Difficulties in addressing research problems can revolve around the data collection process 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 effects on production levels, capital investment, regulatory inquiries, unwarranted publicity, or other legal issues can arise depending on the nature of information gathered, and possible inadvertent information released into the public domain. Well-designed clinical trials with animals or humans use blinding methods to reduce bias. This project applied a similar strategy to sensitive data acquisition in the effort to gather meaningful food safety related data while assuring 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 provided insight into current industry practices without potential downsides for participating companies. Analysis of food safety concerns using industry data and distribution of findings can be of assistance industry-wide in 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 benefit of blinding protocols promotes industry participation and creates data collection with anonymity of the original source that can improve reliability of the research and applicability for conclusion to the industry. These blinding protocols are suitable for use in future food safety research projects involving data within and between different segments of the food industry and could be used to encourage collection of valuable industry samples and data.

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