While employers across the food sector are starting to establish whistleblowing channels, the industry appears to be slow off the mark in the face of a number of food production scandals, not least the horsemeat scandal of 2013, claimed business development manager Chancelle Blakey.
“Add to this an increased awareness of modern slavery occurring within supply chains through forced labour – with one UK government statistic estimating 13% of all potential forced labour victims come from the food sector,” Blakey added. “We can easily see why both consumers and businesses are concerned.”
“The simple fact is having a whistleblowing service and anti-bribery and anti-food crime clauses in place within supply chain contracts should be one of the most basic elements of commercial arrangements.”
The case for whistleblowing
Blakey made a case for a robust whistleblowing system in most business employing more than 50 people.
“Regulators in the food sector have always highlighted the importance of having robust due diligence procedures,” she explained. “But often this is not enough, especially when many food manufacturers are still lagging far behind regulatory best practice.
“That’s why regulation is increasingly demanding food industry businesses become proactive in their preventative actions, which brings us to whistleblowing systems.”
Key benefits for setting up a whistleblowing system included that It helped to prevent or reduce fraud, help or reduce financial penalties, help prevent or contain reputational damage, minimise stress from wrongdoing incidents and provide insight into the business for senior management.
“Confidentiality, anonymity, and protection after a whistleblower has blown the whistle acts as a positive force versus wrongdoing,” Blakey continued.
“Regulators know protections for whistleblowers have an essential part of in combatting wrongdoing, and that is why external whistleblowing services – where anonymity can be maintained – are ideal.”
She argued that the EU was leading the way in its crackdown on corruption and wrongdoing through the EU Whistleblowing Directive that came into force in December 2021.
In essence, the directive required member states of the EU to enact minimum levels of national legislation for the protection of whistleblowers within their country. With only a few exceptions, these new whistleblowing rules and regulations apply to all businesses and organisations with more than 250 employees or volunteers.
“And going even further, the directive will also be implemented for businesses and organisations with more than 50 employees by the end of 2023,” Blakey concluded.
“This even applies to many organisations outside the EU – including the UK – that have offices, supply lines or sell within the EU.”