What makes food safer?

During a Food Safety Symposium session on February 21, international food safety experts discussed the advantages and disadvantages of audits and inspections, comparing and contrasting the two assessment methods.

Prof Eunice Taylor

Prof Eunice Taylor

Prof Eunice Taylor from Abu Dhabi Control Authority pointed out that in recent years, in countries like the UK and the US, there has been widespread criticism of the standards of inspection of the enforcement officers.

In the UK, this was mainly prompted by a number of major food poisoning cases, while in the US, several high-profile cases involving auditors led the public to question the vested interests of the auditors and their often “cosy” relationship with the auditees.

Indeed, conflict of interest between the auditors and the companies paying them was seen as a key challenge to raising food safety standards by most speakers, including Prof Chris Griffith from Von Holy Consultants, South Africa, who delivered a presentation on “Why Food Safety Audits and Inspections might fail”.

He observed that, although across the globe, there has been a massive increase in food safety audits and inspections in the past ten to twelve years, there is little evidence that standards have improved, because the number of potential foodborne diseases keeps steadily increasing.

Griffith said that there is widespread lack of confidence in government inspections, which on a number of occasions have failed to identify and act on major food safety violations, owing to shortage and lack of competence of environmental health officers, often resulting from limited financial resources.

This situation has prompted businesses to increasingly resort to third party audits to reassure consumers about the safety and quality of their products.

Richard Sprenger of Highfield (UK) chaired the session.