Supporting the Global Food and Safety Initiative is one way brands can increase food safety in Latin America
KerryDigest Fast Facts:
- Food safety is a top concern within Latin America, where standards vary greatly by country.
- Following standards suggested by the Global Food and Safety Initiative (GFSI) is one way brands are increasing food safety in Latin America.
- Although the GFSI doesn't have its own certifications, it maintains a list of recognised programmes that manufacturers can look for when assessing potential partners.
- In addition, taking a people-first approach to food safety practices, including education and recognition, can help companies increase food safety in the region.
KerryDigest Full Scoop:
Although many countries in Latin America have adopted modern and well-thought-out food legislation, the region is still striving toward the consistent and effective regulation of food. But LATAM countries are working toward harmonising on this, thanks in part to the irresistible move toward globalization and the fear of being left behind. Here’s an overview of the challenges facing food safety in Latin America and a look at what can be done to address these shortcomings.
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Food Safety Gaps in LATAM
With so much diversity in the region, including different standards for and education around food safety, aligning food regulations in Latin America is challenging. A study of food regulation in Latin America sponsored by the Pan-American Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization noted a number of deficiencies common in the region, including:
- Insufficient commitment on a national level to protect food
- Lack of coordination between responsible agencies
- Deficiencies in laws and regulations and their enforcement
- Inadequate sanitation education
A Global Approach
One way to address such problems is to align with established food safety practices. When the Global Food and Safety Initiative (GFSI) was created in 2000, the goal was to publicise a set of food processing standards that could be adopted by governments, manufacturers and other entities involved in the pursuit of a safer, healthier and more efficient global food industry.
The GFSI website suggests that following GFSI standards, such as by working with suppliers certified through a GFSI-recognised programme, can lead to a food system with a safer global supply chain, improved product integrity and cost efficiency. Doing so can also grow consumer confidence in the food industry, due to fewer foodborne diseases and product recalls, and ensure governments are better equipped to improve public health and national reputation through self-regulation.
Although the regulatory bodies in LATAM want greater alignment and enforcement of food regulation, there continues to be a lack of coordination, regulation and enforcement in the region. Because a growing number of global food and beverages companies open manufacturing facilities and do business in LATAM, governments are looking to the industry to help continue to raise food safety standards.
To set and uphold such standards, food and beverages companies and suppliers doing business in LATAM can:
- Ensure all proprietary and partner plants are certified through a GFSI-recognised programme
- Work with suppliers that have a GFSI-recognised certification and/or comply with GFSI standards
- Cooperate with local organizations, such as GFSI Mexico, which provide a forum for industry leaders to share ideas, best practices and common goals around protecting consumers
Kerry follows GFSI protocols and standards in all of its plants in the region, and strives to bring the highest levels of food safety to customers and consumers.
A Local Approach
In addition to global benchmarking and standards, there are other small yet effective ways to encourage food safety. Rather than just set goals and update policies, companies can promote a food safety culture transformation that includes more individualistic training and rewards. Doing so can lead to a greater understanding of sanitation practices and other aspects of food safety and a more committed and engaged workforce.
Kerry follows a behaviour-based food safety culture model developed by Frank Yiannas, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This structure is designed to encourage behaviour change and continuous improvement by keeping food safety at the forefront for all employees through the below actions:
- Setting clear expectations
- Creating risk-based education and training
- Communicating via multiple mediums
- Establishing goals and assigning accountability
- Regularly measuring effectiveness
- Giving recognition through visible rewards and consequences
The implementation of this way of working can take a tiered approach. For example, in the first year of following this model the main goals might be to benchmark current standards, gain support of senior leadership and develop a strategic plan. In later years, action steps could include the creation of recognition programs and the development of new training and communication tools designed for specific functions. The work is never done; instead, this process becomes a continuous loop that is built upon and improved.
By focusing on the employees that play an active role in increasing food safety, companies can create a food safety culture versus a food safety programme.