A call for openness

David Noble, Group CEO, Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply
8 September 2014

11 September 2014 | David Noble

David Noble, CIPS CEOThe delay to the publication of
the eagerly-anticipated report from Chris Elliot, professor of food safety at Queen’s University Belfast will not be a surprise 
to many. 

Food is big business, and the intense scrutiny and expected critical conclusions were likely to shake the very foundations of the industry and provide uncomfortable home truths for the UK government.

The report was originally due to be published in spring this year amid a background of recriminations around the effect of budget cuts at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) impacting on food safety front line enforcement and quality checks in the industry. The hold up in publication is likely to amplify the concerns around the food we eat and how supply chains are being managed or if fraud is being detected.

It’s worth repeating that the horse 
meat scandal in the UK and others happening around the world, such as rotten meat in food products in China, have been the biggest food scandals in our time. Millions of products were removed from supermarket shelves in the UK and the economic consequences were colossal. But the dent in consumer confidence is much greater and will have longer-lasting consequences.

A survey earlier this year by Ipsos MORI found that 30 per cent of the respondents said they had changed their shopping 
habits and 10 per cent were choosing less processed meat.

The delay in the publication of the report will have everyone wondering what is being swept under the carpet. This notion is gaining further momentum as the Food Standards Agency has also made the decision to keep details of supermarkets and food processors secret; compounding the lack of information, reducing confidence and increasing suspicion around food supply chains. If that wasn’t enough, there are now further immediate pressures. Following the alleged budget cuts at the FSA, meat hygiene inspectors and vets announced strike action over pay last month which impacted meat supplies to butchers and supermarkets.

It goes without saying that they are a vital link in the chain to prevent contaminated meat finding its way back in. This must add more weight to the call for openness and transparency. If strident action is taken now, we can all have more 
faith in the food we consume and 
I hope the findings and resultant actions will respect this urgency.

Fair trade coconut water is important

Coconut water was once a discarded by-product of the coconut industry but it’s gaining popularity in the West as a nutritious healthy drink.

This should be good news for coconut farmers, but Fair Trade USA says this is not the case. The biggest of the world’s producers are Indonesia and the Philippines. Luckier farmers there may make around $7,000 (£4,223) a year, but at the lower end, they make $72 (£43).

Such is the lack of fairness in the supply chain that Fair Trade USA says it would take a lower income farmer a year to save enough to buy a 24-pack of coconut water made from their own produce. Many of the producers are small, live far removed from towns and cities and are unaware that middle men are taking around 50 per cent mark-up for their efforts. As coconut water continues to soar in popularity, I hope that more of us buy fair trade versions to encourage fairness in the supply chain.

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