If you’re working in food processing today, it’s likely you’re already well aware of the increasing challenges posed by national governments and the World Health Organisation to ensure that products placed on the market are safe.
Of course, these concerns are valid and understandable. Public health is and should always be a primary concern for us all. As an industry we’re also all very mindful of the economic impact of getting food safety wrong. In 2011, it’s estimated that 48m Americans got sick and 128k were hospitalised as a result of food hygiene issues1. The cost to the US economy was $77.7bn in that year alone. Similarly in the UK, in 2012, there were more than 1m cases of food poisoning, with 20k hospitalised and 500 deaths at a cost of nearly £1.5bn2.
The challenge is clearly a big one. It’s also becoming increasingly complex to manage.
Historically, food safety agendas mainly focussed upon assessing and managing risk within the primary processing and manufacturing unit. But there is now a greater realisation that any supply chain is, in reality, an aggregation of multiple supply chains derived from the numerous components which make up the products. Consequently, modern food safety agendas now recognise that attention needs to be focused across the supply chain end to end. Any single failure to identify or respond to a threat can result in a major incident.
Generally the most significant threats tend to arise from microbiological contamination, environmental contamination, natural chemical contamination or allergens. But the nature, frequency and the ways these risks manifest in each market are very diverse. As such, they can be difficult to tackle in isolation.
The challenge that the food industry faces is that without the ability to review supply chains from end to end across different regions, reducing the residual vulnerability associated with assuring product safety is virtually impossible.
This is where new and emerging connected technologies can really start to help.
Organisations are now deploying remote sensors that enable continuous 24/7 monitoring of all activity – new hygiene systems can even check the extent to which staff wash their hands. Pest management systems enable 24/7 monitoring and record keeping which ensures that corrective interventions can be made before infestations can take hold. Such systems deliver new data insights that enable businesses to identify trends and trouble spots. Ultimately, this helps organisations to take a much more proactive approach to food safety throughout the supply chain.
But having the technology, of course, is only one part of the solution. You also need to know how and where to apply it.
At Rentokil Initial we recently researched the main reasons around the world which were recorded for non-compliance to the global industry standards including GFSI, AIB and BRC.
Tellingly, whilst management of critical control points figures prominently, the most frequently recorded non-compliance arose from poor management of the basics, namely sanitation, cleaning, personal hygiene, pest control, transportation arrangements, storage facilities and lack of traceability.
These, of course, are the generic foundations (i.e. the prerequisites) on which any food safety programme must be based. This can only lead to the conclusion that Prerequisite Programmes (PRPs) for food manufacture should be given a higher level of focus across the total supply chain than they currently are.
If this happens – enabled by emerging connected technology solutions – it could potentially provide one of the biggest returns on improved food safety and quality relative to the effort you need to deploy.
At Rentokil Initial, we firmly believe that modern food safety plans should focus upon risk reduction across the total supply chain using advanced technologies for remote monitoring, data recording and analytics.
Join us at GSFI Global Food Safety Conference on March 3rd for our special session (starting 8am) on this highly current and critical topic. We’ll provide detailed evidence of how these emerging technologies, when applied to pest and hygiene management, impact directly on Prerequisite Programmes (PRPs). We’ll also show how they can be used to reduce total residual risk.
1. CDC Centre for Disease Control & Prevention, 2011
2. Food Standards Agency, 2012