Why do companies still have food safety incidents despite food safety system certifications

Why do companies still have food safety incidents despite food safety system certifications

Good day from the Food Bites Team,

It is no secret that food safety related incidents are the cause of millions of deaths globally.  In different parts of the world we have people dying because they have no food, but in other parts people are dying from the food they ate!

Food safety system certifications are also on the increase – in other words; more and more food manufacturers are subject to an independent food safety audit with the aim of being certified.  The question is why do companies still have food safety incidents despite food safety system certifications?

Most food manufacturers are “forced” to be certified to a food safety standard.  This pressure comes from customers or retailers who use the food safety system certification as a basis for approval of their suppliers.  This is not a bad thing.  The food manufacturers in turn pressurise their raw material and ingredient suppliers to obtain similar certification as a basis for supplier approval in the supply chain.  This is not a bad thing either.  To protect our consumers, we need every role player in this supply chain to do their part.

The problem is that this kind of pressure drives the wrong behaviour.  Many food manufacturers and their suppliers are implementing food safety management systems which focus on passing an audit.  They do it for the wrong reasons.  A food safety management system should be implemented to protect the consumer and all activities should be targeted for this purpose only.

When food safety management systems are implemented for the wrong reasons we see:

  1. Poor validation of control measures – food safety standards do not prescribe specific protocols for validation, and the result is a variety of validation mechanisms some of which are done only to “tick-the-box”. In other words, validation without actually confirming that the control measures will be consistently effective.


  1. Weak verification systems – some people think that verification is about signing off records (sometimes without even reading the content). The risk here is the fact that records are blindly signed off without implementing “go-see” verifications.  “Go-see” will expose falsifications of records and “tick-fever”, where people record information that is not true.  Falsified records give a false sense of security that everything is in order, when indeed it is not.


  1. “Business decisions” driven by financial data also lead to food safety issues. This happens when, despite laboratory results indicating that products should not be approved for dispatch and sale, a “business decision” overrides the results and unsafe products are allowed to enter the food chain.


  1. Poor corrective action systems lead to companies experiencing the same problems over and over. This creates frustration amongst staff which leads to short-cuts being taken.  This also sends out a strong message about the culture within the company and staff eventually begin to tolerate these problems and accept them as the norm.


  1. KPIs, or the way in which they are measured, lead to a disregard of food safety rules. If the focus is on production efficiency, any activities such as maintenance and cleaning will always take the back seat.

Here is a challenge to all food manufacturers and suppliers…  Take a critical look at your practices and ask yourself; “Why do we have recurring food safety issues, despite certification”.  Perhaps the answer can point to improvements which could make all the difference.

Carrying on with the theme of certification, next week we will look at how food safety system certification can add value to your organisation in more than one way

Happy Heritage Day from all of us!