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Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Food-borne Illness Prevention, Politics, Profitability and Reliability

I am pleased to read some posts and comments from different people inside and outside the food industry. This is giving me some hope. The expressed wisdom in these posts needs to start driving industry and regulatory policies.
The rough ride is not caused by the vehicles but by the terrain. 

The prevention of food-borne outbreaks is preached but the methods widely adopted by industry "solution" providers and regulators are terribly flawed and unreliable. I have made it my mission to expose the flaws. Even the U.S. proposed Food Safety Modernization Act with emphasis on Hazard Analysis and Risk-based “Preventive” Controls has failed right from the starting blocks. I started to point this out in 2013 citing the reasons why I know it has failed in my predictions - 
Many of the reasons that I gave are not addressed in the final rules and the intended enforcement plans. The Canadian version – Safe Food for Canadian Act (SFCA-SFCRs) with the proposed “Preventive” Controls” appears to be stock to the starting blocks.

On the part of industry solution providers, the sale of food safety programs and assessment schemes aimed at preventing food recalls and outbreaks of food-borne illness has grown into a very lucrative business. The profitability of this business is seen by some as the reason to believe that the resulting effect is food safety reliability for consumers. Some are religiously believing this fable while the storm of recalls and reported cases of outbreaks remain unabated. The storm is actually intensifying in some instances. A somewhat half-baked argument is often presented to explain this shameful reality. It is argued that the number of reported cases is increasing because “we are now better able to detect” them as if to say detection equals "prevention". Detection should actually lead to prevention but the right strategies governed by the right motives must be adopted. The industry needs to remember that:

Food poisoning outbreaks are not caused by the poisoning agents but by people not properly and consistently controlling these agents

Food poisoning agents may be detected from here to eternity, without people committing to exerting proper controls consistently, the war will continue to be lost. With a proper understanding of the facts and realities, the industry needs to be mobilized to achieve better results. 

We have the knowledge and the provisions. We only need the right motivation which is our personal safety as consumers. I would ordinarily think that, collectively, we also already have that motivation but the displayed attitudes are disappointing to say the least. Can we do any better? Are there better strategies to adopt than we already have? The intention is to provide some answers to these questions through the GCSE-FHP blog posts and similar commentaries elsewhere. Join the Conversation! 
Posted by Felix Amiri
Felix Amiri is currently the chair of GCSE-Food & Health Protection, and a sworn SSQA advocate. 

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