Food safety management - focus more, audit less?
This was one of the main questions raised by companies attending the recent Campden BRI Food Safety Management Systems Masterclass. With so many different standards and such rigid approaches to food safety, companies are struggling to meet the requirements. Food companies both large and small said they needed simplified systems and investment in tools that allow them to navigate the increasingly complex operating environment.
A breadth of speakers provided perspectives from industry, academia, standards setting, consultancy, and the regulatory sectors. Commenting on a question from a delegate, Dr Robert Brackett of Illinois Institute for Food Safety and Health said, "We must be sure that the perfect does not becomes the enemy of good. Some companies are being audited so often for non-food safety issues, that they can’t focus on what’s important and it’s diluting the emphasis on food safety."
In her talk about the barriers to implementing effective food safety management systems, Sara Mortimore, Vice President for Product Safety, Quality and Regulatory Affairs at Land O'Lakes Inc said, "Complacency can be a real barrier to improvement, especially when coupled with a lack of the appropriate skills and limited access to the tools and technology that will take us forward".
The delegates were asked by Professor Carol Wallace whether HACCP has had its day and the resounding conclusion was no but that we can do a lot better with implementation. The group was fortunate to be able to hear Dr. Kevin Hargin of the Food Standards Agency talk about the potential changes to the Codex Alimentarius HACCP and Hygiene Principles.
Culture was a recurring theme throughout the presentations. The seminar acknowledged that while HACCP is a valuable tool, companies also need to have a positive food safety culture to make their food safety management system successful. Bertrand Emond of Campden BRI raised the point that there are many reasons for operators and companies not doing the right thing. We have to get better at doing root cause analysis to go deeper into what these reasons are in order to be able to address them. Dr. Joanne Taylor of Taylor Shannon International revealed the top six barriers to an effective food safety culture as identified by food and drink company employees: time, training, budget, language, premises and incentives.
The delegates participated throughout the meeting with table discussions and panel questions so the day was very interactive. Ultimately this was a thought provoking session which looked at "future proofing" our food safety management systems. Chair of the meeting, Sara Mortimore said in her opening remarks, "Our operating environment is a perfect storm of contradictions, many of todays consumers want products that have few ingredients, and are sourced locally, which in some ways goes back to our grandparents generation. Contrast that with the need to produce a lot more food for the growing global population with rapidly developing supply chains that are moving food to the markets in a different way. We must be able to navigate this changing environment and we have to adapt."