Food Safety conference

Food safety conference captured in quotes

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food safety conference Food safety Food standards agency

Food safety conference – in quotes
The effectiveness role of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in promoting food safety and detecting food fraud – such as the horsemeat crisis – plus the urgent need to tackle campylobacter food poisoning took centre stage at Food Manufacture’s Food Safety conference last month. Here, we capture in quotes a flavour of the conference in the words of some of its speakers.

FSA responsibilities

Sue Davies​, Which?’s chief policy adviser

  • “We’ve been concerned for some time about changes made to the FSA in 2010, which has made it a lot weaker and caused a lot of confusion. That has been picked up by the Environment Food and Rural Affairs committee and the recent National Audit Office report.”
  • “We think the FSA needs to be given back policy responsibility for food labelling, standards and nutrition to make sure it can take a joined-up approach from a consumer perspective.”

Andrew Rhodes​, FSA chief operating officer

  • “I can’t comment on the government changes because that is venturing into politics​. But there have been numerous reviews, so far, of the incident. None of the reviews said the machinery of government changes affected the response to the incident. Some have said the FSA is weaker – I’m not sure I would agree with that.”
  • “No one [in official reports] said the horsemeat incident would have been avoided but for those changes ​[devolving FSA responsibilities].”


Consumer confidence

Sue Davies

  • “Our research shows if you don’t put consumer interests first, it can be damaging for both food companies and consumers.”

David Brackston​, technical director British Retail Consortium

  • “When it comes down to a lot of these food scares, there are industry initiatives to ensure that the whole industry is protected. Because when a scare happens, with chicken or any other product, it’s not the individual brand that necessarily loses. We’ve found in the past, it’s the whole industry that is affected. So it is in the interests of the whole industry to co-operate and try to reduce the risk.”

Next food fraud

Andrew Rhodes

  • “One thing to come out of the horsemeat crisis was the 'Buy British' message. But 50% of what we eat is imported, so we are not producing enough food to be able to buy British.”
  • “China is buying up a lot of meat because meat is a product of affluence. New Zealand is now supplying a lot more lamb to China and the United Arab Emirates and to other eastern states and supplying less to this country.  That means supply is shorter and the price is higher, which means we have seen and have been looking for the adulteration of lamb products. The price differential is something that is going to drive some ​[fraudulent] behaviours.”
  • “I know that at least one of the very big caterers is struggling now to maintain their buying habits because so many others are buying up British-produced products. So, if all the big guys buy all the British stuff, where are the small guys – with weaker or possibly non-existant traceability – going to get their products from? Risk transference is something we need to be very cognisant of.”

Professor Tony Hines, ​head offood security and crisis management at Leatherhead Food Research

  • “Stop being a food technologist, safety specialist, quality manager or supply chain specialist and think like criminal.”
  • “Managers should ask: what do we buy a lot of and could be subject to bulking or diluting to a degree that will not impact food safety, the sensory qualities of the product? What will not change it visually or physically, is inexpensive and not routinely tested.”

Dominic Watkins​, associate head of food group at DWF

  • “There are probably half a dozen ways the regulators could have prosecuted offending companies. The fact that they have not does not mean that we need more laws or that existing laws are necessarily wrong.”
  • “As budget cuts hit and during this time of fiscal constraint, there are fewer and fewer enforcers. There are fewer people out there who can investigate food fraud and bring prosecutions.”


Andrew Rhodes

  • “It​ [campylobacter] can become a competitive issue … I think if somebody does manage to get levels down considerably, then why wouldn’t they try to seek a commercial advantage.”
  • “My chicken is safer than your chicken,  but my chicken is not 100% safe is a very hard sell.”


Rene Crevel​, science leader allergy and immunology, Unilever

  • “The vital reaction studies will provide a high level of protection to allergic consumers. At least 99% will be totally protected, but those who are not totally protected will still be in a situationwhere they will experience mild reactions that are controllable.”
  • “One of the problems is that it is not transparent at the moment. People use different standards, so nobody can actually say a product is safe or is not safe.”

The Food Safety Conference took place at the National Motorcycle Museum, near Birmingham, on Thursday, October 17. The main sponsors of the event were Intertek, Ishida and Alchemy.

Associated sponsors were NSF, Safefood 360, Softrace and the Institute of Food Research.

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