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Viewing food safety through the lens of risk management is the prevailing practice today. However, if the focus changed, companies would find that food safety can move beyond risk mitigation to become a source of growth and economic progress.

Successful partnerships between Ecolab and customers across the food supply chain have spawned a strategic and philosophical outlook and the belief that it’s time for a fresh perspective. Ecolab is now demonstrating this every day through products and programs designed to enhance food safety and increase profitability for their partners by enabling them to seize new opportunities for growth.

A centuries-old industry faces new food safety concerns

Recent shifts in consumer preferences, ingredient supply chains and government regulations are putting new pressure on the brewing industry.

Traditionally, brewing has been focused on cleanliness and employing operational practices focused on quality. Relying primarily on malt, yeast, hops and water as ingredients and the inherent hurdles to biological growth in the brewing process left little that could go wrong. This has been changing in reaction to evolving consumer tastes and the need to differentiate through new beer styles. Today, brewers employ all sorts of flavorings including spices, fruits, nuts, starches, and shellfish to create new beers. The intrinsic properties of beer responsible for many of the antimicrobial characteristics such as alcohol, CO2, pH, IBUs are pushed to their limits.

In the U.S., breweries have been regulated by the Department of the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and not by the FDA. This has influenced the mindset that beer is not food and thus should not be subject to the types of food safety regulations imposed on food. This mindset has been shaken to the core with the inclusion of alcoholic beverages as products covered under the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the latest amendment to the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. Designed and aimed at prevention of contamination rather than response to it, the law addresses the materials and rules most breweries and other food producers function under today.

Through FSMA, manufacturers of alcoholic beverages must comply with current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). A basic outline of cGMP includes:

  • Personnel: disease control, cleanliness, education, and training
  • Plant and grounds: kept in a condition to prevent contamination
  • Sanitary operations: general maintenance of the physical plant, control over cleaning and sanitizing substances, pest control, and sanitation of food contact surfaces
  • Sanitary facilities and controls: water supply, plumbing, sewage disposal, hand washing, and trash removal
  • Equipment and utensils: adequately cleanable, properly maintained, and designed, constructed, and used to preclude adulteration
  • Process and controls: quality control, staff responsibilities, and control and management of raw materials and ingredients
  • Warehousing and distribution: proper storage and transportation of products to minimize potential for contamination
  • Defect action levels: natural or unavoidable defects presenting no health hazard
  • Human food by-products diverted for use as animal food: proper holding and distribution of brewery by-products such as spent grain to reduce the risk of these materials creating a food safety hazard to the next user (e.g., animals)

To meet FSMA requirements and address the Master Brewers Association of Americas (MBAA) and industry recommended food safety practices, brewers are challenged to employ a systematic approach to controlling significant food safety hazards from raw materials acquisition through to consumption of their product. This starts with the implementation of cGMP as part of FSMA compliance and going beyond simply compliance by implementing a risk-based approach to food safety.

Creating valuable results for tomorrow, and seeing them today

MBAA has partnered with Ecolab to develop brewery-specific food safety training to help brewers apply the methodology outlined in Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). The challenges facing the brewing industry underscore the mounting need on the part of all food and beverage manufacturers for connected technologies. An IoT-empowered food safety system facilitates informed action – increasing agility, flexibility and speed through:

  • Improved compliance
  • Greater operational efficiency
  • Automated monitoring and records maintenance
  • The ability to predict risk and proactively resolve issues before problems occur.

Partnering with food safety experts who can deliver innovative technology and provide guidance from consulting through implementation opens new opportunities for new product offerings, efficient production and increased food safety protections for the business and for consumers.

For more information go to MBAA Publications “Why should the Malting and Brewing Industry Be Concerned About Food Safety?

See Ecolab and our brewing industry partners in action by participating in the Food Safety Discovery Tours. Learn more about our vision of food safety as a growth-driver at the GFSI Global Food Safety Conference, and contribute your insights at booth #310. Or visit at Ecolab.com/FoodSafety.


This post was written and contributed by:

Tatiana Lorca, PhD

Senior Manager, Food Safety Education & Training, Food & Beverage.

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