Food safety – why we need to get it right

A range of high profile food safety incidents in recent years have impacted on consumer confidence in the global food supply. In Australia, consumers are now seeking a higher level of discoverability and assurances regarding the safety of the food they eat.

The list of incidents is lengthy, and during 2018 we have had illnesses such as listeriosis linked to rockmelons, hepatitis A to pomegranate arils, major recalls of contaminated frozen vegetables, and now issues with the integrity of honey.

For these reasons, it is incumbent on our dairy industry to continue to manufacture and market fresh, healthy, high-quality products. Its starts with having food supply chain traceability which can trace a finished product back from the table-to-farm, and along the way implementing and maintaining effective food safety programs. These programs manage identified food safety hazards at every step from receipt of raw materials, through processing, to the marketing of products.

However, a key factor is management commitment to ensuring only safe and suitable products enter the marketplace. It is not enough to just say you're committed to food safety – it must be ingrained in a company’s food safety culture.

A food safety culture starts at the top, with management defining the company’s food safety expectations, and communicating these expectations throughout the business, from the top down to the worker on the floor, permeating every level of a food business.

Everybody should be targeted, and the message must be specific to each person’s role, thereby ensuring they will be more engaged in the culture change by understanding the expectations and behaviours specific to them.

The benefits of introducing a food safety culture are significant. Adopting a culture of food safety doesn't need to be overwhelming or difficult, but even if it is, it is less expensive than managing an outbreak of foodborne illness or a recall.