With strawberry tampering headlines rocking Australia, many farmers are looking at their own businesses and asking themselves: ‘could I cope with a food safety shock?’

When things go wrong with food, public confidence drops. When a listeria outbreak caused illness and death in early 2018 and was linked to consumption of rockmelon, demand for rockmelons in Australia fell 90 percent. Rockmelon export markets closed in Singapore and Indonesia.

While the incident was traced to one farm in New South Sales, the melon industry as a whole worked hard to develop food safety guidelines to try to win back consumer confidence. The tragic incident caused significant impact for growers, transporters, communities and, of course consumers. Industry losses of up to $60 million were quoted. Read more about the story here.

Food tampering is common in other parts of the world. In India, for example, more than two thirds of all milk and milk products violate standards, with the most commonly found adulterants including detergent, paint, caustic soda and refined oil. Read the full story here.

But what about the South Australian dairy sector? Are we exposed to the possibility of food tampering? Of course we are.

“It’s important for all dairy farmers, transporters and processors to keep food safety top of mind, and to do everything in their power to protect their product,” said Geoff Raven, CEO of Dairysafe.

“It’s also important for the wider community and media to think about the way it communicates about food tampering to reduce copycat activity.”

Geoff encourages farmers to read a recent article by Currie Communications on this topic. Click here to read it.

“It’s a starting point for a conversation about how the food tampering issue can be communicated in a way that effectively reduces harm and also reduces the risk of copycat behaviour,” Geoff said.

“It also highlights how the community came to the rescue in the strawberry incident by using social media – #smashastrawb – as a force for good encouraging everyone to ‘Cut ‘em up, don’t cut ‘em out’.

“Food tampering is a serious issue, but we can learn from recent history about the best ways to deal with problems such as this, to minimise long term damage.”