Well-known for its best-in-class Quality Assurance and Auditor Training services, SAI Global presents some guidance for food safety to ensure holiday celebrations are incident-free and consumers can be assured their hampers are safe and sustainable.
The festive season is in full swing with friends and family coming together from across the world to share good times, great food and beverages. However, the ever-increasing complexity of the food and beverage supply chain translates to ever-increasing levels of risk, challenging an organization’s ability to satisfy its customers in terms of quality, safety, integrity and continuity. In the food and beverage industry, failures – like contaminated foods, adulterated ingredients and the presence of un-labelled allergens – can have serious, even life-threatening, consequences.
As many gifts will be hampers containing specialist or luxury items - along with firm consumer favorites - it is important to know that the contents are free from food fraud, ethically and sustainably produced and, most importantly, safe to eat.
So, let’s look inside our own hamper, select a few of the most popular items and guide you on what you need to do in order to deliver food supply chain transparency, safety, brand protection and most important of all - consumer trust.
Hamper Item #1 - Smoked Salmon
Cold smoked salmon is regarded as a high-risk food of listeria monocytogenes contamination, so prevention and risk mitigation is key, which can be achieved through robust food safety procedures.
Fundamental in controlling this and other pathogens including salmonella and e-coli is an effective Environmental Monitoring Program (EMP) within any food processing operations. It is important to document that any production areas have been checked and validated to show there has been no cross-contamination. This may include retaining post-cleaning swab tests or, for an EMP, pre-cleaning and post-sanitization swabs. To learn about EMPs read our whitepaper, 'Recall Risks: The Importance of Environmental Monitoring for Pathogenic Bacteria'.
In addition, with many marine stocks overfished worldwide, another important food safety consideration is certification to one of the leading sustainability standards. Aquaculture has the capacity to meet global demand while reducing the pressure on wild capture fisheries. Further, as many marks are now widely recognized by consumers, this transparently demonstrates your commitment to safety and sustainability along with driving trust and brand reputation.
Hamper Item #2 - Manuka Honey
Continuity of supply is of particular concern when it comes to raw ingredients, given the increase in demand for superfood products such as Manuka honey.
Used in many processed foods and marketed for its therapeutic value, it can only be sourced from specific regions in New Zealand and Australia. Therefore, the global supply is likely not to be ample enough to support all the products claiming to include it.
Not only that, a study undertaken by the UK Food Standards Agency found that out of 93 Manuka honey samples, 10 were not true to label and 10 did not meet pollen criteria1. As we highlighted in our recent whitepaper, organizations that can certify their claims and ingredients are genuine will benefit over competitors who can’t make similar guarantees about their supply chain.
Hamper Item #3 - Chocolate
The world is experiencing a cocoa sustainability crisis stemming partly from the fact that demand for chocolate is expected to outstrip supply by 20212. While cocoa is the economic and social backbone of hundreds of rural communities, there has been a discernible shift by the world’s leading producers of chocolate to demonstrate that their products are being produced in a safe and sustainable manner and free from modern slavery and child labor . This is being achieved through regulatory controls, certification, customized assurance programs and compliance to not only food safety standards, but also to legislative demands such as the UK’s and Australia’s modern slavery acts.
Hamper Item #4 - Nuts
With food allergies increasing globally, allergens are a growing food safety risk. The World Allergy Organization associates more than 170 foods with allergic reactions, while the European Union’s Food Labeling Directive lists (and legislates for) 14 allergens. Whilst there are strong regulatory frameworks in many territories worldwide, it must be remembered that food labeling plays a critical role in preventing allergen-based food recalls and incidents and is also appropriate when cross-contamination risks cannot be eliminated.
Ultimately, as a product’s supplier – either directly to the consumer or via another food business operator – your company must ensure that the systems you have in place and the information provided to the customer, accurately reflect the allergens that are present in the product to be consumed. For an in-depth discussion, read our whitepaper on Allergen Management.
Your festive food safety video playlist
The festive season is ideal for watching a good movie and while the following suggestions may not be your normal blockbusters, they illustrate the need for robust food safety assurance and training programs to mitigate the risks highlighted.
Despite major advances in food safety, there continue to be incidents of major product recalls and media coverage of fraud, one of the most recent being a video exposing a fake Chinese wine production workshop, where a full bottling line is steadily churning out counterfeit Château La Tour Carnet.
If that doesn’t whet your festive viewing appetite, there’s always the Netflix series Rotten, a six-part show focusing on corruption in the food industry.
Culture doesn’t begin and end with the festive season; it’s an ongoing approach. Documented food safety processes and procedures are an important component of any food safety management system. However, it is the daily actions of employees which determine overall food safety performance. Such an approach requires top-management endorsement and engagement. The emergence of cultural modules included in some of the world’s leading standards and schemes - such as the GFSI benchmark Standards - ensure that audits provide a clear demonstration of a company’s intention to not only measure the culture throughout the organization, but also to recognize staff feedback and focus on continual improvement.
Wishing you all a safe and sustainable festive season
We end our festive guidance with a message from our Chief Executive Officer, John Rowley who says,
"The swift pace of social, economic and political change continues to have a direct impact on supply chain management in the food industry.
Globalization, technology and changing consumer demands are driving new and innovative food safety assurance and training services. We are proud to be at the forefront of delivering pioneering solutions which in turn deliver stakeholder engagement and consumer trust.
On behalf of all the team at SAI Global, I would like to thank you for your continued custom and we wish you all a safe and sustainable festive food season and a very happy new year.”
Chief Executive Officer
Learn more about our Food Safety products and services.
Or contact us for more information to see how SAI Global has helped organizations like yours.