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Food safety not seen as a high priority risk

According to the latest survey of 150 food and drink businesses, food safety is not seen as a priority concern in the Risk and Uncertainties statements they file with Companies House.

The findings are the result of a study[1] carried out by software firm QADEX, which devised simple but effective way of discovering whether UK food and drink firms are paying sufficient attention to product safety.

The survey’s publication came in advance of the introduction of a new version (v8) of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard for Food Safety in February 2019. This standard, against which many supermarket-led food safety audits of their suppliers are conducted, will require much greater commitment from food businesses to improve their food safety cultures and management in the light of recent high profile scandals.

QADEX segmented the food and drink market into three tiers: those businesses with turnover in excess of £250 million, those in the £100-£250 million bracket, and those with turnover between £20-£100 million.

From each tier, it randomly selected 50 firms, giving a sample of 150 in all. QADEX staff accessed each one’s published accounts, lodged with Companies House and accessible on the organisation’s website.

They then noted the specific risks highlighted in every enterprise’s Risks and Uncertainties statement, after which the results were collated.

The overall results confirmed QADEX’s suspicions: of the 29 risk factors, product safety barely scraped into the top 10, with only one in six firms (17%) citing it in their statements.

Within the £20-£100 million turnover tier, the figure plummeted to one in 10 (10%).

When it comes to regulatory and reputational risk, overall interest was even lower. Combined results across all three tiers revealed just one in 20 firms (5%) registered protecting reputation as significant. Associated issues that influence brand standing – sustainability and ethical risk – went unmentioned by 97% and 98% of the sample respectively.

“For a food and drink business, the danger of supplying products that are not safe, legal and of a high quality standard should be a top priority in risk management planning,” says Stephen Whyte, Managing Director of QADEX. “Any failure will directly impact brand reputation and once that is tarnished, you may not recover.”



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