Food Engineering
TECH FLASH

Risk management summit highlights food safety as key business strategy

June 26, 2012
Risk Management Seminar
The risk management summit was sponsored by Diversey, part of Sealed Air.

More than 200 senior business leaders from world-renowned, blue-chip organizations in the food & beverage, building care, retail and lodging industries attended the recent Risk Management Summit arranged by Diversey, now a part of Sealed Air. The summit was held at the Amsterdam RAI Conference Centre.

The attendees, who were drawn from 18 different countries, heard world-class presentations from global leaders such as ISS, Metro, Coca-Cola, Compass Group, AutoGrill and McDonalds. Lively and fiercely debated panel sessions added different and often conflicting viewpoints on a diverse and topical range of food safety and labor safety challenges in the workplace.

While welcoming the increased attention the summit and other initiatives were putting on risk management, speakers had markedly different views on what the key issues in food safety and labor safety were, and how these challenges should be tackled. The results of live polling of delegates at key moments during the summit confirmed the divergence of opinion on the major threats and the optimum strategies to mitigate or eliminate these risks.

Specifically with regard to food safety, when asked what is the single, biggest challenge for the food distribution chain, three different answers dominated. A majority of 55.8 percent named the complexity of differing regulations across borders. A vocal 13 percent were strongly critical of the sheer cost of implementing food safety measures. For 31.2 percent, the crux of the matter was the practicalities of ensuring collaboration among all parties in the food chain from farm to fork.

When asked to identify the biggest opportunity for food safety compliance, attendees recognized technology as the greatest enabler (40 percent) while common regulations and common sourcing were also popular choices as the single most important factor for 34.3 percent and 25.7 percent of attendees (respectively). Staggeringly, some 18.7 percent of attendees admitted they did not consider and, therefore, were not focusing on infection control as a food safety risk or a threat to their businesses.

This lack of foresight and preparedness drew comment from Pedro Chidichimo, president of Sealed Air Corporation, who said: “We know how to protect what’s important and every day we see the benefit that having the correct people, processes and safety products in place brings throughout the food industry. Given the role risk management must play in business strategy, it is absolutely inexplicable there is any business that is not making this a major focus and ensuring their systems are not as risk free as it is possible to be.”

Consensus was also difficult to find between speakers and in attendees’ opinions when it came to matters concerning the summit’s second focus: “Labor Safety and The Virtuous Circle of Efficiency and Safety.”

Surprisingly when asked what the biggest challenge they faced on labor safety was, only 33 percent of attendees said reducing injuries—trailing behind 52.2 percent voting for increased employee engagement as their biggest challenge. Perhaps more positively, 52.7 percent saw improving the consistency of customer service as the prime result of improved labor safety, ahead of the other popular answers of optimizing operational productivity and reducing employee downtime.

For more information on the summit, visit the summit's website.