Manufacturers cannot afford to compromise on food safety standards. An integral part of this system is not only maintaining ISO certifications, but also preserving reputation and brand integrity. This is a critical factor in meeting the demanding requirements of major supermarket chains and auditors, locally and abroad. These factors are easily compromised through mistakes, often made while trying to maintain the fast-paced nature of 24/7 production and the need to satisfy maintenance problems without proper consultation or due diligence.
How does cross-contamination occur?
Cross-contamination in the food and beverage industry typically occurs when an artisan or operator mistakenly selects a toxic MRO product to be used in an area where a food safe product is required. We typically see this in above-the-food-line applications. This is where an edible product or packaging passes underneath toxic chemicals that could potentially contaminate it.
The consequences are serious
Using a toxic product in an area where a food safe product is required is serious. Firstly, consider the sensitivity of some consumers’ health or dietary needs. A contaminated food or drink source may be fatal to a consumer or could result in a consumer requiring hospitalisation. Secondly, brand and reputational damage is almost guaranteed. The financial implications of such a problem are serious: an entire batch of product can be recalled from the shelf. National supermarket chains, independents and entire bulk raw material stores are often required to discard – at a huge cost.
South Africa is increasing its reach to global food and beverage manufacturers. This situation brings with it stringent controls for end-to-end food safety standards by leading food safety entities such as NSF, BRS and EFSIS.
We are seeing a significant increase in the amount of South African manufacturers concerned about meeting international food safety standards for just these reasons. The most convincing reason to address this problem is the least understood. The risk of not acting is the most serious, as cross-contamination is far more commonplace than manufacturers believe or are even aware of.
Challenges for SA
Socio economic challenges further exaggerate the problem. A lack of education and corruption are some examples, which result in ‘the wrong product for the wrong application’. This also contributes to sub-optimal manufacturing and production output as well as premature asset life.
Is there a solution?
Few companies have both the product range and expertise to satisfy the diverse manufacturing requirements and complex conditions needed to eliminate the possibility of cross-contamination. Expertise is the most important factor in addressing this problem. Complex manufacturing plants require a thorough analysis and assessment to ensure management systems, risk reduction, rationalisation and compliance, to name a few, are implemented correctly and fit into the plant’s standard operating procedures and ethos in general.