Footprint Blog

Food safety compliance hampering small business says WHO & FAO

Posted in 1 by foodservicefootprint on June 26, 2009


Last year, Footprint expressed concern as to the practices and spiraling effects of the accreditation industry to which recent contamination events, such as melamine in milk, salmonella in nuts and E.coli in dough, have provided opportunity to make even more stringent requirements.

‘The last 10 years has seen an explosion in food industry accreditation and third party inspectors, to the extent that what started out as independent assessment of working practices has turned into an industry employing thousands. Legislation has been the fuel for this explosion and the costs of managing adherence to their standards has become a major cost to food industry operators in whatever sphere.

The problem with having third party organizations as inspectors is that the nature of profit making organizations is that they have to keep coming up with ‘new products’ in order to extract maximum revenue from their ‘clients’.’

Now, a report has been released for next weeks meeting in Rome of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a joint World Health Organization (WHO) and Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) body on food safety, which sounds as if it springs from the pages of a Dan Brown novel.

The report comments that compliance to additional requirements, over and above those legislated by government, is making it difficult for smaller companies to compete against larger rivals …”to the extent that there are economies of scale in compliance and/or larger firms are better able to access finance and other resources, compliance processes are likely to induce processes of consolidation and concentration…”.

The study says that the biggest constraints were being felt in poorer nations and that small players may need assistance to avoid being squeezed out of the market by the drive to sanitize the food chain.

“Exporters of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy and seafood must comply with multi-tiered requirements including quality grades and standards, traceability requirements, labels of origin, phytosanitary controls and food safety standards, of both a regulatory and private nature,” it said. “It is evident that a number of developing countries, and exporters and producers therein, face challenges in complying.”

Clearly there is a need for the effective policing of food safety standards, but surely we need to be careful this compliance culture does not stifle the production of ‘proper’ food to traditional methods in favour of homogenized ‘factory’ product.

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