Food safety expert adds to the uniqueness of Niagara College’s FBIC

Around the world, an estimated 600 million people – almost 1 in 10 – fall ill after eating contaminated food each year. Concerns over food safety have also been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s why Angela Tellez-Lance’s unique combination of skills as a food scientist and engineer make her a highly valuable team member of the Food & Beverage Innovation Centre (BCIC). She helps businesses get their products in the market and ensures we can enjoy high quality, safe, food and drinks.

Angela Tellez-Lance, PhD, is FBIC’s Research Lead, Senior Food Safety Expert. She leads food safety initiatives and assessments for the Innovation Centre and acts as the main contact with food regulatory agencies in Canada and the U.S. Most recently, Angela structured the FBIC Pilot Plant’s food safety plan, and leads its food safety team.

Angela advises food manufacturers on control measures and innovative alternatives to make sure their products are safe.

Having been part of the FBIC team for five years now, Angela works closely with Ana Cristina Vega-Lugo, PhD, Scientific Manager, FBIC staff, pilot plant staff, as well as research assistants, to ensure food and beverage products that are going to the market are safe.

“The best part of working with R&I is the good working environment and being able to work so closely with the team,” she said.

“Having the two disciplines, product development and food safety, working together to make a very good product that is going to be safe with high quality is really rewarding,” she added.

What happens for many small- to mid-size processors is that they don’t have an internal expert, or the budget for one, who specializes in food safety, so by working with FBIC, they can tap into resources and knowledge they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Most large retailers have requirements that businesses must meet for them to carry their products and put them on store shelves. Firstly, they must meet either the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulations, or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, be Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) certified, as well as be certified in one of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) schemes.

“There are a lot of innovation centres in North America, but seeing how FBIC is able to take an idea from an industry partner and turn it into a reality in a fast, efficient way is what makes us unique.”
– Angela Tellez-Lance, PhD, Research Lead, Senior Food Safety Expert,
Food & Beverage Innovation Centre

HACCP certification

A recent win for FBIC’s Beverage Pilot Plant was becoming HACCP certified. The road to this certification has been a long but rewarding one. HACCP is a food safety management system that addresses food safety by analyzing and controlling biological, chemical, and physical hazards related to preparing, producing, handling, and consuming food products.

The HACCP certification is an international standard for the effective control of food safety in the food industry. The majority of the top food manufacturers, food processors and food vendors worldwide use the HACCP food safety system to manage food safety throughout the food supply chain and comply with GFSI audit schemes.

To receive this HACCP certification, there were several milestones that Angela and the FBIC team had to meet. The first one was the design of the pilot plant – it had to meet good manufacturing practices and document / implement the preventive control plans to obtain the CFIA licence. The final step was to obtain HACCP certification.

Once all those milestones were complete, the pilot plant was audited, the team passed, and they received their HACCP certification. With this certification under their belt, this means the FBIC team can expand their market because with these certifications and can process and manufacture the actual products that go to the market.

The next step the pilot plant is aiming for is GFSI certification. Once successful, this certification shows that a facility has good manufacturing practices and complies with regulations and will allow its products to be sold in larger retail stores.

Being a part of the process of taking ideas to reality is another part of the job Angela loves.

“The clients come to us with these marvellous ideas, and we work together to find a way to make these products food safe and help get them to market,” she said.

The other thing that stands out to Angela, as she has worked at various educational institutions over her career, is that the structure of FBIC works: “There are a lot of innovation centres in North America, but seeing how FBIC is able to take an idea from an industry partner and turn it into a reality in a fast, efficient way is what makes us unique,” she notes.

The flexibility and agility of the team helps make projects successful, and the fact that the College supports the growth of research and innovation and makes it a priority is critical too, she added.

While Angela is passionate about her work, her No. 1 priority outside of the office is her family, and they have their own milestone coming up.

“On September 15, my family will be celebrating 20 amazing years in Canada. Having moved here from Colombia, I am so grateful for the opportunities that living in this country have given my children and I,” she said with a smile.

Her family will celebrate with a party at a local restaurant in Guelph, where she first landed when she moved to Canada.

If you have an innovation challenge that could use a solution based in science that meetings regulatory requirements, visit the Food & Beverage Innovation Centre, or if you have a project idea to share, contact David DiPietro, Manager, Business Development, at [email protected].