The recent food scares with imported berries and tuna have raised more than public fear and government scrutiny. They’ve once again raised the importance of – and apparent lack of – proper auditing procedures with many organisations around the globe.
In this article we look at food safety and discuss the need for replacing current auditing and compliance systems, in order to safeguard public health.
Labelling and Food Safety
Establishing good controls and procedures when it comes to food products is vastly more important than it is in, for example, the case of things such as consumer electronics or clothing. If your stereo has a poor signal or your shirts have poor sewing, it’s inconvenient. If your food falls below acceptable health standards, on the other hand, it could mean your life.
The cases of Hepatitis A that have come from imported berries recently show this plainly. The rash of illnesses related to imported tuna that followed has put many in the country on alert, when it comes to the food they had previously taken for granted as safe in supermarkets and restaurants.
The reaction of leading food authorities and agencies has been confusingly disjointed in the wake of these cases, as they squabble about whether to increase inspections on all imported berries, and which forms of labelling will be the most cost effective. While these are valid points to pursue, they address the symptoms without dealing with the causes.
Auditing the auditors?
One brand involved in the scandals is the Sea Value Group in Thailand, whose subsidiary ISA Value Co. processes and cans tuna for shipment to some of the largest brands. In speaking with the Daily Telegraph, a spokesperson for the company told them that “ISA Value Co is an externally audited supplier who meet globally recognised standards used in Australia.”
So they say. The story in the Telegraph, however, describe conditions that couldn’t possibly meet any sort of “globally recognised standards”. Therefore, the question is: who is this ‘external auditor’, and what sorts of auditing procedures do they have in place, that would consider the conditions described as compliant?
Compliance with food safety regulations is a serious matter that, when ignored or lax, leads to people dying – or at least the possibility of people dying. So it seems that the matter of investigating the auditing and compliance measures involved should be a big part, if not the central focus, of any actions taken in these cases.
Preventing Future Issues
Of course, addressing the symptoms at hand must be dealt with as well, and this should be done first to make sure that the current problems don’t cause any more illnesses. But once this is done, the next step should be to investigate the auditing system in place at the root of the problem. And in all likelihood, that system should be replaced.
This issue is rarely addressed in these sorts of situations. The common thought process is that such moves are overly time-consuming and that the added cost involved would be too high. While the time factor could be burdensome, it seems a small price to pay to have safe food to eat.
Concerning the costs, our own Compliance Checkpoint software is proof that an auditing and compliance process can be vastly improved without any major impact on a company’s bottom line. It’s simply a matter of automating and standardising the process from the beginning of the chain to the end, and implementing a simple system that is easily adopted.