South African food events highlight how certification, education & training will strengthen the link between food security and food safety

Cor Groenveld, Global Head of Food Supply Chain Services, LRQA

Johannesburg South Africa, September 16; “Last Wednesday, I – along with 250 delegates from 17 countries - attended the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Focus Day in South Africa.  The event attracted manufacturers, retailers and stakeholders from across the global food sector including representation from Europe, the Americas and Asia who joined the South African delegates for this inaugural event in the GFSI Focus Day calendar.

Africa has 54 countries, with a collective population currently at around 920 million and that figure is set to rise to a staggering 2 billion by 2050, representing a fifth of the world’s population.  With 2000 people sadly dying daily across the African continent from a combination of either food or water borne disease, it was no surprise that the opening session from Gwarega Mangozhe, CEO of The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) highlighted the need for there to be a balance between food security – i.e.; making it available - and food safety.  Naturally, the South African government recognises that food has to be safe, but ensuring the balance in making safe food available is the challenge in South Africa.

Food systems are complex, fragmented and in many cases, dominated by emerging suppliers, which presents both challenges as well as opportunities for a nation. He praised the work being carried out under the auspices of CGCSA’s FSI that brings together the South African food industry. Their work in implementing the GFSI’s Global Market Programme (GMP) – a focus for this event - has demonstrated their support of their suppliers in improving food safety standards to gain access to local and international markets.

The GMP was explained by Neil Marshall - Global Director, Quality & Food Safety of Coca Cola.  The GMP is a two year programme in which a food organisation can achieve GFSI-recognised certification.   It has two audits, the first one covers approximately 30% of the requirements of the GFSI standard, then a year later, it has an audit covering approximately 60% of the GMP and in the final year – providing all of the criteria have been met – GFSI-recognised certification is awarded.  Neil made it clear that one of the most important areas of focus within the South Africa food arena is that of training and education in order to drive a food safety culture.

Yves Rey, GFSI Board Chair and Corporate Quality General Manager, Danone added that as our global food system is more complex than ever before, we must embrace a vision where food safety is applied every step of the way from farm to fork. Science-based food safety standards facilitate global trade, but whether we are working locally, nationally or globally, food safety must never be used as a competitive advantage.

Retailers and manufacturers were quick to echo the benefits of the GFSI approach – including Peter Begg, Global Quality and Food Safety Manager and Martin Vowles, South African Quality & Food Safety Manager – both of whom are from multinational confectionery, food and beverage conglomerate Mondelēz. Mondelēz has over 3000 suppliers worldwide and they explained to the delegates how they had adopted a food safety programme which is to get all of their suppliers to achieve a GFSI-recognised food safety standard or scheme certification by end of 2014.  Mondelēz went on to state that they also want all of their global manufacturing sites to be certified to FSSC 22000 – the complete food safety certification scheme – also by the end of 2014.  Mondelēz estimate that this GFSI approach - which will drive the harmonisation of food safety standards across their global supply chains - will result in a 60-70% reduction in audit days, thereby saving both time and money.

Frank Yiannas Vice President - Food Safety at Wal-Mart highlighted the fact that Massmart - the South African supermarket chain owned by Wal-Mart - has adopted the GFSI-led Global Market Programme and Massmart is also a member of the Consumer Goods Council in South Africa, the organisation for food retailers and manufacturers who are endorsing the Global Market Programme. 

As Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Food Safety Certification (owner of FSSC 22000), I was delighted to be part of a panel discussion on FSSC 22000 and other GFSI-recognised schemes including Global GAP (certification scheme for farming), BRC and the red meat standard specifically relative to Denmark.  FSSC 22000 has enjoyed rapid growth – particularly in the last two years.  With over 5000 certificates worldwide, 211 of these are in Africa, with South Africa holding 120 of these, representing almost 2.5% of the total number of issued certificates worldwide.  To me, this demonstrates the level of South African commitment and that this nation is moving in the right direction for driving food safety.  Clearly, there is still a lot of work to be done but a combination of commitment and willingness coupled with support in training education and the value of independent third party certification which will to strengthen the link between food security and food safety.

In the closing speech from Garret Ackerman - Chairman of the leading South African supermarket chain Pick n Pay and Vice Chair of the South African Consumer Goods Forum – he made his commitment to food safety clear.  However, he voiced concerns about other risk areas including food security, sustainability, waste and water management and called for manufacturers and retailers alike to ‘adopt an integrated approach – not only covering food safety but also other risk areas.’ 

With powerful sentiments like these, we cannot agree more."

2013-09 GFSI S Africa

Photo: Cor Groenveld speaking at the GFSI Focus Day.

LRQA in South Africa capitalised on the number of food safety professionals who are currently in town, and held their own Food Safety Seminar on Friday 13 September.  Fresh from the GFSI Focus Day, Cor Groenveld went on to give a presentation to the assembled delegates on some of the key issues affecting the food safety arena in South Africa. 

We spoke to Ian Osmond, Business Development Manager for South Africa after the event today, who said “The topics discussed were well received and there were a number of questions from the delegates regarding GFSI, especially GMP.  Along with Cor’s support, we also had Prof. Lucia Anelich present who explained how the GFSI in South Africa started with the South African Consumer Goods Council.  This has been a successful event for LRQA, resulting in a number of leads and many delegates asked when we are planning on holding another one! 


For more information about LRQA’s food services in South Africa, please contact Ian Osmond , Business Development Manager.