Difficulties associated with addressing research problems can revolve around the collection of data from private entities. Potential issues can arise when collecting food samples or food safety data from industry or third-party sources because of concerns about distribution or exposure of potentially sensitive information. Industry is cautious of its involvement in research projects because issues associated with production levels, capital investment, regulatory inquiries, unwarranted publicity, or other legal aspects can arise depending on the nature of information gathered, and information may be inadvertently released into the public domain. Well-designed clinical trials with animals or humans use blinding methods to reduce bias. In this study, a similar strategy was applied to acquisition of sensitive data to gather meaningful food safety related data while assuring that information provided was not at risk. Blinding methods for collecting electronic data and material samples were created to obtain materials and records directly from participating frozen food companies. This approach provided insight into current industry practices without potential downsides for participating companies. Analysis of food safety concerns using industry data and the distribution of findings can be of assistance industry-wide for conducting risk assessments and developing improved research-based food safety plans. The method described was designed to collect information using blinding protocols to reduce bias and prevent traceback to the original source. The use of blinding protocols promotes industry participation and creates data collection with anonymity for the original source, which can improve reliability of the research and applicability for industry. These blinding protocols are suitable for use in future food safety research projects involving data within and between various segments of the food industry and could be used to encourage collection of valuable industry samples and data.
A method was created to collect food safety data anonymously.
Blinding protocols were used for collection of materials and electronic samples.
Blinding protocols encourage industry participation and prevent traceback.