Beyond Safety Measures

Beyond Safety Measures

How SGS increases customer confidence and competitiveness through food safety standards

Olivier Coppey

Executive Vice President for Agricultural Services, SGS

Senior Agribusiness Specialist, Advisory Services, IFC

How would you describe the link between competitiveness and food safety? 

Safety, quality and sustainability are key drivers in the food value chain. Each of these elements impacts the marketability of food products and the efficiency of their manufacturers or distributors. In addition to being a legal obligation in the countries where the food is produced or sold, food safety has become a clear competitive advantage to increase customer confidence and open the doors to new markets. Products that meet high quality and safety expectations also prevent costly recalls and protect brand reputation.

How do you see the role of the private independent Testing, Inspection & Certification (TIC) sector in improving food safety?

The TIC sector assists the agriculture and food industries to mitigate risk and improve efficiency at every stage of the value chain, from primary production of agricultural raw materials to retail and hospitality, encompassing transportation, logistics, trade and processing.  From training and inspection, audit and certification, testing and advisory services to retail store checks and mystery shopping, our experts help the industry guarantee that operations meet the highest global, regional or local food safety standards.

What kind of innovative solutions has SGS used to improve food safety?  

SGS goes beyond the traditional inspection, testing, audit and certification of the food sector. We start with the R&D of agricultural inputs at our experimental research farms across the world. Arable, dairy, fish, horticultural and livestock farmers trust our expertise to help them reduce risk in their business activities, as well as to improve the quality and safety of their products. It is all about making the right choices, from field preparation and seed selection, through to crop monitoring. Our technical solutions also include identity preservation, traceability systems from farm to fork, food label reviews and nutritional analysis. Our state-of-the-art laboratories help to ensure compliance with applicable regulations and our food safety response teams help the industry deal efficiently and safely with incidents where immediate action is needed to protect consumers. New certification schemes and analytical tests are continuously being introduced. As an example, we recently invested in isotope testing to identify the natural and anthropogenic properties of food, feed and related products which can be used to determine and verify the origin of food products, or to detect fraudulent addition of unauthorized products.

Which is the biggest challenge you have observed in securing safe food and avoiding post-harvest waste – and how can it be addressed?

Infrastructure and logistics remain a challenge, particularly in developing countries where a relatively large percentage of food products are lost or damaged during transportation and storage. In response to this situation and to the changing food safety landscape, SGS has opened its first integrated food safety and cold chain facility in India. This is the first-of-its-kind in this country for fresh produce, integrating traditional inspection and testing with cold chain and post-harvest services like pre-cooling, ripening and safe storage at different temperatures.

What are the key trends in the food safety space and how will they affect the global food market in the future?

Food in the future should be adequate, affordable, sustainable and safe. Consumers would like to know where the food they eat comes from and how it has been produced on the farm. There is a growing demand for transparency and traceability through the entire value chain. In an ideal world, consumers are able to scan QR codes on food packaging in their favourite store with their smart phones and access an additional layer of information on the origin, safety and sustainability aspects of the food they buy.

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