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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Don’t you think it’s time we cut the nonsense from food safety and quality management?

Inhibitors of progress in food safety and quality assurance:
  • The wasteful engagement in the tricks and travesty of mere compliance.
  • Enormous stress from externally imposed and generic rules for food safety management;
  • Overload of theoretical solutions that do not directly address the unique situations faced by individual establishments;
  • Redundant activities running rampant with the enforcement of imaginary and resource-draining solutions where there are no problems, while real problems go unnoticed;
  • Creating enmity among parties that need to engage in collaborative efforts;
  • Widespread anxiety, stress and burn-out among operation systems managers due to unreasonable demands from those who should provide problem-solving support;
  • The adoption of supplier intimidation tactics where there should be productive inspiration;
  • The imposition of pre-set draconian standards by external parties that hinder innovative thinking among food safety system managers;
  • The propagation of superficiality through superficial outside party certification programs;
  • The spreading of a false sense of security through fabricated success measurement schemes;
Let's cut the nonsense. Let's stop the burning. 

The world needs the “show-me-the-money”style of consumer protection.

Posted by Felix Amiri
Felix Amiri is currently the chair of GCSE-Food & Health Protection, and a sworn SSQA advocate.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Food Chain Predators and Preys – In Defense of the Exploited

I am tempted to say, in fact I believe this to be true, that everyone knows something about food chain predators and preys. Did you also know that the industrial or commercial variety of the food chain also has its predators and preys? You probably learned about ecological food chain predators and preys in school. The industrial and commercial food chain equivalent is not formerly taught. Food industry participants learn about these as they engaged in business or commercial activities. Unfortunately, many industry participants do not know when they become preys.
A "survival of the fittest" rage continues to devastate the industry. All kinds of schemes are devised by the predators to subdue unsuspecting preys. Do you know the predators that see your food business as a ready prey? Are you able to recognize an industrial or commercial predator? If you can recognize these, that is great. You are probably already able to avoid them. If not, here are some key characteristics of the predators for which to watch:

Commercial Predator Traits:
  • They pretend to be helping you solve problems but clearly not. They make money at your expense because the problems you face persist in spite of their "help".
  • They sell you products or services that you do not need but fail to provide you with the means and facts
    that would enable you to assess the true value of their products or services.
  • They sell make-belief solutions for problems that do not exist.
  • They make you pay annual fees for them to tell you what you already know.
  • They dazzle you with meaningless statistics about their products and services.
  • They make you pay more for useless diplomatic responses if you dare to challenge the validity of the products or services that they have sold to you. 
  • They systematically draw and entrap you in a state of dependence on them.
  • They constantly find ways to make you believe that you will fail without their products or services.
  • They frequently change things around or change the rules of engagement to make sure that you are unable to meet the "standards" that they have unilaterally set.  
  • They increase the stakes (the price or the heat) when they find you in a tight corner.
  • They make you do all the work and charge you for the labour.
. . . you know you've been taken if the ship goes nowhere. . . 

. . . it is not deception if it is immediately blatant:

"Don't let them fool ya! Or even try to school ya!"
 - Bob Marley
Predators will entice you with sweet words about success as they turn up the heat. As in the common illustration about a frog in a pot of water that eventually reaches the boiling point, companies that become enchanted by the schemes of their predators may feel the warmth of success and, even when they feel the temperature rising, they do not check to make sure that they are not being cooked. Predators would say "we can help" but do the opposite as they take your money and run.

The SSQA Concept proposes a collaborative arrangement that eliminates predator-prey relationships.

Posted by Felix Amiri
Felix Amiri is currently the chair of GCSE-Food & Health Protection, and a sworn SSQA advocate. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Food Company CEO for One Day

You are given only one day to be CEO at your company. The decision you make on this day will be upheld and it will govern what you end up with in your normal role as the product safety and quality control manager. Your customers are not making any demands other than expecting products that are safe and are of good quality. With all other funding provisions in place, you are asked to choose only one more out of these two options:

  1. An annual $15,000 fund for third party certification audits

  1. An annual $15,000 fund for hiring and training needed personnel to strengthen the product safety and quality control functions
You must use the entire sum allocated for the option that you choose. Which funding option would you choose?
Posted by Felix Amiri

Felix Amiri is currently the chair of GCSE-Food & Health Protection, and a sworn SSQA advocate. 

Modern Food Industry Sand Hill Enterprises

Building sand hills may keep people busy enough because the hills do not and will not remain standing for long enough to allow much time for the builders to rest.  
            . . . and the ultimate accomplishment is. . . ?

Photo: An area of Super Bowl Central promoting tourism to Mexico features a sand exhibit of that country’s landmarks.
Photo by Emily Mahoney
Tom Easley, in a comment posted to the GCSE-Food and Health Protection discussion group, explained how some dairy companies that served as his suppliers in the past deliberately skewed certificates of analysis. You may read his comments here: The Letter of Guarantee and Third Party Certificate Question

We live in a modern food industry world, or do we? With so many players having an almost irresistible bent towards uncivilized behaviour that is driven by greed, it appears hopeless to expect any trustworthiness within the industry. It is sad that we cannot boast about living in more civilized times since transparency remains just as dodgy as in the days when, as Walter Anderson described, "people held red-hot iron bars to prove their innocence or honesty" (Walter Anderson’s comments).

Both then and now, I'd rather have true civilization where greed is replaced by true collaboration with a persistent sense of moral obligation and social responsibility.

This is the call to an industry that appears to have lost its way.

Scientific and technological advancement should have made it possible, and indeed makes it possible for businesses to be profitable while remaining voluntarily transparent and morally responsible. Businesses can operate honestly without the need for policing by regulatory and other industry monitoring agencies

Make-work enterprises are continuing to expand with wasteful industry monitoring proposals, enslaving complexity and intricate but deceptive semantics. Intended as solutions, intensified punitive measures to force compliance often disrupt the precarious compliance sand hills even more, and the industry slides further downhill. Are food businesses, the regulators and other monitoring agencies ever going to learn and move past the building of monuments with sand? 
Confusion builds and the cost mounts for businesses that subscribe to redundant systems management proposals. Some businesses, to their own detriment, are continuing to engage in fraudulent practices. It is easy to see that, without a radical change, more rocky times await the entire industry. 

Even the most advanced food safety monitoring intelligence will soon fall well behind, if this is not already happening. In fact, some food safety assessment schemes are part of the make-work enterprises with the often celebrated virtual success. Meanwhile, consumers continue suffer the punishment of food-borne illness and, in some instances, death. As more certified failure incidents cause food-borne illness outbreaks and deaths, the litigation industry is getting increasingly active. Ask Bill Marler if any food safety certificate has ever prevented lawsuitsFood businesses need to spend more time on the plant floor preventing failure incidents rather than in the courts defending them.

The sand hill and baskets of water enterprises are multi-billion businesses.
This does not mean that the world benefits from them as the money flows into only a few pockets. The money, in many instances, flows right back out of the pockets of food merchants almost as quickly while leaving a trail of health problems for consumers of fraudulent and hazardous food.

We can do better is the message and determination of GCSE-Food and Health Protection. Among other things, the Coalition’s drive has given rise to the safety, security and quality assurance concept (SSQA Conceptthat can be easily implemented by any business anywhere without the cost burdens of some of the other options.
Posted by Felix Amiri
Felix Amiri is currently the chair of GCSE-Food & Health Protection, and a sworn SSQA advocate.