January 14, 2010 08:00 ET

Food Industry Executives In Need of Direction on Food Safety Management

Deloitte report: Executives recognize the core business importance of food safety, but in many cases progress is limited due to the overwhelming scope of issue and lack of clear direction

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Jan. 14, 2010) - The requirements and benefits of superior food safety management extend far beyond onsite food plant and production measures and protocols. According to a new report by Deloitte entitled Safe to move: Food safety risks are rising, it's time for action, food safety risks are rising and the challenges transcend the entire food supply chain, from farmers and food producers, to distributors, food service companies, product manufacturers, and retailers.

Food safety has become a critical issue for consumers, governments and industry leaders. High profile crises such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli outbreaks and deaths amidst high profile food recalls have kept food safety in the headlines and fueled public anxiety. According to another recent Deloitte analysis of food and beverage processors across North America, Benchmarking for Success 2009, 83% of consumers can name a product that was recalled due to safety concerns in the last two years; 76% of consumers report they are more concerned today than they were five years ago about the food they eat; and 57% of consumers have stopped eating a particular product because it was permanently or temporarily recalled. And according to recent research conducted by IBM, 60% of today's consumers are concerned about the safety of the food they eat, but less than 20% trust food companies to produce and sell safe foods.

"Globalization and increased consumer awareness have made food safety a critical issue that must be addressed," says Stephen Brown, National Leader, Consumer Products Industry, Deloitte.

In fact, according to Benchmarking for Success 2009, among Canada's food and beverage processors, 50% of survey respondents took concrete measures towards improving food safety in 2008 - either working towards a recognized safety certification and/or process improvement. More than ever before, they are recognizing that companies encountering significant food safety problems face potential remediation costs in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars and potentially irreparable damage to their brand reputation.

"Companies that take a broad view of food safety management and supply chain integrity will have the most effective food safety programs," adds Brown. "The traditional view of food safety as a plant management responsibility is too narrow and does not take into account the cultural and other organizational considerations that drive food safety effectiveness."

"While an increasing number of executives are recognizing the importance of food safety, in many cases their responses have been limited by the overwhelming size and scope of the problem," explains Brown. "The reality is that food safety is a complex business challenge with many interrelated parts and the challenge grows more complex all the time."

Three steps to improvement

In order for companies across the food value chain to develop world-class food safety programs that will help mitigate risk in this area, they must develop a comprehensive strategy that involves three distinct steps:

1. Assess the company's capabilities for preventing and responding to food safety threats.

This first step toward a comprehensive food safety program establishes whether current handling practices, business processes, and information systems meet the requirements for food safety, traceability, supply chain integrity and regulatory compliance. Even companies with mature food safety programs can benefit from a comprehensive assessment, which identifies capability gaps and helps set priorities for improvement. Once the improvement opportunities have been prioritized, a roadmap for change can be developed.

2. Build the governance, skills, processes and systems to improve food safety capabilities.

During the "build" phase, the company executes the roadmap to develop a more integrated and safer approach. It may require fundamental cultural changes, as well as investments in enabling technologies and processes. Key activities might include: Making food safety a top management priority, defining a vision for improving the organization's food safety capabilities, hiring experts coupled with training to support these resources, improving processes for crisis and incident management, and establishing an effective performance measurement framework.

3. Monitor risks and trends on a regular basis, adjusting the food safety program to address significant changes.

In the "monitor" phase, the company assesses and improves the effectiveness of its food safety program on an ongoing basis. As new threats to food safety emerge, and as leading practices, standards, and regulatory requirements evolve, the company adjusts its food safety program to address the changes. This enables the organization to proactively identify and manage external risks and trends and improve internal performance and capabilities.

Two global trends driving improvement in food safety

As companies increasingly seek to strengthen their approach to food safety, two key trends are driving improvement and facilitating forward movement in this area. First, universal principles are now emerging that provide a clear and consistent direction for the future. For example, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, an organization linked to the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, with representatives from more than 180 countries, has published the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point approach for managing food safety risks. This approach is being adopted by government agencies and industry organizations globally. Second, standards and certifications are converging globally, making it easier and more efficient for companies to comply.

"In the past, companies often faced confusing and conflicting standards and requirements from various industry groups and certifying bodies in different jurisdictions, which made it harder for companies to take action," says Brown. "But the emergence of common food safety standards and transferable certifications give companies clearer direction and a consistent set of requirements to satisfy."

Obtain a copy of the report

For a more detailed discussion of food safety management, changing regulations, the emergence of international food safety guidelines, and suggested courses of action, the full report Safe to move: Food safety risks are rising, it's time for action is available at For a copy of Benchmarking Success 2009, visit

About Deloitte

Deloitte, one of Canada's leading professional services firms, provides audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services through more than 7,700 people in 58 offices. Deloitte operates in Quebec as Samson Belair/Deloitte & Touche s.e.n.c.r.l. Deloitte & Touche LLP, an Ontario Limited Liability Partnership, is the Canadian member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, a Swiss Verein, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and its member firms.

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