Talking Food Safety with the Industry

LRQA Food blog from Cor Groenveld

I am in a food safety and manufacturing summit in Amsterdam today. In fact it’s not in Amsterdam itself but it’s in a very nice area close to the North Sea. It is a two day conference. The conference is being attended by a lot of quality food safety people. But also what we see is that there is a lot of interest from people from other areas of the food industry because the topics are not only food safety it’s also talking about the other concerns in the food supply chain like sustainability, corporate responsibility and this kind of things.

I must say that it’s quite impressive when you look at the list of food companies here. We have companies like Coke, we have Danone, we have Unilever, we have PepsiCo, we have Mars, we have Cargill, and I can go on and go on. There are I think more than 120 delegates at this conference and what is interesting is that we see a lot of good cases from the manufacturers themselves. Showing how they are addressing the hazard and risk in the food supply chain, they are showing the best practices. So it’s a very open discussion and it’s a big learning experience I think for all the different parties.

One of the presentations I saw today was from Unilever, it was the Head of the European Operations, and that was absolutely about efficiency in the supply chain. He talked about stock reductions, all kinds of tools that are used by Unilever. Again, it’s an example that the food supply chains are also really focusing on more effectiveness and efficiency as an important issue. Another one was Heinz, it was the Head of the Operational Risk Management for EMA, or Europe, Middle East and Africa, and he talked about sustainability. What’s interesting was he said when you want to work on sustainability, the first thing you have to do is ask yourself where do we want to go, where do we want to be as an organisation and also what is realistic, what is achievable. He said there is a lot of companies who just say yes we want to be carbon neutral, he said but perhaps that’s not achievable at least not on short notice. So make sure your objectives are realistic and achievable.

Another example was PepsiCo, PepsiCo also talked about sustainability. And as an example I found it very interesting, it was just a case study saying here you have a two litre packet of orange juice and it produces 1.7 kilograms of CO2 and 60% comes from the oranges, and most of it comes from production of fertilisers. And that shows very clearly that the food supply chain is now really analysing what is happening and analysing where they need to control risks in the supply chain.

I was privileged to do a presentation today as well. I had a full hour so that was quite a lot of time, so we had opportunity to have good discussions. What I mainly did was talk about food safety but also other concerns of the food supply chain and I was really mirroring the audience on how reliable is your food now. I showed them a number of very interesting figures you can find on different sources like the WHO, the World Health Organisation, but also the Centre of disease control in America. But those facts and figures show that we are doing a good job in controlling food safety and other concerns but we are absolutely not there yet. There are still a lot of food scares, still a lot of recalls, we still have quite a lot of problems in the food supply chain. And then I translated that to a solution with three main elements: 1) first of all, it is important to have a risk based management system, to identify the hazards and the risks and to find the right control measures. 2) The second bit is the supply chain approach, most of the food scares start in the beginning of the supply chain, so it’s important to make sure that there is a supply chain approach towards these concerns. 3) and finally, do not control only food safety in your management system, your management system can also cover other risk areas. Why have different systems in place when you can have one integrated management system to cover all of your concerns?

That led to a lot of discussions and good questions, one of which was about the acceptance from retailers when we talk about different standards in the food supply chain, and I showed that there is positive progress, more and more retailers accept all of the GFSI recognised standard, but we are still not there. Also, there were questions about the new standards in ISO. ISO has developed a number of standards in the 22000 series, and I explained what standards are being developed at the moment. And I showed the progress on FSSC 22000, because there is accredited certification available, more and more food manufacturers are listed now on the website of FSSC as being certified.

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