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Further Regulation Will Not Restore Faith in Food Industry

15 September 2013

Further regulation will not be enough to restore consumer faith in the food industry in the event of another food scare.

According to private label software company Trace One, sharing information more effectively and dealing rapidly with any food scares as they occur are the best ways to address consumer concerns: assisting the industry in minimising risks to consumers and restoring confidence.

Food traceability and safety have been in the spotlight recently in the UK, with food scares around horse meat, E Coli and Salmonella causing chaos in the food industry.

Each of these scares swiftly led to intense media scrutiny of both retailers and manufacturers, and a public outcry for action. In the most recent case of the horsemeat crisis, countless retailers and food manufacturers have been affected by fraud committed on an immense scale across the whole of Europe.

“In the wake of these food crises there have been calls for further regulation in the belief that this will prevent food contaminations: yet this is not guaranteed,” said Nick Martin, SVP Northern Europe at Trace One.

“Obviously the industry, Government and consumers want to prevent the harm food scares can cause.

“However, any regulation’s main impact will be to add extra bureaucracy and costs; even before it goes into effect.

“While these layers of regulation might reassure customers, any such security will be largely an illusion: further regulation will not prevent cases of fraud or intentional contamination of the supply chain, let alone all possible cases of unintentional contamination,” he said.

“Retailers and manufacturers can, however, rescue the industry’s reputation by demonstrating to consumers that they are minimising the effects as much as possible.

“With the right procedures in place they can ensure food scares are identified and dealt with as quickly as possible, with minimum impact on consumers.”

Retailers currently adhere to a significant amount of existing regulation concerning food products’ contents and packaging.

There is also upcoming legislation, such as the EU’s Food Information for Consumers Regulations ("FICR") set for 2016 to also bear in mind, as well as voluntarily agreed industry packaging standards such as the UK’s combined “traffic light” and GDA percentage systems.

While initiatives like these can help address consumer concerns on topics such as nutrition and labelling, they do not help facilitate faster product recalls or eliminate the risk of products becoming contaminated.

“The demand for information on products is unlikely to abate anytime soon, with sustainability of fish an obvious contender for the next consumer-driven issue. Indeed, we are inevitably going to see further regulation on food labelling and packaging proposed in the coming months,” Nick Martin added.

“Unless retailers and manufacturers can effectively deal with food crises we will find ourselves constantly returning to further regulation as the answer, with little direct benefit to consumers and increased costs to the industry in tough economic times.

“However, if retailers and manufacturers focus on improved collaboration and reducing the risk of human error, it can only have a positive effect on the reputation of the wider industry, regardless of what the next food crisis is looming around the corner.”

September 2013

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