Food firms should recognise that the industry has become more transparent and open, and as a consequence work more collaboratively, suggested Virani Food Products owner Milan Shah.
Shah was speaking at Food Manufacture’s Business Leaders’ Forum held in London last month. The event was sponsored by host legal firm DWF and food waste reduction specialist Company Shop & Community Shop.
“The general philosophy is that you keep your cards close to your chest and you try and dodge the bullets – and if you manage to get through without too many recalls, then you can retire happy,” Shah said.
‘The world is becoming more transparent’
“However, I take a different view. The world is becoming more transparent – whether it’s through greater CCTV, or somebody with an undercover button camera – so much more is being exposed.”
Shah acknowledged that, as a major spice importer, Virani was “importing risk” into the UK supply chain – so the integrity and assurance throughout his supply chain had to be “rock solid”.
Virani is a member of the Food Industry Intelligence Network (FIIN), set up a year ago to combat the threat of fraud in the supply chain.
Created on the recommendation of the Elliot report into the horsemeat scandal, FIIN is a network for suppliers, manufacturers and retailers to collect, collate, analyse and disseminate information and intelligence.
Network for suppliers
Throughout the development of FIIN, engagement took place with a number of industry bodies – but most notably the Food Standards Agency and its National Food Crime Unit, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, and Food Standards Scotland.
“After the horsemeat scandal, people were looking at how we can rebuild trust in the food industry,” said Shah. “The only way we will do that is by becoming more open – so we have to be willing to share our dirty linen as much as the day-to-day operations that are running well.”
However, Jon Poole, chief executive at The Institute of Food Science and Technology, cautioned that, while companies that were confident about their supply chains would join the FIIN, many smaller firms, without the same financial resources, would probably not and they would be the “problem cases”.