News Feature | May 2, 2014

Proactive Food Safety Solutions To Severe Weather-Related Events

By Laurel Maloy, contributing writer, Food Online

Proactive Food Safety Solutions For Severe Weather

Processors, distributors, and shippers have responsibilities to the consignee, as well as to the consumer, in the event of severe weather occurrences and subsequent power outages

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issues Food Safety Tips on a regional or local basis as flooding, or other severe weather events, affect food safety. Though the recommendations are consumer-based, the entire food industry can benefit from the suggested guidelines to keep food safe. 

As a distributor or processor, being proactive in regard to severe weather events has the potential to set you head and shoulders above competitors. Acting, not reacting, can save a small fortune in losses. It can also go a long ways to increasing the value of your business in the eyes of those you serve. What does being proactive entail?

  • Select a person, or group of persons, to be weather-aware. This can prevent your facility from shipping a frozen or refrigerated product into an area where it cannot be stored properly
  • Have a plan in place, complete with detailed contact information. This will enable your establishment to coordinate quickly with shippers, distributors, or consignees
  • Pre-arrange storage solutions along established routes to prevent the loss or adulteration of temperature-sensitive foodstuffs. With this accomplished, you may be able to continue on-time service to unaffected customers
  • Advertise the adopted procedures. Be forthcoming with information on what your facility’s intentions are and invite comments

Severe weather also poses the potential hazard of fires. Stopping a fire from occurring is always preferable to putting out a fire. For example, simply checking this page from the National Weather Service (NWS) provides a glimpse of potential problem areas on a weekly basis. Additionally, the USDA has a twitter feed which provides relevant food safety information for all affected areas, in real time. You can also keep abreast on twitter by following FSIS for states or territories your company serves. Each state or territory has a unique twitter handle identified by the state’s postal abbreviation. For example, Pennsylvania’s FSIS alerts on twitter can be found by following @PA_FSISAlert. To follow your state or province’s alerts, simply replace “PA” in the handle with the desired postal abbreviation.

The East Coast is currently experiencing some of the worst flooding in more than 30 years. Upwards of 30,000 residents and countless businesses are without power at this time. In addition to flooding, other seasonal weather events, such as ice storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, and even straight-line winds can result in large-scale power outages. Damage to businesses as a result of these events can have drivers arriving at destinations unable to accept delivery.

However, something as simple as spotting a refrigerator trailer for temporary storage can be an invaluable solution. For a consignee facing the loss of inventory and revenue due to a lack of storage solutions, that simple offer can make a world of difference. Furthermore, never underestimate the power of the word-of-mouth. The proactive, consumer-oriented establishment will be remembered and talked about.