Reduce the Risk: How to Combat Food Contamination with Icicle
In 2022, Canadian news reports covered two unusual food contamination incidents involving accidental aconite poisoning, where the common ingredient ginger root powder was contaminated with aconite, also known as the “queen of poisons,” which looks almost identical to ginger in powder form.
These seemingly minor errors of mistaken ingredients – which sent multiple people to hospital this year – highlight the importance of effective hazard management in food manufacturing. Not only did these incidents endanger public health, they also led to product recalls that cost manufacturers, distributors, and one now-infamous Markham restaurant, in terms of damaged customer trust and damaged bottom lines.
While aconitine contamination in ginger root powder is unusual, chemical contamination in general is more common. Either way, let’s take a closer look at this pair of public health events and see how Icicle ERP, designed with food safety first and foremost in mind, could help address risks like aconitine contamination in the food production process.
Multiple Instances of Aconite Poisoning Result in Severe Illnesses Across Canada
The first aconite poisoning incident took place in British Columbia, where two people ended up in the emergency room with heart irregularities after ingesting contaminated sand ginger (galanga) powder. The outbreak was traced back to a local distributor that had not included lot codes on its packaging, leading to a general public health advisory from the local authority to discard all sand ginger products from that distributor.
The second, more serious chemical contamination incident in August hit international news when 12 diners at a Markham, Ontario restaurant were hospitalized after eating a chicken dish that contained contaminated sand ginger powder. Following a scramble to identify the source of the poisoning, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a Class 1, Canada-wide recall for Mr. Right brand Keampferia Galangal Powder.
These illnesses were the result of aconite poisoning; the roots of plants in the Aconitum family, known for their medicinal and deadly poisonous properties, look very similar to ginger root, but are highly toxic without proper preparation. While both of these cases were found to be unintentional, they highlight repercussions of human error in food production.
What can food business do to prevent these kinds of dangerous mistakes, or to mitigate the impact if a recall is issued for a product or an ingredient in your supply chain? Icicle ERP provides its users with the ability to leverage data not only to meet these crucial needs, but to generate revenue and brand confidence.
Strong Supplier Management is the First Line of Defence Against Food Contamination
One of the biggest risks for any food manufacturer, no matter how high they set their safety and quality standards, is getting an ingredient from a supplier that doesn’t do the same. This is where supplier management comes in to ensure that all your suppliers are fully compliant with food safety regulations to prevent hazards, including chemical contamination, as well as fully vetted for potential threats and vulnerabilities from food fraud to bioterrorism.
Effective supplier management with Icicle leverages automation technology to make it easy, including by:
- Ensuring that third-party supplier certifications are up-to-date
- Monitoring supplier quality, cost, delivery, and risk potential through past trends
- Scheduling tasks and reminders for certification renewals
- Simplifying supplier assessments to identify threats and vulnerabilities
In the case of something like aconitine contamination, Icicle’s automated supplier management features could help prevent incidents in the first place with supplier assessments, rapidly identify incidents and help you trace them back to their source, and switch suppliers with confidence when needed.
Automation Features Deliver Extra Layers of Protection Against Recalls
Icicle has accumulated a huge amount of non-identifying information numbering approximately 1.4 million ingredients. In fact, we are proud to offer the largest food-based database in the world to our users. From this database, it is simple to automatically leverage data on hazards so that your team is informed of potential risks, with reduced human error.
When we read about the aconite poisonings in the news, we ran Icicle’s Smart Suggestions feature to see if it would have flagged aconitine contamination for sand ginger root powder. This feature mines our entire database for potential hazards associated with any ingredient used for production, as well as associated process steps, to streamline the identification of hazards for HACCP and PCP programs. As we expected, Icicle’s huge database was able to use its powerful algorithms to identify even this unusual ingredient hazard, helping our users adopt comprehensive, preventative food safety procedures that reduce the risks of chemical contamination like this one.
Traceability Enables Rapid Response to Food Contamination at Every Level of the Supply Chain
When it comes to detecting non-conformities, especially when there are health risks on the table, time is of the essence. Icicle’s centralized system pulls real-time data from your entire production chain to deliver enhanced traceability capabilities – the kind of capabilities most food businesses will need to have when the US FDA raises traceability standards by 2025.
Our auditor loves Icicle because we can do a mock recall in 30 seconds or less – it’s so easy! Product, lot, number, bang! It was done.
Felix Irnich, COO of DaVinci Gelato
Imagine for a moment the unpleasant possibility that one of the suppliers of contaminated ginger root powder was also your supplier. The recall is underway and some of your products might have been affected. Icicle provides the visibility you need to track and trace any ingredient (or material) in your facility with pinpoint precision, helping you respond quickly to a recall by triggering corrective actions and identifying possible contamination down to the lot code to protect public health and minimize waste.
Advanced recall strategies made possible with Icicle ERP take traceability to the next level, not just helping you respond to crises but also to prevent them from happening in the first place. With automation tools, Icicle can help your safety and quality staff operate with real-time data that enables them to catch non-conformities early, improve overall procedures, and ultimately avoid costly losses of unusable product.
Ingredient Hazard Data Bolsters Food Safety
Poisoning events, along with other forms of chemical contamination in the food production process, can have serious repercussions: huge recalls, harm to consumers, destruction of brand reputations, as well as heightened regulatory burdens. Adopting preventative measures with automation tools designed specifically for the food industry, you can protect your business from the negative effects of recalls and outbreaks.
Preventative measures can be hard to quantify in terms of their return on investment, but governments and businesses recognize that. Alongside mandated food safety programs and impending regulatory requirements for modernized traceability systems, there are also incentives like government grant programs and breaks on insurance costs to reward companies that demonstrate their commitment to safety and quality.
Are you interested in creating a culture of food safety, staying ahead of competitors, and reducing vulnerability against food contaminations? Contact our team for a free demo, and sign-up for our mailing list.