Supermarkets should be demanding that suppliers implement more robust processes and invest in supporting technology to prevent data falsification, especially in relations to potential food safety issues. This is according to Jason Chester from InfinityQS, discussing how supermarkets must take action in the wake of the 2 Sisters Food Group scandal, in order to shore-up food safety practices.
Recently, it was announced that the scandal-hit 2 Sisters Food Group chicken factory in West Bromwich would resume production after ‘significant changes’ at the plant and the introduction of full-time Food Standards Agency (FSA) officials to oversee its procedures. This followed an undercover report, which filmed workers altering the slaughter date of poultry processed and returning chicken that had fallen on to the floor to the production line.
Chester said the entire 2 Sisters incident brought to light fundamental issues which still exist in food manufacturing and auditing processes, and therefore supermarkets must use this example as a catalyst to ensure fit and proper procedures are carried out across the entire production process:
“The findings from the investigation into 2 Sisters were truly shocking and highlights a much wider concern as to why industries, with potentially high goods-safety issues, such as food manufacturing and particularly poultry, are at risk of tampering, with staff easily able to change records of fact?
“The reality is that most supermarkets have stringent processes in place for their own food traceability and auditing processes, but this episode shows that this must be extended further to ensure that the same levels of quality assurance are achievable amongst suppliers. As an example, when it comes to data capture methods, a lot of food manufacturers still rely on antiquated methods to record and store information, such as pen and paper resulting in a manufacturing system that is open to deception and criminal activity.
“Understandably, incidents of this nature will raise serious questions of trust between supermarkets, supplier and the consumer. In practice, this might cause supermarkets to no longer accept word-of-mouth assurances on the quality of produce and taking a much more front-footed approach to visiting first-hand the sites they procure their food from – to meet the farmers, the manufacturers and their staff, and to see how produce is handled, stored and processed.
“Additionally, manufacturers will also need to demonstrate their commitment to better manufacturing technology. Those antiquated methods, such as pen and paper for recording information will be no longer acceptable, with new solutions needing to be put in place that enable full auditing capabilities of checks and processes, so that if operators do change or tamper with records, alerts can be raised before a food safety issue becomes possible.
“Clearly, technology can play a big role in supporting food safety and traceability, and arguably if the suppliers themselves cannot afford this investment, support should then come from the supermarkets themselves or even escalating this further to lobby for potential government subsidies that can make food safety practice affordable for everyone.”