NAIROBI, KENYA — Consumers globally are increasingly becoming concerned about food safety issues as cases of lifestyle-related and food-borne diseases surge.
These concerns have pushed governments and food industry stakeholders to develop stringent food regulations regarding food safety and quality of end products to reduce food-related health issues and improve operational excellence for businesses playing diverse roles in the farm-to-fork value chain.
To aid in creating awareness and building knowledge around food safety, the International Association of Operative Millers Mideast & Africa (IAOM MEA) in partnership with Cereal Millers Association of Kenya and the African Milling School staged a three-day food safety training course Oct. 18-20. The training was held at Bühler’s African Milling School in Nairobi, Kenya.
The training allowed plant managers, production managers, millers, head millers and quality control managers to evaluate and learn more about food safety essentials, challenges and concerns on safety, hazards and their control, food safety management, prerequisites for achieving safe food production and measures necessary to comply with private, national and international regulations and legislation on food safety.
During the training, it was discussed how food safety issues cut across countries globally as previous health compromising incidents related to foods demonstrated. This exerts pressure on food producers to take responsibility in ensuring what consumers eat is safe.
Food safety issues can be caused by various contaminants that are biological, chemical or physical in nature. These include pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella, viruses such as norovirus, parasites, pests, mycotoxin or foreign matter such as glass, metal, plastic or wood.
For example, one of the deadliest food poisoning outbreaks was linked to aflatoxin in corn in 2004, affecting 317 people in Kenya, with 125 of them succumbing to the intoxication. Still today, millions of people across Africa are exposed to aflatoxin and other mycotoxins, which increases the risk of child stunting and liver cancer. Another widespread food safety hazard discussed during the training is the presence of Salmonella in ready-to-eat food. A well-documented case of Salmonella chocolate led to a recall of nearly a million chocolate bars with the manufacturer making a loss of £20 million.
“The health of consumers/people is our main concern,” Martin Schlauri, managing director of the Africa Milling School, told participants from the MEA region.
Individuals who participated in the training learned how food safety contamination can occur through different sources such as wrong dosing of micronutrients during the food processing phase, which occurred in Brazil in 2007, or how it can come from the environment such as a case in China where high levels of calcium arsenic/lead were found in rice. The contaminant could also be linked to food contact materials. Such a case occurred in 2005 in Europe when baby milk released to the market was recalled due to chemical contamination by packaging material.
Food contamination can also be a result of machine failure such as the 2012 incident in the United States where 2.8 million of cereal boxes were recalled from the market due to possible presence of metal pieces.
The food safety training by IAOM MEA is also meant to create awareness not only on the safety requirements but also on the importance of making reference and complying with legislative provisions for the industry.
As a key stakeholder in the food industry, IAOM MEA said its members are part of a team in the farm-to-fork value chain that should be responsible for the safety of the food they produce and by providing the training they can “build knowledge around food safety, leverage food safety as a competitive advantage and reduce risk and liabilities.”
The food safety training did not only provide a forum for participants to share their experience and connect to the food safety community, but also was a good opportunity to learn how to develop and implement an action plan for their milling plants, IAOM MEA said.