World Food Safety Day highlights the importance of industry safety measures

Each year, June 7th marks World Food Safety Day, a day that aims to bring attention to global food safety and security. And while many of us may take food safety for granted, each year an estimated 420,000 people in developed and developing countries die from food and water-borne diseases, making contaminated food a threat to human health and economic security.

This year’s World Food Safety Day theme is “Food Safety is Everyone’s Business”, and highlights that everyone – from governments and producers, to manufacturers and consumers – has a role to play in ensuring the food we consume will not cause harm.

However, a large part of the responsibility for investing the physical and managerial resources that are necessary for implementing appropriate controls lies with the food industry – the industry that continuously oversees the manufacture and processing of foods, from raw ingredients to finished product, day in and day out.

Here are just a few reasons why taking note of food safety and hygiene is so important.

Food safety can affects the health of thousands

Due to the increasingly complex and interconnected food supply chain, food safety not only affects individuals who contract diseases from unsafe foods, but can have much larger effects. A food safety incident in one corner of the globe can have far-reaching global consequences to public health, making food safety standards and regulations all the more necessary to keep us safe.

Unsafe food also threatens global trade, could lead to increased food waste and have negative impacts on the economy.

Poor food safety can damage reputation

Not only does food contamination have implications on health and the economy, it also has a negative impact on a food manufacturers’ reputation. Food products face a huge amount of competition on the supermarket shelves, so consumer trust is a crucial aspect of becoming a recognised brand and household name.

In today’s society, where consumers have access to media coverage 24/7, they cannot help but be aware of food recalls and safety hazards, which drastically deteriorate brand trust. In fact, in a Harris Interactive poll, 55% of consumers indicated they would switch brands temporarily following a recall, 15% said they would never purchase the recalled product, while 21% said they would avoid purchasing any brand made by the manufacturer of the recalled product.

These figures show that if consumers are faced with the prospect of putting themselves or their family at risk, they will most definitely reconsider purchasing a manufacturers food product.

It affects your bottom line

According to a joint industry study by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the average cost of a recall to a food company is $10M in direct costs, in addition to brand damage and lost sales. However the costs for larger brands may be significantly higher based on the preliminary recall costs reported by firms of some recent recalls. These direct costs typically include notification (to regulatory bodies, supply chain, consumers), product retrieval (reverse logistics), storage, destruction, unsalable product, and of course, the additional labour costs associated with these.

If an employee or company sees stringent safety and hygiene protocols as laborious, remember they ultimately protect organisations from financial losses and help retain jobs. Hiring experienced professionals who understand how to put in place processes to reduce risk of food contamination and create a culture that respects their importance can be invaluable to a business.

Contamination can occur anywhere in the production process

There are many reasons why food can become contaminated. Contaminants can originate from raw materials or occur during the production or transportation process. When raw materials or even finished products are stored alongside other products there is also the risk of cross-contamination.

The types of contamination that can occur can also vary depending on the type of materials or products involved and what they’re exposed to. In some situations, dangerous chemicals may inadvertently be mixed with food products, while in other instances a food product may contaminate another, which could be life threatening for people who have allergies.

One of the most common causes of contamination are avoidable procedural errors that occur in the laboratory.  This is because laboratories are often busy environments with multiple personnel working on different products at the same time, so the opportunity for cross-contamination to occur through shared equipment – or simply working in close proximity to others – is high.

It always pays to have qualified, engaged staff who understand the importance of food safety. To find the right people to help you protect your products, partner with an agency who understands what skills your business needs.