Opinion

Intelligence sharing must become the norm

By Rick Pendrous contact

- Last updated on GMT

Sharing intelligence should become the food industry norm: Food Manufacture editor Rick Pendrous
Sharing intelligence should become the food industry norm: Food Manufacture editor Rick Pendrous

Related tags: Food standards agency

The findings of the report from the House of Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee inquiry into the alleged food safety failings identified by the undercover press investigation into 2 Sisters Food Group’s West Bromwich poultry cutting plant were described by its chairman Neil Parish as a “wake up call” for regulators and auditors.

While several MPs on the EFRA committee – including Parish himself – couldn’t resist doing more than a bit of grandstanding to the court of public opinion as they took evidence, the inquiry has raised a number of serious concerns in the way the food industry is regulated and audited.

Better intelligence and data sharing

Probably the most important issue to arise is the pressing need for better intelligence and data sharing between private sector, third-party auditing bodies and the Food Standards Agency and local authority inspectors in the public sector, as well as more robust whistle-blowing procedures.

The EFRA report identified the lack of any systematic process for bringing information together.

It also highlighted a failure of so-called ‘unannounced audits’, in which shopfloor workers are often ‘given the nod’ before inspectors move on from reception, ensuring that everyone is on their very best behaviour during a visit.

Openness and transparency

But, to be effective, this will require much more openness and transparency – including sharing any issues thrown up by British Retail Consortium and Red Tractor audits of premises.

And underpinning everything is a more widespread failure of culture across the food industry generally, which causes individuals to cut food hygiene corners in pursuit of production targets something I raised in my previous column.

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