Risk, Issues & Crisis

December 13, 2019

Are you ready for 2020?


“Hi Vics, I have an interesting one for you . . .”  I’ll never forget those words when a colleague called me at 4 o’clock in the afternoon on 15th January 2013, asking for help for a client who was heavily implicated in what became known as the Horsemeat crisis.

By the time the story broke on the 10 o’clock news our team was in full swing answering calls from concerned consumers and media alike. With my direct line now on the client’s website, we ordered in the (meat free) pizzas and settled in for a long (and busy) night.

We knew immediately that this was serious, but little did we know what a tipping point it would prove to be for the whole food industry.

Now, seven years later with technology such as RFID and blockchain, manufacturers and retailers have deeper insights into their supply chain than ever before. Consumers can access information about which farmer and even which field their beef burgers came from, and in the UK, we have the National Food Crime Unit (NFCU), a criminal intelligence function within the Food Standards Agency which works closely with equivalent bodies across Europe.

Add to that two recent high-profile allergen-related deaths, namely those of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse from an anaphylactic reaction to a sandwich, and of Owen Carey who died on his 18th birthday after being given a burger containing chicken cooked in buttermilk – despite having told staff of his dairy allergy – and food safety and quality has become a major governance issue which is taken more seriously at board level than ever before.

So, what does this mean for the future?

As we enter a new decade why not take a step back to review your approach to food safety and quality and crucially product recalls? Ask yourself, is your process really best practice? Is your governance and recording of key decisions fit for the intense scrutiny food manufacturers now face – and will continue to face in the next ten years?

To determine this, you first need to identify your key points of weakness, and Instinctif Partners’ RecallOptic online tool enables you to do just that.

RecallOptic presents a series of questions which, once answered, will produce an at-a-glance diagram, and follow-up report on areas which require attention. Advice can then be provided on how to address these key areas.

Another governance area now firmly in the spotlight is the importance of having an effective and positive food safety culture. After all, you can have the best processes in the world, but if your people aren’t in the correct mindset to implement them effectively, no benefit will accrue. Initiatives such as the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) have recognised the need to create and maintain effective food safety culture, and industry audit schemes such as the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard for Food Safety require demonstrable proof that effective food safety cultures exist.

What excites us is the challenge of helping food manufacturers actually implement the practical steps that enable a strong food safety culture to take root and flourish.

With the focus on the provenance, quality and safety of our food only set to increase further, are you ready for the challenges 2020 will bring?

Victoria Cross, Managing Partner, Instinctif Partners