The Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) has published a food safety guide for directors of companies in the sector.

The group said it hopes to reinforce placement of food safety on the agenda of every board of directors involved with the production, processing, sale and supply of food to consumers.

Food safety is a business risk that must be effectively mitigated, according to the guide. Done well, it will deliver financial efficiency, shareholder value and competitive advantage as well as consumer protection; done poorly, it will negatively impact business resilience and potentially a firm’s existence, a scenario that every company wants to mitigate against.

Under the Food Safety Act and Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations in the United Kingdom, directors and senior managers can be fined and jailed for non-compliance with food safety regulations.

Directors are responsible for creating the right environment by committing to food safety governance and food safety culture, said the document.

Failures can be costly including high levels of waste, lost production time, lower agility, product destruction, withdrawals, recalls and associated fines from regulators or retailers. Company reactions and responsiveness can result in reputations being enhanced or damaged during a food safety crisis.

Lead from the top and roles for everyone
Consumer demands for increasing variety, choice and novelty are stretching both supply chains and the capability of those who manage and assure food safety. Other issues are new sources or types of ingredients, consumer-ready products, new production technologies, seasonal uplift, lengthening supply chains, and environmental challenges.

Chris Gilbert-Wood, chair of the IFST scientific committee, said: “Good food safety governance for any food business operator should be led from the very top of the organization. Leadership in creating the right environment and holding management to account to implement effective strategies and systems is essential to the successful implementation of an effective food safety strategy.”

The guidance includes a checklist for directors and is based on a 2018 publication from New Zealand Food Safety and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Andy Kerridge, consultant at Wyvern Food Solutions, said: “I cannot think of one role in a food company which does not have a food safety responsibility – from managing director to maintenance engineer, from packing to procurement, from finance to food taster – they all have an impact. It is absolutely not the sole responsibility of one person or one team.”

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)