Focus on food safety
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:
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