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Wednesday, 8 January 2014


Is there any place for altruism in the business of food safety & quality management?
Are there opportunities for showing professional magnanimity in the food and health products industry?

Let us say hypothetically that you are a food safety and quality management expert with extensive industry experience in that field. You can also do sales because of your friendly and persuasive personality. You are given two job opportunities. One is with a food manufacturer with direct responsibility for food safety and quality assurance. The other is a sales management position with a food packaging manufacturer. The sales job has no direct involvement in food safety or quality assurance. You are capable of performing well in either position but the pay for the food safety management position is about 10% lower than the sales job. Which position would you take? Would your choice be governed by any altruistic motivations?

As a father, I have observed that very young babies are quite selfish but they increasingly become altruistic as they get older. Some never grow out of selfishness. Strangely perhaps, but realistically, this has provided me with a basis for comparison as I watch the maturing process of different participants in the food industry. Having been professionally engaged in the industry for many years now, both locally and internationally, I have had both the privilege and opportunity to observe the behavior of different participants. The picture of selfishness and altruism that I see is not different from that of a child’s progression as he or she matures. Some participants also appear to stagnate in their development. They remain extremely and sometimes disastrously selfish. The common terminologies or phrases that expose this selfishness are: “bottom line”, “profit margin”, “returns on investment”, etc.

Like the infant and toddler that inevitable takes everything to the mouth – hence the common warning to keep hazardous materials out of the reach of children – some (not all) people in the food industry take everything, as it were, to the mouth with the ever-repeating question: “What is in it for me”.

People in the industry also grow from business infancy through the “adolescent” and “young adult” phases. At these later phases some industry players remain selfish and self-centered with the thinking that they know everything, are self-sufficient and invincible. However, some players act more like wise and less selfish adults with highly commendable altruistic tendencies.

To test an individual’s or organization’s level of commitment to ensuring the safety of food, take money and power out of the equation. 

Truly successful food businesses are run by people who genuinely care about others. This caring about others go far beyond merely handing food to them, although that is a good thing. Imagine if, from the company presidents and CEOs to the line workers, everyone genuinely cares about the safety, needs and satisfaction of the consumers, what would their attitude be towards the products offered for sale or for humanitarian distribution? What degree of commitment to the safety of consumers would we see? What level of self-discipline to do what is right at all levels within the industry would we see? Would there not be much self-motivation to the point of almost eliminating any great need to enforce "the rules"?
Posted By Felix Amiri
Felix Amiri is the current Food Sector Chair of GCSE-Food & Health Protection

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