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The food industry and the risk analysis are a point of attention

In recent years, food safety has become an increasingly important subject in the food industry. Consumer confidence has suffered excessively as a result of various fraud cases and scandals. The food industry does its utmost to restore this confidence by charting consumer risks and eliminating or reducing these to an acceptable level.

Charting consumer risks is approached in the food sector according to the HACCP system: all potential risks are analyzed. For actual food safety risks, adequate control measures are taken. It is important that the risk analyses are kept up-to-date in a workable document, in which amendments can also be processed.

For a food company of an average size, it is not an exception if the list of potential risks is about 500 risks. This concerns raw material and process related risks, as well as food fraud. Not all food safety risks are static; the effect and the frequency of a risk can change. For this reason, a risk analysis system must always be dynamic and be able to anticipate these changes.

Many food companies choose to execute the risk analysis in Excel. This spreadsheet programme has the possibility of automating and structuring matters, as a result of which amendments are easy to implement and it is easy to filter. However, there is an underlying risk: an error can be easily made in Excel. Macros and conditional format can go considerably wrong. Then it is a huge task to repair an error. Excel files can also become large and slow. Risk analyses must always be workable and accessible. This makes Excel unsuitable.

The struggle to gain consumer trust has lead to an increase in the number of online systems that chart food safety risks, for instance SSAFE, RASFF and Riskplaza. Processing information from these portals is still human work: someone must monitor the websites and filter the content according to relevance. Then, amendments must be carried through in the risk analysis. Here too, on a regular basis errors are made or amendments are overlooked. The management of a food safety system is not watertight in this way.

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