Dairysafe CEO Geoff Raven has enjoyed getting out and visiting South Australian diary farmers in the past few months, asking questions and getting a feel for how food safety is regarded.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a small or large enterprise, standards and commitment are obvious the moment you step in the door,” Geoff said.

Implementing food safety standards and applying food safety regulations is focused on managing risk. The risk is two-fold:

  • Public and consumer health – producing safe food; and
  • Business risk – protecting brand, reputation and bottom line.

“Australia has established a very strong food safety reputation over a long time, supported by robust and risk-based food safety standards. However, reputations can be easily damaged due to foodborne incidents,” Geoff said.

“The recent ‘needles in strawberries’ episode has also had a devastating impact on that commodity sector as well as associated impacts on other fruit commodities.”

Australia’s food safety standards are a combination of prescriptive and outcomes-based requirements. Food safety standards place obligations on Australian food businesses to produce food that is safe and suitable to eat. This obligation applies throughout the supply chain.

Businesses assess the potential risks or hazards associated with their products and establish controls to mitigate those exposures.

“And much of the risk associated with food safety can be managed through the application of food safety standards or pre-existing and validated controls, such as pasteurisation,” Geoff said. “Risks such as food tampering, however, need some careful consideration.

“I recently came across a quote which caught my attention – ‘You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.’ So, is your business well positioned to handle a crisis? Do you know how you’d respond?

“We’ve all seen the impact of recalls, product withdrawals and foodborne illness on a commodity and a brand. Resilient businesses survive, and some can gain credibility through their response and actions.”

Geoff said every business producing food was exposed to suffering turmoil. “If faced with a foodborne incident, how would you and those you employ respond?” he said.

“It’s a conversation that’s well worth having and is the basis for establishing a ‘food safety culture’ in your business. It’s an essential component of a food business, where all parties understand clearly where they stand, what responsibilities they hold, and the potential impact on their employment and wellbeing.

“Equally, it’s food for thought for every business owner who’s committed to appropriately supporting their employees and suppliers yet managing the challenges of running a profitable and sustainable enterprise at the same time.”

Unsafe food can be linked to poor hygiene practices or mistakes by people handling food. This can occur, even when people are trained and businesses are inspected and audited.

“A strong food safety culture starts at the top, but needs everyone’s support across the business,” Geoff said.

If you’re keen to see how a food safety culture can positively influence your business, subscribe to Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s newsletter here.


Food safety: the stats

4.1 million cases of foodborne illness (each year) with contaminated food causing about 30,800 hospitalisations and 76 deaths

70 food recalls a year, mostly due to contamination by disease-causing microorganisms, or allergens that were not declared on the label.

Source: Food Standards Australia New Zealand