Food Safety: How to Protect Your Brand
RECIPE TO RETAIL: Part 11
Food is risky business. Can you imagine killing your customers or making them ill? Then imagine seeing it on the news.
No food business is immune to a recall. Recently we have seen widespread food recalls from global brands that have a domino effect throughout the supply chain. Even foods that appear to be innocuous, like spices, can be contaminated with pathogens, undeclared allergens, chemicals, hazardous extraneous matter and pesticides, and adulterated with non-permitted food additives.
The consequences of a food safety breach can be devastating for a business; from business interruption, to lawsuits, financial hardships and bankruptcy.
The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) put pressure on food processors and brand owners to meet Health Canada and CFIA food safety requirements. The legislation incorporates risk assessments, preventive control measures and traceability to prevent food safety risks and protect the health of Canadians.
Exporters to the U.S. must also comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a similar regulatory framework implemented by the FDA.
How to mitigate risks
Having a robust food safety management system can reduce risks for food businesses. While it may not prevent all incidents, the business will be better prepared to deal with them. And it can minimize damage to the reputation, the brand and the bottom line.
Good manufacturing practices (GMPs) and a HACCP plan (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) are a must. These processes identify what can go wrong and put preventive measures in place. The next level is certification under GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) schemes such as BRC and SQF. Having a plan is only the first step; it must be strictly adhered to.
When partnering with co-packers and suppliers, due diligence is required. Ensure their food safety management systems are in compliance with regulations. Inspect the facilities. Insist on proof of quality and food safety such as certificates of analysis, food safety audit reports from third party certifiers and up-to-date certificates.
Resist the temptation to put financial considerations before food safety.
Food safety is a cost of doing business, but it is also an investment in the brand and a trust-builder. With consumer expectations of transparency and a growing concern for the safety of food, can there be a stronger message than “our brand invests in food safety”? Other benefits include:
- detection of problems before they escalate;
- decreased quality issues;
- fewer consumer complaints;
- reduced stress and last minute panic of gathering information for CFIA when they come knocking on the door; and
- improved service levels.
How to get started
- Use online resources like OMAFRA and Global Food Safety Resource to learn about food safety.
- Look for government funding programs that may be available in your province.
- Hire a food safety specialist to help implement a plan.
If you are in the food business, it is a moral obligation to ensure your products are safe. You owe it to the retailers who sell your food and to the consumers who eat it.
Celebrate food safety. It is part of building a strong and competitive brand.
As a packaged foods consultant, Birgit Blain helps brands that struggle to maintain listings. Her experience includes 17 years with Loblaw and President’s Choice®. Contact her at Birgit@BBandAssoc.com or learn more at www.BBandAssoc.com
© Birgit Blain
This article appeared in Food in Canada magazine.