Swancote makes food safety priority

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Lyons: Since the recall, food safety is now ‘the priority in decision making’
Lyons: Since the recall, food safety is now ‘the priority in decision making’

Related tags: Food safety, Food

The potato processing firm at the centre of a major product recall in 2015 has “radically changed its thinking” and now makes food safety “the priority in all of its decision-making”, according to the man appointed to oversee its transformation.

Swancote Foods, which was found to be the source of a metal contamination scare that led to the recall of several own-label ready meals and vegetable dishes, has since undergone both a cultural and operational transformation, business unit director John Lyons told Food Manufacture.

Lyons took on the top job at Telford-based Swancote in June 2016. Since taking over, the company has overhauled its preventative maintenance programme and invested in inspection systems including two X-ray machines.

The May 2015 recall which affected products sold in Tesco and Sainsbury, among others cost Swancote £571,000, according to its owner Produce Investments.

‘Addressing the underlying causes’

“The fabrication issues, which were the immediate cause, were dealt with immediately. But since I’ve arrived, we’ve done an awful lot of work on addressing the underlying causes,” ​Lyons explained.

“We were very much in the mind-set of being a produce business. We were complacent about the capabilities of our metal detectors, and we didn’t really understand their limitations.”

As part of the preventative maintenance overhaul, two people inspected the cutting machines every couple of hours, Lyons said.

Meanwhile, the blade assemblies were checked daily by members of the senior management team serving as a counter sign-off, and focusing the minds of the inspectors he added.

“There has been a great deal of educating staff about their core responsibilities within the business, and also the importance of what they are doing,” said Lyons.

‘Huge deal of control’

“We operate 24/6 on two of our lines, and even in hours when there is a reduced management presence the operating team is supplied with decision-trees over how to deal with incidents, should they arise. It gives us a huge deal of control with the business.

“Fundamentally, we’re not in the business of hurting people whether they be colleagues or consumers. Therefore, every decision is made in that context.”

Lyons said Swancote’s primary role was to remove a degree of complexity and provide consistency for businesses further up the supply chain. The £6.6M turnover company employs 74 full-time staff and processes 22,000t of potatoes a year.

Preventing recalls will be an area of focus at Food Manufacture’s one-day Food Safety Conference, which will be held at etc.venues Maple House, Birmingham on June 21 2018.

For more details and to reserve a place, please contact Caryn Collins​ or call her on 01293 610431.

Related topics: Food Safety, Fresh produce

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