Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Innovation, Food Safety and Regulation

Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Innovation, Food Safety and Regulation

Article excerpt


Participants along the food chain continuum, whether primary producers, manufacturers, retailers or caterers, are continually challenged to remain competitive either in the global and/or their local marketplace(s). Innovation is considered a key element to success in this endeavour through the development of new products, processes, services and markets.

The food industry has a long history of innovation that often is linked with or a consequence of the prevailing social and economic trends of the day. For example, in western countries since the Second World War there have been some significant changes in the foods we eat and the way food is delivered (See healthydiet/seasonsandcelebrations/howweusedtoeat/ 21stfood/ for a summary of food history in the United Kingdom). This is a result of the dynamic interactions between changes in society such as food availability, demographics, economy, migration and travel, work and leisure patterns, married together with the food and related industries making the most of innovation opportunities to meet societies evolving needs and desires. This is achieved by applying developments in disciplines such as medical science, food science and technology, various disciplines of engineering, information technology and transportation.

Post World War II, consumers in western countries emerged from years where the food supply consisted mainly of rationed staple foods that were locally produced and available seasonally. Until all households had refrigerators for food storage, food was procured daily. Since then, the availability and variety of food in the marketplace has changed with increased family income, acquisition of facilities for chilled and frozen food storage, the emergence of the selfservice supermarket and super store retailers with multi-level car-parks, globalisation of the supply chain, and now internet shopping. Underpinning these changes are innovations that provide product diversity and differentiation and those that enhance food stability and extend shelf life, provide new packaging shapes and functions, and more sophisticated refrigeration engineering.

Changes in the traditional family structure, a baby boom, greater liberty for women and economic demands during this time have contributed to increasing single person households; both parents or house partners spending most of the day away from their residence at work and travelling to and from work. This has resulted in a need for easier to prepare and convenient socalled ready-to-cook or ready-to-eat and eat-onthe- go meals and snacks. The innovations that have been applied in response to this are endless. These includes developments in technologies for rapid cooking (microwave), food formulation, food preservation and packaging, and the introduction of systematic food safety management systems to name a few.

Consumers at the same time have become more diverse in their tastes, more conscious of the health implications of food consumption, more aware of the composition and origins of their food, and express concern about environmental impacts of food production and packaging. The food industry has been rapid to respond to a desire for 'fresher' and less processed foods, to re-formulate food to have lower levels of sugar, salt and fat and to find innovative ways to increase the nutrient value, the functionality of foods, and the pleasure of eating.

The above provides some examples of the innovation that has taken place in the food supply over the last sixty years in developed countries. Some of the innovation is obvious to the consumer (the microwave oven, a biodegradable package, bread fortified with omega 3 fatty acid, genetically modified soy), much is not (processing methods, food safety management systems based on risk). While food is our major source of nutrients it can also be a major source of exposure to health hazards such as chemicals, microorganisms and pharmacological agents. …

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