Food Safety is now in the boardroom - right where it belongs

LRQA Food blog from Cor Groenveld The title of today’s blog probably seems like an obvious fact to most of you in the food sector. But, back when I started in the food sector (a very long time ago!) that was not the case. As organisations increasingly treat risk management as a core principle of their business, food safety has become a topic that companies in the food supply chain address at the highest levels. When people join the GFSI Global Food Safety Conference next week in London, they will see the board members from some of the industry’s largest organisations. I looked at the programme, and it was clear that this event is on the sector’s radar. Director level speakers will be focusing on sustainability, CSR and other key risk areas for the food sector. The main reason for that is if you are a CEO of a food company, of course you want to protect your brand, that’s one of the most important things you need to worry about. And board members want to sleep well at night. Senior management teams are proactively managing risks like food safety, sustainability, animal welfare and even things like child labour. Those are amongst the boardroom issues for food companies being monitored, discussed and managed. You do not want your name in the public space in connection with any of the above areas. That leads me to why I will be in London next week. There is a huge drive within food companies to have robust management systems in place to support them in their goal of controlling these risks. In the past, it was the quality manager who was responsible for everything and when something was wrong it was his fault, but that system didn’t always solve the issues. It has become clear to the industry that senior management and CEO’s need to show commitment and they have to invest in people and systems. Equally important, they have to prove it. Organisations need to be transparent in their activities and independent assessment and certification is widely accepted by food sector stakeholders as the most trustworthy form of transparency. That transparency is what builds consumer trust, which leads to a stronger brand value. That trust is also what helps organisations survive when something does go wrong. People will give a company the benefit of the doubt if there is trust there to start with. If not, then one small mistake can be the beginning of the end. Remember.... I will be at the event in London (16th February - 18th February) which is one of the biggest global food safety conferences.  You can find out more about LRQA's food month activities at www.food.lrqa.com Read my previous blog and listen to the 'food month' podcasts