific range of activities would need to become accredited, and a list of accredited labs would be maintained.[10][11] The accreditation described under the FDA's LAAF rule is voluntary, but labs wanting to participate will need to get accredited.[10] For now, only specific types of testing require accreditation, including sprouts, mass-produced eggs, bottled drinking water, certain imports, and certain items affected by recalls and other regulatory action.[12] This may expand in the future, and it may force more food and beverage labs to become accredited and recognized.

That said, these third-party food safety and quality labs exist not just because of regulatory controls, but also because private incentives towards maintaining reputation and a standard of quality in the industry. Virginia Tech's John Bovay emphasized this in an August 2022 research paper[13]:

Producers and sellers often implement private or collective standards for food safety as an investment in their own reputations. Producers who have invested in such standards can benefit from additional regulations that improve safety because these regulations can further bolster the reputation of the industry and also raise costs for rival firms. Thus, food-safety regulations may have effects on competition and certainly can have differential welfare effects.

That is all to say that reputation, standards, and regulation are interlinked in producer efforts towards safer, higher-quality foods and beverages. Supporting those efforts is, in turn, quality, standardized laboratory testing that meets or exceeds the needs of the producer, as well as the overall industry.


  1. "Burden of Foodborne Illness: Overview". Estimates of Foodborne Illness in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 5 November 2018. Retrieved 07 December 2022. 
  2. "Estimating the burden of foodborne diseases". World Health Organization. Retrieved 07 December 2022. 
  3. Molotoks, Amy; Smith, Pete; Dawson, Terence P. (1 February 2021). "Impacts of land use, population, and climate change on global food security" (in en). Food and Energy Security 10 (1). doi:10.1002/fes3.261. ISSN 2048-3694. 
  4. Din, Muhammad Sami Ul; Mubeen, Muhammad; Hussain, Sajjad; Ahmad, Ashfaq; Hussain, Nazim; Ali, Muhammad Anjum; El Sabagh, Ayman; Elsabagh, Mabrouk et al.. (2022), Jatoi, Wajid Nasim; Mubeen, Muhammad; Ahmad, Ashfaq et al.., eds., "World Nations Priorities on Climate Change and Food Security" (in en), Building Climate Resilience in Agriculture (Cham: Springer International Publishing): 365–384, doi:10.1007/978-3-030-79408-8_22, ISBN 978-3-030-79407-1, Retrieved 2022-08-10 
  5. Niza-Ribeiro, João (2022), "Food and water security and safety for an ever-expanding human population" (in en), One Health (Elsevier): 155–204, doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-822794-7.00003-4, ISBN 978-0-12-822794-7, Retrieved 2022-08-10 
  6. Miller, Joshua D; Workman, Cassandra L; Panchang, Sarita V; Sneegas, Gretchen; Adams, Ellis A; Young, Sera L; Thompson, Amanda L (1 December 2021). "Water Security and Nutrition: Current Knowledge and Research Opportunities" (in en). Advances in Nutrition 12 (6): 2525–2539. doi:10.1093/advances/nmab075. ISSN 2161-8313. PMC PMC8634318. PMID 34265039. 
  7. Almanza, A.V. (21 February 2017). "The U.S. Food Safety System Has Come A Long Way in 50 Years". U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 14 August 2022. 
  8. "About FoodNet". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 23 September 2021. Retrieved 07 December 2022. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Stombler, R. (4 April 2016). "Counting Food Laboratories". Food Safety Tech. Retrieved 07 December 2022. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 News Desk (10 December 2021). "Laboratory accreditation required by FSMA finally becoming a reality". Food Safety News. Retrieved 07 December 2022. 
  11. "FDA Releases New Dashboard for Laboratory Accreditation for Analyses of Foods Program". Food Safety Magazine. 5 August 2022. Retrieved 07 December 2022. 
  12. Douglas, S. (21 February 2022). "FDA Food Safety Modernization Act Final Rule on Laboratory Accreditation for Analyses of Foods: Considerations for Labs and Informatics Vendors". Retrieved 07 December 2022. 
  13. Bovay, John (18 August 2022). "Food safety, reputation, and regulation" (in en). Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy: aepp.13315. doi:10.1002/aepp.13315. ISSN 2040-5790. 

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Citation information for this chapter

Chapter: 1. Introduction to food and beverage laboratories

Title: LIMS Selection Guide for Food Safety and Quality

Edition: First Edition

Author for citation: Shawn E. Douglas

License for content: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Publication date: January 2023