Ian Thomas Associates

World Food Safety Day 2023 – a time to review, reflect and respond

Introduction

As the saying goes, “if it is not safe, it is not food”.

Wednesday, 7 June 2023 is World Food Safety Day. It is a time to celebrate the efforts of the many who strive continuously to keep our food safe whilst reminding the few of the importance of not putting consumers’ lives in jeopardy by lack of thought or care, or through deliberate criminality.

Food may be unsafe due to what it contains such as a pathogen, a foreign object such as glass or an undeclared pathogen. Production, manufacture, supply chains and information are all relevant to keeping food safe.

Food professionals like easy ways to remember basic rules such as the four ‘Cs’; cleaning, cooking, chilling and [avoiding] cross-contamination.

World Food Safety Day might be a good time for the 3 ‘Rs’. I am not referring to the ones we were taught at school (reading, [w]riting and [a]rithmetic), nor Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, but my own version; review, reflect and respond. They apply to food businesses and to consumers.

Review

Businesses

Now is a great time for food business operators to review their activities to ensure they are fully compliant with all applicable laws and guidance. This is particularly relevant if procedures have changed due to developing a new product line, sourcing new ingredients, using different suppliers or when a business has expanded its size or its offer. One often overlooked part of a food business operation is crisis management. Now is a good time to check that it exists, is in order and up to date.

Consumers

We all need food, but our choices are often dependent on our personal situation along with factors outside our control (climate, conflict and catastrophe). Price is often a major factor that restricts choice. Nevertheless, as consumers, we can review our food choices to determine their suitability for our needs having regard to our circumstances.

Reflect

Businesses

Once the business is fully compliant, it can take time to reflect on opportunities to improve its activities and employ more effective ways to engage with customers and consumers. Is there a better way to promote its message in a more consumer-friendly way, particularly to those who depend on this for their safety (e.g. allergens), life choices (e.g. vegetarian/vegan) or other considerations (e.g. the environment).

Consumers

The onus for providing safe food rests with the manufacturer or producer. Consumers, rightly, expect that their food will be safe and the information provided is accurate. We also have a role to play in ensuring that food does not cause harm. We should reflect on how well we read, and follow, the information provided about what is in the food and how it must be handled, stored and cooked.

Respond

Businesses

Having reviewed and reflected, it is not unreasonable to expect that some businesses will have identified at least one positive change that can be introduced. If so, this should be done in a way that involves the workforce so they understand the reasons for the change and how it will improve food safety. Staff engagement is an important factor in developing a positive food safety culture.

Consumers

Consumers may have identified that a food is more suitable to their needs and values in terms of health, lifestyle or, more frequently, the impact on the environment. They may now wish to respond by changing allegiance by choosing that more relevant product. Whether they can do so often depends on their circumstances.

Conclusion

Supplying safe food is an absolute duty and consuming food that is safe is an absolute right.

Businesses must constantly adopt a rigorous proactive approach to ensure that their food is safe to eat and all the information about the food is accurate. Advice and guidance should be taken to ensure compliance. When things go wrong, help is available to mitigate the potentially serious adverse consequences on the business, its individuals and its brand.

This article is for information purposes only.

Please contact us for further assistance or guidance about any food law related matters occurring in Ireland or in the UK.

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