Could we ever marry Social Responsibility with Food Safety?
Updated: Jun 11, 2022
One of the questions I had in my first job’s interview was about the possibility to create synergies between social responsibility and food safety. Twenty years later the question is still open for discussion.
There is no doubt that Food Safety Standards have got a prominent role in the commercialization of food, particularly in the West. From farm to fork, safe food handling practices and procedures are defined and implemented to ensure that risks are kept under control, and consumers don’t get harmed.
No product gets into the European market without a certification that guarantees its health and safety, and consumers give it for granted that, if a product is available in a supermarket, it is only because it has passed the strict requirements of safety and health.
Around the world, the majority of the food safety laws are based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) or the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). Risk assessment, functioning management systems, good record keeping, and recurrent product analysis are part of the routines food producers need to have in place, if they want to have access to the markets. This can be translated into several overarching food safety principles that operate through the entire supply chain.
To comply with all legal requirements for food safety in sampling, testing or auditing, companies need external experts and independent parties. The nuTIQ team and its global network of partners provide these possibilities to reduce risk as well as costs along the entire nutrition value chain.
At the same time, at Etika, we believe it makes business sense to think food safety and social responsibility together. That is why we have partnered with nuTIQ offering companies an holistic and cost-effective solution to tackle both concerns jointly.
Let’s walk through some principles where food safety and social responsibility can go together:
Due diligence – Every company involved in the food supply chain is expected to do their due diligence to ensure the quality and safety of a food product within the bounds of their responsibility. It seems reasonable to use this opportunity to add into this practice, the human rights’ due diligence. Naturally there is a need for building competence among the different employees and professionals in charge of food safety so that they can also take forward the elements of human rights violation’s early detection, monitoring and remediation. It is more cost-effective, and certainly doable if food professionals are given the right set of skills.
Traceability – From a food safety perspective, traceability means that all food business operators are responsible for documenting where their materials are sourced and where they are sent. From a social & human rights’ perspective, traceability means to have clear visibility on where your products are produced and under which human conditions.
The precautionary principle – This is a very important food safety principle, by which competent authorities are permitted to take precautionary measures if they believe food safety could be at risk. It is a pity that authorities don’t use this principle when it comes to human rights’ due diligence. Nevertheless, food operators can use their own business strategy and freedom, to decide to change certain suppliers or supplying regions when they estimate the risk of human rights’ violations are too high.
Transparent risk communication – From a food safety perspective, the public must be promptly informed of imminent and potential food safety hazards. Likewise, social & human rights risks and shortcomings need to be communicated to the public making them aware of the efforts and the difficulties a company may find to remedy. The public needs to be aware that business can do as much, and the protection of human rights is due to the different nations.
The partnership between Etika and nuTIQ creates the necessary pool of competence and multidisciplinary approach needed to overcome successfully both food safety and Corporate Social & Human Responsibility, by creating synergies and eliminating unnecessary duplication.
If you would like to exchange concrete ways on how to implement food safety and social responsibility practices together, reach out to us.
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Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash