Towards Developing a Food Safety Model: An Insider Research Approach

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

On the 23 June 1877, Benjamin Disraeli, then prime minister of the UK, addressed the nation stating that, "the health of a people is really the foundation upon which all their happiness and all their power as a state depend". This profound statement is equally true today from a public health and well-being viewpoint.

Insider action research is used to develop a food safety model in a business environment. The author, who is a full-time employee of Premier Dairies consumer foods, carried out research on the food safety area of the business, as an insider researcher. Premier Dairies is a consumer-driven fresh-food business with over 100 years of a proud tradition of servicing the consumer with fresh food products. The author was requested to head up the Project Hero multidisciplined steering committee. One of the primary objectives of this project is to research the importance of food safety to the consumer. Full access for food safety information was agreed at steering-committee level and the project was driven from board level. The author was recognised as a person with management change skills in the consumer business. The company was not concerned about confidentiality, patent or copyrights for this food safety project. Premier Dairies expected competitive advantage to be obtained from a food safety and marketing perspective.

Of increasing importance to consumers are issues of food safety and traceability. Consumers have become more aware of food safety and traceability as a result of increasing public concern with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), the human killer bacterium E.CoIi 0157H7, salmonella in eggs and chickens, genetically modified foods, growth hormones, antibiotics and contamination with other such dangerous substances as dioxins and benzene. They now expect adequate and effective control systems in the food chain to minimise the risk of rogue proteins, pathogenic bacteria, toxins, antibiotics and other hazardous substances. Food safety and traceability must be clearly directed at protecting the consumer, due to consumers' growing awareness of the potential health dangers of food.

Globalisation of food companies has given rise to large centralised distribution depots, which has lengthened the food chain and further increased the risk of contamination. The advent of mass-produced convenience foods means people take less time and care in food preparation. There is an increasing demand for ready-to-go foods, resulting in non-traditional outlets, for example forecourts, serving such food products. An increasing trend of more people eating outside the home is resulting in a higher proportion of people at risk to food scare outbreaks and illness, as detailed in the Food Safety Authority Survey of 2OO2.

BACKGROUND TO DEVELOPING A FOOD SAFETY MODEL

Lucretius (BC, 99-55) the Roman poet and philosopher stated: "What is food to one man may be fierce poison to another". This is still a highly relevant statement, as recent food scares by dioxins, genetically modified foods, BSE and foot and mouth epidemics caused consumers to be more concerned about the possibility of being poisoned by the food they eat. From time immemorial, man has worried about mistakes and their consequences. The Babylonian king Hommurabi (about 1700 BC) heralded today's notion of product safety, when consequences of a building falling were laid down. In 1951, juran published his first edition of Quality Control Handbook, which became the bible for quality control during this period. In i95o,Armond Feiggenbaum developed juran's ideas further by introducing the concept of Total Quality Control (TQC). TQC fostered the principle of inter-functional teams that would share the responsibility for all phases of design, manufacture distribution and marketing of a product. In the late 1950s, Tauchi, a Japanese quality engineer, developed the now famous Toyota system with such concepts as just in Time (JIT) and Quality Circles (QC). …