According to the World Health Organization, no continent has a higher incidence of foodborne disease than Africa, where foodborne hazards sicken 127 million people and kill 91,000 annually. Luckily, GFSI has a growing body of local ambassadors who are changing food safety culture from the ground up — the winners of the Global Markets Awards for the Africa region.
Today on the GFSI Experts Series, we meet one of the most recent inductees to this group of ambassadors: Veronica Kalu-Ufe, Quality Assurance Manager and Food Safety Team Leader at Golden Sugar Company Ltd. in Lagos, Nigeria. Golden Sugar Company, a subsidiary of Flour Mills of Nigeria, stood out to the selection committee for the company's exemplary implementation of the Global Markets Programme and their mission to spread food safety culture beyond the factory walls.
After the awards ceremony in Nice at the GFSI Conference, Veronica sat down with GFSI Coordinator Mia Masson to share what this means for her company. Watch Veronica's Global Markets Programme testimony on GFSI Youtube, or read the transcript below.
Mia Masson: Congratulations, Veronica! How do you feel about winning the GFSI Global Markets Awards?
Veronica Kalu-Ufe: I'm so happy. It's amazing. I can't explain it. I feel on top of the world. I'm so happy about it.
Mia: Can you tell me about yourself and your company?
Veronica: I'm Veronica Kalu-Ufe, Quality Assurance Manager and Food Safety Team Leader at Golden Sugar Company. I'm the one that drives everything that has to do with quality at Golden Sugar Company. I drive the control section and the assurance section. Golden Sugar is involved in manufacturing refined sugar that is safe for consumption, and is of quality, too. We are based in Nigeria, in Lagos.
Mia: How does winning this award impact you and your company?
Veronica: There is a lot of motivation. There's a lot of saying, 'Oh, so can we go global? So the little things we do internally can be appreciated all over the world?'
It's going to be a drive. Even business is going to expand. We have already started. We put a letter together that we sent out to media to talk about it. Because it is not just about Nigeria. It's not about Africa. It's about the globe. So it's going to impact our business positively. A lot of them are saying, 'Veronica, let's take videos, let's take pictures!' It's going to go everywhere.
Mia: What are the benefits of the Global Markets Programme?
Veronica: The benefits of Global Markets Programme are enormous — I would just say profuse. It gives you confidence in your production, in stages. It's practical. It gives you confidence that you are doing something right.
It helped us to establish a system of carrying out analyses, so when there is an issue, we have a system and a strategy. We do a one-way analysis, we get a root cause analysis, and we get corrective actions. Then it helps us to move forward, because if it was well tracked, the issue does not reoccur.
It helped us to build an academy at Golden Sugar that helps in training and changing the culture of the people. So let me just say profuse, because there are many.
Mia: What challenges did you face in becoming certified?
Veronica: Well, just like we were talking about, changing the culture was a challenge. Because the challenge is to change. Always, there is resistance when you are trying to bring a change.
It was really a challenge to change the culture of, especially, the technical team, when we were trying to talk about hygiene and temporary fixes. When you fix something, if you don't do maintenance for a temporary fix, there is a possibility of that fix bringing contamination into your system. It was really a challenge to get the technical team to understand the concept that food safety is not all quality-based. It makes the product safe. Whatever you are doing, you need to do it in a hygienic kind of way, and get it right the first time.
Mia: Once you were certified, did different retailers accept the same certificates?
Veronica: Yes. Once certified, accepted by all. So nobody was asking us again. The likes of Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Pepsico and Mondelēz are using one certificate. FSSC-22000 is what we are using.
Mia: What advice would you give to other small companies who want to become certified and apply for the Global Markets Awards?
Veronica: My advice to that is that they must go through Global Markets Programme. That is the only way out. It gives you a guideline. It puts you on the path of certification. It takes you up so that you remain up — because if you don't, you may come down. So you have to go for Global Markets Programme, and take it systematically. Once they are certified, they are certified. It brings positivity into their system.
To learn more about the 'profuse' benefits of the Global Markets Programme, watch our interviews with more winners from 2019, including Alfa Argentina from Latin America and Patisserie Ballion from France. Follow #GFSIexperts on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn and subscribe to GFSI News to make sure you do not miss an episode!
Does your company or someone in your supply chain have what it takes to be a Global Markets Awards winner in 2020? Time is running out to apply! Read the criteria and send in your application by 16th September 2019.