Our e-groups, e-mail, and fora have recently been alight with discussions on the many issues related to Chinese-produced food products and the looming food crisis in the Philippines.
So we decided to focus our first column on food safety as a means of improving the overall availability and profitability of food.
China has been hit hard by a lot of bad publicity about food safety issues in the past months, the most recent being the tainted dumplings in Japan, sick athletes, and even Trader Joe’s pull out of single-ingredient foods from China.
Benefits of Quality
Most of our first time clients on food safety will always ask us: “How much will having a food safety system cost me?” This is, of course, a fair question. People go into business to earn money, after all, not lose it. Yes, ensuring food safety comes at a cost. Food safety is adding quality into your food products and quality comes at a cost.
In the beginning, some clients are reluctant. But once food safety systems are implemented, they come back smiling because even with the added cost of food safety, they still earn more profits than without it!
For an average business, which loses profits due to rejected deliveries and bad publicity, shouldering the cost of new equipment, additional training, and more paperwork will seem counter-intuitive. But these added investments, with proper management, will give very good returns.
A very good example of a business that capitalized on food safety is US fast-food restaurant Jack in the Box. In 1993, Jack in the Box was hit by a major crisis stemming from the deaths of several people, including children, due to food poisoning.
In 1994, the restaurant implemented the fast-food industry’s first comprehensive food safety program, the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points system. Today, Jack in the Box is considered an industry leader in food safety and, as of 1999, is the fifth largest burger chain in America.
In the Philippines, Sea Merchants Inc. (SMI), the food service provider of SuperFerry, implemented a unified Food Safety Program in 2006 from scratch. Initially, their financial planners projected the additional spending could be recouped (in terms of savings) after around seven years. Less than a year into their operations, the efficient management and implementation of the system saved them more than enough to repeat the project!
6 top strategies
Following are strategies to allow food safety to earn for you:
1. Implement a supplier accreditation program. Most food businesses rely on personal relationships rather than the technical capacity of suppliers. This usually makes them susceptible to problematic deliveries. In looking for the source of a food illness outbreak, it is usually impossible for a business to trace the contaminants back to the erring supplier. So the business ends up shouldering the entire cost.
2. Implement a good storage program. Ensuring food is stored correctly allows you to lower losses. Losses can come from moisture damage, pest damage (from rats or roaches), and even pilferage. An effective FIFO (first-in, first-out) program will allow you to minimize spoiled food left in storage bins way too long.
3. Implement a good pest control program. Calling a reliable professional instead of doing it yourself not only protects against unnecessary contamination, it will also effectively eradicate large populations of rats and roaches associated with large losses.
4. Implementing an effective personnel management program. All good food safety programs start and end with good people. Employee management geared towards food safety will create an efficient work-flow for employees. So instead of adding people to do a good job, you instead create an atmosphere that allows present employees to function well.
5. Implementing a regular preventive maintenance cycle. Most food businesses rely heavily on equipment. Broken equipment will cause delays in production. Scheduling regular maintenance cycles allows you to spend less on small wear and tear rather than a lot on big equipment problems. This means fewer delays, fewer losses. Machines will, inevitably, break, but preventive maintenance reduces breakdowns and allows you to project them in terms of running time or production volume.
6. Documenting cleaning and sanitation. All food businesses clean their facilities. Since it is rarely the owners of the business themselves who clean their facilities, the system must be well documented AND constantly checked. Make this a habit and additional costs associated with early wear and tear will be lowered. Each business will have a different product and a different way of doing things. The first step is to have a management sit-down to thresh out potential problem areas.
print ed: 04/08