The South African food industry is taking matters into its own hands. Food manufacturers and retailers are now working together to become self-regulated in terms of food safety and compliance so that not only domestic consumers but also entire industries, such as tourism and the international investment sector, may be confident about the food that is produced and consumed in South Africa.
For self-regulation to take place, the food industry needs to check every stage of its supply chain and be rigorous about its certification, auditing, label verification and overall operational standards. Amanda Rogaly, MD of FoodSure says some of the big food companies in South Africa are already well on their way to total compliance and label verification but that this is a lengthy process. “The real challenge is making it clear to other and smaller, independent companies what they need to do.” As an independent organisation with specialist consultants in a number of critical fields, FoodSure works with the retailers and food manufacturers to help them become fully compliant and, for example, identifies and helps the industry close operational gaps where errors creep in and where potential food scares could be lurking. “At least we are working with these companies and that there is the goodwill to do the right thing.”
FoodSure also sees the importance of how, if SA food industry takes the ‘continental’ lead in becoming compliant, this has a positive knock-on effect for Brand South Africa.
Many tourists across the world are concerned about food safety issues and avoid local foods. If South Africa takes a proactive lead in meeting international food safety standards, tourists can happily explore our local cuisine knowing it is safe. An international food scare rooted in South Africa would have serious consequences for South Africa’s reputation as a business and leisure tourism destination.
“The same goes for investors”, says Rogaly. “If the food source and manufacturing process cannot meet international standards, the attractiveness of setting up a manufacturing plant to service the SADC region or the continent in general would be hampered. International organisations cannot afford the liability and reputational risk associated with food scares that often occur in third world countries. An example of this is the experience that Tiger Brands had with one of their manufacturers in India late last year.
Imagine if the organisation Proudly SA could no longer promote the SA food industry as a leader or even as a national treasure. It would have to mitigate against possible crises if the country’s image is tarnished by an industry that does not perform and conform properly.
Proudly SA CEO, Adv Leslie Sedibe says: “If there is bad press about our food industry, it would raise many questions internationally and would have the effect of damaging our reputation. The fact that the food industry is actively working on self-regulation so that we may avert any bad press in the future is a great reassurance to many but more importantly it’s a huge factor in promoting our leadership approach on the continent.”
The food industry is the second largest employer in South Africa employing around 1.5 million people, the food industry turns over more than R20 billion per annum. With more and more food companies in South Africa seeing the light and instigating independent checks so that they are able to reassure themselves, their retail customers and, ultimately, the consumers that consume their products, the more we can expect this industry to grow and, importantly, contribute to stimulating our economy.
For more information: www.foodsure.net