COVID 19 has dominated the food industry in 2020 and had a significant influence on some of the trends I highlighted at the beginning of the year. It is always interesting to review predictions particularly as when I wrote my BLOG at the end of 2019 COVID was only just emerging. No-one could have predicted what has happened in 2020!
These food safety trends had an impact on food businesses in 2020 (5 out of 12 isn’t bad in the circumstances):
- Higher standards for food service platforms . Just Eat pledged to remove zero rated restaurants and to have a minimum standard of level 3 for all new restaurants on the platform.
- More focus on allergen management. Cross contamination risks are an important part of the FHRS rating scheme now and non compliance affects food business ratings
- The development in labelling of Pre-Packed Food at Direct Point of Sale (PPDS). The technical guidance was published in June 2020 and the new law will be in force from October 2021.
- More sustainable and recyclable food packaging. Environmental packaging was high on the agenda until COVID took hold but unfortunately contamination risks have affected its use.
- Continued increase in online food safety training. Online training has increased in response to the COVID epidemic as more people work from home and has replace face to face training
However, there is still no formal reporting system for illnesses caused by allergens or responsibility in Central Government, but the current lobbying for a Hospitality Minister may change this in the future.
There has not been much focus on food safety culture again due to the COVID epidemic. However behavioral science has been used to encourage customers ‘to do the right thing’ to reduce the transmission of the virus. Therefore it could be used more to develop food safety culture in the future.
Also there is no central data base for food business registrations or a licensing system for food businesses but again fingers crossed for the future.
And so to 2021:
- A change in the certification of goods being exported from Great Britain to Europe. DEFRA have introduced a new food certification system to ensure food that is leaving this country has passed the necessary health checks which is being implemented from 1st January 2021
- Continued diversification in food businesses. T0 enable food businesses to continue to trade during COVID restrictions, including outdoor eating and takeaway options. We have already seen an increase in outdoor eating pods and similar options.
- A review of how food businesses are inspected by Local Authorities. In response to the reduction in inspections due to COVID restrictions
- Continued reduction of human interaction in hospitality venues. As the COVID epidemic continues the use of QR codes, contactless payments etc. will still be the focus for most hospitality businesses
- More attention on food fraud. As the sale of unfit or potentially harmful and the deliberate mis-description of food continues to rise.
- Further development of online systems for managing food safety. To include automated temperature monitoring, food safety management system apps etc.
- Further use and development of webinars, hybrid conferences, meetings and online learning. This will help to comply with social distancing whilst COVID continues but also recognizing the cost savings in reduced travel and working from home for the future
- A continued increase and focus on plant food. This is both at home and eating out which will help reduce CO2 and green house gas emissions and also for health reasons
- An increase in home kitchens and bakeries . This is in response to the huge amount of people starting up new food businesses as a result of redundancies during the COVID epidemic
- Ongoing focus on allergen management. To include labelling and cross contamination risks as takeaway food and deliveries increase due to COVID restrictions.
COVID will continue to have an impact on trends at least for the first part of the year until the vaccination program starts to have some control over the virus. Then after that who knows?