I was at the Queensland food safety Conference yesterday and something became very clear to me.
The question "how long is a piece of string?' is now a definite reality when it comes to food safety in food manufacturing, especially for small food companies.
If you have not heard that question before, what it means is just how much do you have to do to be safe or to do what is required?
Does every food manufacturer now need to do all the possible tests, checks and processes that can potentially be done to ensure that it's products, processes, plant etc are safe?
As we get batter at food safety, the degree of testing etc that is now available to confirm food safety is, for many businesses, just mind blowing.
Is it now suitable to just get a micro test (plate count) done of your equipment to check on the effectiveness of your cleaning program at regularly intervals or do you need to now go further?
Then there is the problem of how far back the chain does a business have to go to ensure that it's materials are safe.
We all know that many large companies send people to their suppliers' factories to do compliance audits, but do those companies have to think about actually going further back in the chain and checking where the actual raw material for their raw material come from and what food safety controls were in place there or is that the responsibility of their supplier?
Now there are also VACCP and TACCP and the requirement for these to be part of the food safety in at least one internationally recognized auditing program?
How far does a small manufacturer have to go now in food safety to be able to get their much needed HACCP Certificate, so they can sell product in a supermarket?
So just how long is a piece of string?
There is no easy answer, because all of these new requirements, tests, processes, equipment are going to add significant expenses to these smaller businesses, but will give much better protection to the business and it's brand.
To complicate this, if a business choses not to put such things in place because it does not have the money, what are the legal implications if something goes wrong?
It comes down to two things fundamentally, is it reasonable for a smaller manufacturer to put such controls in place and what are the results of a cost (of doing it and of what the cost is if not done) benefit (of putting these now recognized requirements into the business) analysis.