The Food Safety Bar Must Continue to Rise

Nestlé’s revamped quality center in Dublin, Ohio is our way of seeing the FDA’s new rigorous standards — and raising them

The esteemed American food writer Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher once wrote, “First we eat, then we do everything else.”

That simple notion resonates with us at Nestlé, the world’s largest food company. Every day, millions of people in the U.S. and all over the world choose Nestlé products and brands. Families rely on us to provide the food that fuels them. Our reputation for consistently delivering high-quality products should give them confidence in every sip or bite.

But a company does not celebrate its 150th birthday, as Nestlé is this year, by being complacent or satisfied — especially when it comes to food quality and safety. Complying with the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety requirements is all well and good, but we cannot expect laws and regulations to fully anticipate and protect our consumers from food safety concerns.

Americans today have become seasoned food critics, from assessing the nutritional value to understanding the sourcing of ingredients. In a Harris Poll that we commissioned this summer, nearly 4 in 5 Americans said they are concerned about food safety. More than 3 in 5 indicated that food contamination is the food safety issue that most concerns them.

Nestlé has put safety first since our earliest days in Vevey, Switzerland, where our company was founded and where Fisher herself once lived. Today, we foster a culture of quality with a vision to develop, manufacture and sell safe, top-quality products that deliver on our nutrition, health and wellness promise to customers.

Food Tech in Dublin, Ohio

To get a glimpse of this safety and quality mindset and really, a whiff of the future, you should set your sights on Dublin, Ohio, a charming city just outside of Columbus. It’s now home to the Nestlé Quality Assurance Center (NQAC), which is the largest and most sophisticated testing facility in the Nestlé network and possibly the world. There, our guardians of food safety — more than 220 chemists, microbiologists, food scientists and quality specialists — analyze Nestlé products and ingredients from throughout the Americas. We’ve invested $31 million to double the size of the original facility, which opened a quarter-century ago, adding 32,000 square feet of lab space.

What happens in Dublin? Teams at this state of the art facility conduct about 1 million tests a year (about one test every 30 seconds) — seven days a week. Ingredient, environment and product samples are shipped to Dublin overnight in temperature-controlled conditions to verify that they are free of microbiological and chemical contaminants, while delivering the nutritional value that the labels promise. Nestlé’s NQAC facilities operate independently of our company’s many brands and businesses, implementing a system of checks and balances that is second to none.

Nestlé’s global procurement team sets strict standards and thoroughly vets our vendors, our factories validate and closely manage product and process controls to ensure the safety and quality of our products. We never stop monitoring and verifying that the products that are destined for your pantry or refrigerator meet our stringent requirements. The Dublin facility was designed to provide tools, technologies and expert resources to ensure that Nestlé not only meets federal requirements for food safety, but exceeds them.

Exceeding FDA Regulations

Nestlé’s Dublin NQAC expansion is opening just as the FDA implements more rigorous food safety standards. The final preventative rules that the FDA issued related to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) take effect next month. FSMA, which was signed into U.S. law in 2011 and which Nestlé supports, gives the FDA greater enforcement authority while introducing new food safety management requirements for all FDA-regulated products. Beyond compliance, we’ve publicly called for Congress to prioritize funding of FSMA to advance the way we and other food manufacturers keep our products safe at each step in the supply chain.

Regulation plays an important role in our industry, but forward-thinking companies and those looking out for consumers must set a higher bar. When it comes to food safety, doing just what is required will never be enough. Nestlé understands this. The Dublin NQAC renovation is a sign of our deep commitment to safety and the highest food quality standards in the world.

With Nestlé products in 97% of U.S. households, consumers have a right to expect more from us — and we hold ourselves accountable for their safety. We also understand that consumers put “Big Food” companies like us — with more than 330,000 employees, hundreds of factories and sales that reach 189 countries — under the microscope. We welcome such scrutiny, which is why we invite you to see for yourself what’s going on in Dublin and the 24 other NQAC labs around the world. These facilities are among the many reasons why Nestlé is acknowledged as the industry benchmark for food safety and compliance.

Yes, we’re the world’s largest food company, and our size is matched by a commensurate commitment to nutrition, health, wellness and food safety.

This story was also adapted for FoodNavigator.com