Fo­cus on food safety

The Orchardist - - >>contents -

The cen­tres are quite dif­fer­ent or­gan­i­sa­tions, one gov­ern­ment, the other in­dus­try led, but both share the same com­pelling goal - to en­sure that con­sumers get safe food.

The New Zealand Food Safety Sci­ence and Re­search Cen­tre has been es­tab­lished by the New Zealand Gov­ern­ment in re­sponse to the Whey Pro­tein Con­cen­trate (WPC) con­tam­i­na­tion scare. It is pro­posed that the cen­tre will be funded by a $5 mil­lion in­vest­ment, half of which would come from the New Zealand Gov­ern­ment & the other half from the pri­mary in­dus­tries.

The cen­tre is still in the de­vel­op­ment phase and will pro­vide re­search that cov­ers a wide range of foods, in­clud­ing both an­i­mal and plant prod­ucts.

The other cen­tre is the Fresh Pro­duce Safety Cen­tre. This is an in­dus­try-led ini­tia­tive that was launched in June by the Pro­duce Mar­ket­ing As­so­ci­a­tion Aus­trali­aNew Zealand (PMA), the Univer­sity of Syd­ney, and Hor­ti­cul­ture Aus­tralia, with support from a num­ber of other or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand.

This cen­tre has been es­tab­lished to ad­dress gaps in re­search into food safety is­sues as­so­ci­ated more specif­i­cally with fruit and vegetables. The es­tab­lish­ment of th­ese cen­tres high­lights a real need for this type of re­search, which is a miss­ing part of our food safety frame­work. Right now, a search for re­cent sci­en­tific re­search into pathogens and con­tam­i­nants on food, par­tic­u­larly fresh pro­duce, would come up with a short list of re­sults.

It is hoped that the es­tab­lish­ment of th­ese ded­i­cated re­search cen­tres will go some way to­wards link­ing the re­search that hap­pens over­seas with projects look­ing into is­sues that are rel­e­vant to lo­cal pro­duc­ers.

There is no short­age of re­search to be done. For ex­am­ple, some of the strains of sal­mo­nella found in Europe and Amer­ica are dif­fer­ent from those found in this part of the world. So lo­cal re­search is needed to un­der­stand how the lo­cal strains be­have and if, and how, they might con­tam­i­nate pro­duce.

Also, the in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of an­i­mal pro­duc­tion over­seas, and the prox­im­ity to hor­ti­cul­tural crops, has been the source of a num­ber of con­tam­i­na­tion is­sues in the U.S. and Europe. How pathogens trans­fer from an­i­mals onto crops, and the con­di­tions un­der which they grow and mul­ti­ply once they get there, is im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion for our in­dus­try.

An im­me­di­ate ben­e­fit of th­ese ini­tia­tives is that they will bring food safety ex­perts to­gether, along with reg­u­la­tors and in­dus­try, to gen­er­ate ideas about how to more ef­fec­tively man­age food safety.

But the most im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity for the cen­tres is to pro­vide food safety in­for­ma­tion, par­tic­u­larly for the hun­dreds of QA and food safety per­sonal that are em­ployed in our in­dus­try. By arm­ing them with up to date and rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion, they will be bet­ter equipped to play their role in man­ag­ing food safety across the sup­ply chain.

Our cur­rent ap­proach to food safety man­age­ment is based on com­pli­ance based au­dit and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions sys­tems. Th­ese have grown over the past decade or so and have been ef­fec­tive in im­prov­ing food safety stan­dards across the board. But au­dits and GAP cer­tifi­cates don't make food safe on their own.

While we con­tinue to invest heav­ily in man­ag­ing food safety, we still know very lit­tle about the pathogens and con­tam­i­nants we are try­ing to man­age. The emer­gence of th­ese food safety re­search cen­tres should be wel­comed by our in­dus­try as they will fill in the miss­ing bits of our food safety frame­work. They could also arm us with some bet­ter man­age­ment strate­gies, be­sides just filling out forms.

The fact that there are two food safety re­search cen­tres open­ing simultaneously in Aus­trala­sia il­lus­trates how im­por­tant this sub­ject is right now.

key con­tacts / gov­ern­ment agen­cies list com­mu­ni­ca­tion plan ex­ter­nal agen­cies con­tacts to pro­vide support plan for han­dling lo­gis­tics of trace­abil­ity, re­cov­ery, dis­posal The first step in any po­ten­tial re­call process is to no­tify your lo­cal Food Act Of­fi­cer (FAO). A list of con­tacts for the re­gions is avail­able here:

http://www.food­safety.govt.nz/re­call­swarn­ings/re­port-food-re­call/.

The FAO works with you to de­cide whether a re­call is nec­es­sary, with support from MPI. This risk as­sess­ment form helps you pre­pare in­for­ma­tion and is used by MPI and FAOs to help de­cide whether a re­call is needed:

http://www. food­safety. govt. nz/ eli­brary/ in­dus­try/ re­call- haz­ard/ in­dex.htm.

If the risk as­sess­ment shows that the food is un­safe or un­suit­able and likely to af­fect pub­lic health, a food re­call will be needed.

To en­sure that pub­lic health is pro­tected at all times a food business must ap­ply the pre­cau­tion­ary prin­ci­ple when as­sess­ing risk. In short, this means that if there is doubt, err on the side of cau­tion. Specif­i­cally, if the in­for­ma­tion avail­able in­di­cates that the food could be a risk to hu­man health, but

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