You may have thought that food trust wasn’t your issue or it only affects other people in faraway countries when you heard about the World Health Organisation’s campaign to improve food safety this year.
But the reality is food supply is under attack as globalisation and increasingly complex supply chains create food trust risks on an industrial scale. And it’s this risk that’s threatening the very food on your plate.
That’s why we’re marking World Health Day today by announcing our global food supply and integrity services business to help food companies and governments with all of this. Made in New Zealand and with the rest of the world, we ultimately believe we can help restore trust in the world’s food.
Our view is we need to prepare for more of the same food challenges as basic fundamentals of trade and supply are transformed and megatrends, such as booming population growth and climate change, amplify their impacts on our businesses and everyday lives through the food we produce, sell and eat.
And it’s not just small or unsophisticated organisations feeling vulnerable to attack. A glimpse of recent headlines confirms an increasing picture of risk affecting the most reputable companies and economies.
The ‘nuts-for-spices’ scandal, for example, where peanut and almond shells were allegedly substituted for cumin seeds, saw dozens of products pulled from supermarket shelves in the US and Europe. In Australia, frozen berry products were recalled due to hepatitis A contamination fears. And ‘eco-terrorists’ recently tried to blackmail the New Zealand Government and dairy industry with a threat to poison infant milk formula.
Today, problems can turn up in more products, more quickly than ever before, causing food safety scandals that threaten large numbers of people. With the World Health Organisation estimating unsafe food contributes to the deaths of two million people every year, it’s clear we need a new approach to reducing this risk.
It’s a public health concern, a significant political issue and a substantial risk for food companies and governments that get it wrong. So what can be done to improve trust in our food?
As consumers, we now want to know more about the food we’re buying and feeding to our families. In response to this concern, we’re seeing governments enhancing their regulatory controls, supplemented by increased oversight and sanctions. But food companies, who naturally take safety and quality issues very seriously, know complying with regulatory change is just the first step: winning customers’ trust requires more.
We believe a more strategic and innovative approach is needed to help companies transform their approach and have more control and visibility over their supply chains. In our experience, leading companies are investing in technological solutions to improve traceability and recall management, focusing on food safety culture and going well beyond compliance to improve standards and reduce risk.
For these problems are only set to worsen if we don’t do more to collectively protect ourselves and build resilience of global food supply. Just last week I was in Taiwan when police raided a company passing off industrial chemicals as a food ingredient for adding to seasoning and spice mixes. This is the reality we face!
Building trust in food is a shared responsibility that needs to be tackled by industry and governments in partnership with us all as consumers. It’s time to raise awareness of these issues and confront them head on.
For more information, see our brochure for an overview of these issues and our paper on food trust and regulatory change.
Craig leads our Food Supply and Integrity Services for PwC globally, focusing on food security, safety, quality and recall management services to help companies and governments give greater trust in their food.