In 2018 there were reports that several strawberries purchased in supermarkets, in two Australian states, were found to have sewing needles in them. An investigation discovered that the strawberries were intentionally inserted into them by a disgruntled employee. This case generated lots of concern and discussion across Australia about safe food handling, how threats to farmed food can be mitigated, and what kinds of defensive strategies business’ could implement to prevent an issue such as this from reoccurring. A single incident such as this threatens to undermine a business’ reputation, their working relationship with clients and customers, and good-standing within the community.
For these very reasons it is important for business’ within the food industry to develop a strong food defence strategy. This means analysing the existing structure of your operations to ascertain where the potential vulnerabilities lie, and taking pro-active steps to ensure that they are safely addressed, that both intentional and unintentional food threats are mitigated, which gives your business the strongest chance of keeping its food safe, contamination and hazard free, and maintaining stakeholder confidence.
Safe food practices are an effective business strategy
When working to safeguard your business against various food threats it can sometimes be a challenge even cataloguing the extent of the threats, the severity of individual threats, and what steps your business should be taking to safeguard against them. That is why it is worthwhile to implement a Food Safety Management System (FSMS) within your operations, to assist you in gaining an understanding of the scope of potential food threats to your business, what steps you can take to actively safeguard against them, how to differentiate between various food threats, and what sort of processes you can implement to minimise the chances of a threat reoccurring at a later date.
The internationally certified guidelines found within the ISO 22000 Food Safety Standard provide an effective strategy for how to get started in safeguarding your business against potential threats, improving employee morale by getting staff to play an active role in food safety management, and what validation procedures can be implemented to assess the effectiveness of your existing food safety systems, test for weak spots, and work at strengthening it as a whole. Specifically, it addresses issues such as:
- How food safety issues can happen at every stage of the food supply chain, from manufacturing, to transport, to selling. These standards work at safeguarding your business against intentional and unintentional food hazard and contamination threats at all stages. Every single day, across the world, food is manufactured, transported both nationally and internationally, and sold across a range of industries, including wholesale, retail, independent food grocers, workplace canteens, and so on. Because the scope of food production and sale is so varied, it is important to apply some consistency in its safety standards, thus keeping it safe from viral contamination, intentional sabotage, and potential worksite hazards.
- Maintaining strong communication between relevant parties at all stages of the food supply chain. By having clear, open communication the odds of potential threats being identified early on are increased, and relevant parties can discuss ideas and potential solutions with each other. This kind of open communication both increases the odds of the entire food supply chain remaining safe from threats, and it is also conducive to a supportive, happy environment, which increases the odds of potential threats being communicated clearly upon identification.
- Employing a pro-active approach to threat analysis, through the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system (HACCP). The ISO 22000 standards maintain that it is not enough for business’ to work at mitigating the effects of a food threat after its occurrence, but rather, that they should take preventative measures by conducting an analysis of the organisation’s potential hazard spots, go on the assumption that because it could occur then it will occur, and then employ preventative measures to identify it, evaluate the level of threat it poses to the organisation, and take active steps to mitigate it before it ever gets to that stage.
How will my business benefit from a Food Safety Management System?
One of the main benefits of the ISO 22000 Standards is that they address the issue of food safety through both a broad and specific context. It broadly addresses and analyses the scope of food threats your business may face at all stages of the food supply chain, and what it can do to keep its food supply safe, secure, and uphold its reputation as an organisation committed to the highest standards of food safety. It also addresses the issue of high food safety standards through a specific, individual business context, by analysing the specific food safety concerns your business faces, and providing simple, easy to implement safety solutions for it.
Regardless of the size or scope of your business, or however unique its operational style is, if it works with food as part of its daily operations then it stands to benefit for the implementation of a Food Safety Management System. If you would like to discuss what kind of advantages these standards would bring to your business, then please give Anitech Group’s consultants a call on 1300 802 163. As just a single food contamination incident can threaten the status of your business, wouldn’t you like to take the steps required to uphold your reputation?
If you would like to learn more about the basic principles behind an effective Food Safety Management System, then please click here to read another short article on the same subject.