FOOD safety expert, Lone Jespersen, says the Australian horticulture industry needs to move beyond the clichéd line that “food safety is everybody’s responsibility”.
Instead, the principal of Cultivate – an organisation which helps food manufacturers make safe food through cultural effectiveness – encouraged the supply chain to embrace food safety as a front-of-mind management factor.
“It's fair to say if you're in the food business, you’re in the food safety business. Everybody cares about finances. If we are in the food industry we need to care about food safety,” she said.
Ms Jespersen addressed Hort Connections 2017 delegates on the topic of cultivating a food safety culture.
She brought with her the weight of experience, having spent 11 years with Maple Leaf Foods, a company that was responsible for the deaths of 23 Canadians in 2008 due to a contaminated meat product.
Following this, she led the implementation of the Maple Leaf Foods’ food safety strategy and its operations learning strategy.
She said food industries need to get away from general statements about food safety and get detailed and specific.
She said it concerned her when a company’s food safety protocol document didn’t have coffee stains on it, as it was an indicator it wasn’t being constantly used and referred to.
“Food safety is not stand alone when you talk about how your company performs – it's an integral part,” Ms Jespersen said.
“When we are looking at how we measure food safety culture, I think it's safe to say the current state isn't going to get us into the future.”
She said businesses needed to foster a culture where food safety was ingrained into employees and where industry leaders see it as a priority.
“If you turned it around and reward leadership, I might actually get a plant team that is so focussed that I am ultimately more safe in the products I send out,” she said.
In a sign of the industry’s move to better embrace food safety, Ausveg recently signed up as a gold level supporter of the Fresh Produce Safety Centre Australia & New Zealand (FPSC).
FPSC chairman, Michael Worthington, welcomed Ausveg saying it was an important player in the fresh produce industry.
“We are delighted that it is taking this step to help the industry-led, industry-funded FPSC enhance fresh produce food safety through research, outreach and education,” he said.
“Organisations that actively support the Centre are adding to positive food safety outcomes for the whole industry.”