PACKAGING: Packaging Must Obviate Food Risks
Recent Western Cape Business News
GLOBALLY food safety has moved to top of the agenda for all food manufacturers and purveyors. The concern is a double-edged issue, simply put: no suppliers or brand owners want to be responsible for poisoning their customers, while no consumers want to buy tainted food that could sicken them.
“Consumers have a right to expect safe, quality food. . . The thing to remember about food safety is that it is not a competitive advantage; it’s a point of entry. Food safety is about sense, not cents and today, everybody in the food industry supply chain, whether it’s a restaurant, grocery store, manufacturer, ingredient or packaging supplier, has an obligation to play by this rule,” comments Ivan Ortlepp, MD of Cibapac, the Cape Town-based manufacturer of a multifaceted range of food packaging.
“In a developing country such as South Africa, where business margins in the food game are always tight there’s an imperative to cut costs and, unfortunately, it is sometimes at the expense of quality and safety, under the hopeful assumption that less discerning consumers won’t know the difference,” Ortlepp continues. “But what if they do? What if a brand, a retailer, a packaging supplier is found guilty of a food safety offence or negligence? Well, there’s no longer any getting away with it - and in the worst-case scenario, it’s likely to be ruinous of reputation, brand and entity. It’s a business risk too risky to contemplate.”
South Africa’s regulatory environment has also become more stringent with the promulgation of the Consumer Protection Act in April 2009. Coming fully into effect in October, the CPA has far-reaching implications for every aspect of consumer relations.
Ortlepp points out that in the past there was very little recourse for the consumer who had to prove the negligence of a supplier. The CPA radically changes the basis of liability. No longer is the consumer required to prove negligence by the supplier, producer, importer or distributor, but it introduces a no-fault liability system where the consumer will merely have to show that, for instance, the food was off or that there was a foreign object in a package in order to succeed in a claim against a retailer, supplier, manufacturer, and the like.
“The supplier and any other party in the supply chain will be liable, regardless of what steps they took to prevent the occurrence,” he comments. “Clearly, there is no room for complacency, especially as our consumer culture becomes more savvy and activist. It’s an ever more litigious society we live in, too - food manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, restaurants, and the entire food supply chain need to sit up and pay attention to product liability issues in the food industry.”
In upping its own game, Cibapac earlier this year underwent the costly exercise of gaining British Retail Consortium or BRC-certification, a rigorous international standard that requires implementation of HACCP, the food safety risk management system; a documented and effective Quality Management System (QMS); continuous improvement; and control of the factory environment, product, process and personnel.
“We’ve gone to great lengths to add the BRC logo to our inventory and give our many customers, and their consumers, the quality and safety assurance inherent in the certificate,’ says Ortlepp. “This food safety management system has long been planned as part of Cibapac’s business strategy and objectives and the endpoint of world-class manufacturing and competitiveness is already proving worthwhile: much of our business is with leading brand owners and retailers, and they prefer to do business with a supplier whose product is backed by BRC certification.”
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