New Zealand dairy sector food safety in ‘good shape’

4 January 2016

Best practice guidelines and industry secondments are among recommendations in a report on food safety capability in New Zealand’s dairy sector.

The Dairy Capability Working Group was set up last August to assess food safety capability and capacity, and concluded that the New Zealand dairy sector, its largest export industry, was in good shape.

The group said that food safety concepts looked at included food being safe from contamination, traceable, appropriately labelled and free from fraud, as well as healthy.

The report, It’s Our Future, said a combination of increasing consumer expectations about traceability and provenance, a move to higher-value products, more complex production factors, new food testing technology, and an increasingly complex global supply chain were redefining the requirements of the sector.

It made a raft of recommendations, including the introduction of voluntary guidelines on best practice food safety governance for board directors, the need to highlight food safety excellence across the sector, and a programme of industry/regulator secondments involving the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

The report also outlined the importance of promoting a food safety culture across the dairy sector on a longer term, and opportunities for making food safety a bigger part of education and training across the supply chain, as well as raising the profile of the sector as a career.

Greg Gent, chair of the working group, said the findings made it clear that New Zealand’s dairy food safety was in good shape, with examples of excellence in many parts of the value chain.

But he added: “There are areas of education and training where a greater emphasis on food safety awareness would benefit the dairy sector, particularly in leadership roles and in broader qualifications that require food safety awareness.

“We also found a need to give food safety careers a higher profile and to articulate clear career pathways across the dairy sector.

“That, however, is only part of what is required to future-proof our dairy sector’s food safety capability. We also need to build a common sector-wide food safety culture. That culture needs to be based on a common understanding of food safety across the sector that places consumer safety firmly at the centre, coupled with supporting governance and a risk management orientation within each organisation.

Martyn Dunne, MPI director-general welcomed the report’s findings.

“It also recognised that all parts of the dairy value chain have a part to play in food safety and that food safety is a matter for all participants in the dairy food business.”

Earlier this month, New Zealand dairy farmers hit back at animal rights campaigners about a UK newspaper advert criticising the industry. DairyNZ, the industry organisation that represents New Zealand dairy farmers, branded the advertisement by SAFE, which aimed to highlighted alleged animal cruelty, as ‘alarmist’.

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