Food Safety Update Dec 2021

8 December 2021

Food Safety Update Dec 2021

United Fresh has been involved with various projects and activities in the food safety area this year, much of it in collaboration with the New Zealand Food Safety Science Research Centre (NZFSSRC). 

The NZFSSRC is a virtual construct, consisting of NZ Universities and Research Institutes. The United Fresh relationship with NZFSSRC has led to wider industry engagement on food safety. It is a route in which scarce research dollars can be leveraged through collaboration across industries. 
Much of the work undertaken is available on the United Fresh website, link here

Projects Completed this year

Two major projects were completed in 2021:

SFFF Traceability Project
The SFFF and United Fresh funded traceability project wrapped up with consultation and webinars in August.  You will find our Produce Industry Traceability Guidelines here.

Discussion on how the findings could be implemented effectively across the supply chain will continue into 2022.

Risk Ranking to Prioritise Fresh Produce Food Safety Research
The Risk Ranking project was the second major project identified as important for the industry after the Fonterra whey protein issues in 2013/14. It commenced in 2020 with the work completed in November 2021.  
The Project was jointly funded by United Fresh, NZFSSRC and New Zealand Food Safety with ESR leading the project.

The purpose of this project was to “Conduct a risk ranking exercise to prioritise fresh produce food safety research needs and support allocation of resources over the next five years.”

The aim is to support the produce industry to prioritise fresh produce food safety research needs, with a review of microbial, chemical and physical hazards on fresh produce.

Some of the outcomes are:
  • Identified NZ Food Safety fresh produce research priorities and where there are significant gaps in information.
  • Brought together the fresh produce industry food safety technical experts from along the entire supply chain.
  • Fostered discussion and cooperation throughout the supply chain.
You will find the report on the United Fresh website, in the resource section (member only). Please email if you would like a member log in.

Projects Supported by United Fresh 

The NZFSSRC following projects were jointly funded by a range of primary industry organisations and companies including meat, dairy, seafood and horticulture. These are of common interest to all sectors. 
The funding model is helping undertake work that is difficult for one organisation to justify to its constituency, but nevertheless is important.

Recycled Packaging Food Safety Risks 2021/2022
A project undertaken by Otago University Professor Phil Bremer is leading a project looking at the possible risks in using recycled packaging. Examples could be chemical leaching. This is a work in progress.

Emerging Risk Identification System (ERIS) 2021-23
This horizon scanning project is in the establishment phase, looking to the future and emerging risks. 
The main purpose of the Emerging Risk Identification System is to focus scientific research to avoid or reduce the impact of future food safety risks. 

ERIS is being led by ESR with support from New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) and the NZFSSRC. There are nine organisations funding the two-year trial including Horticulture New Zealand and Zespri. 

Technical experts form an identification panel meet and share their views on emerging food safety risks, drawing from their own areas of expertise. Coordinators from ESR and NZFS bring information from these groups together and undertake some routine scanning of publicly available information to identify food safety risks of importance to New Zealand.

Industry experts comment on the risks identified and whether they are considered applicable in New Zealand.  This is an important step in screening potential risks and applying industry knowledge to help screen out less relevant risks for New Zealand.
National Food Safety Science Plan 2021-22
United Fresh represents horticulture/fresh produce in this group, with participation from all sectors.
The aim of this project is to optimise Government investment on high priority food safety research. 

The intention is to identify short/medium/long-term strategic priorities. This project is looking at issues common across primary industries.  Water is one example.

Horticulture Technical Advisory Group
United Fresh is currently Chairing the NZFSSRC Horticulture Technical Advisory Group.
Membership includes industry technical experts, scientists and MPI.

This is a forum for working through industry focused food safety research collaboratively and ensuring it is meeting industry needs.

International Federation for Produce Standards

 United Fresh is the New Zealand Member of IFPS. IFPS is useful for understanding emerging issues including food safety and systems changes. 

The food safety committee has been working on Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) position on audit methodology across all product categories.  

IFPS members have recently provided support and contacts regarding validating RPC washing systems for Brown rugose virus.

FPSC releases new fact sheet on food defence for the fresh produce industry

 The FPSC has released a new fact sheet on food defence for the fresh produce industry.

The FPSC’s fact sheet on food defence provides the fresh produce industry with practical advice and guidance aiming to help growers, packers, and processors in Australia and New Zealand determine an appropriate and relevant approach to food defence, tailored to their business. Food defence is about protecting the food supply from malicious attack, especially where this could lead to unsafe products that cause public harm. “This fact sheet is the latest in a series produced by the FPSC designed to enhance the safety of our fresh produce,” said FPSC Chair Dr. Andreas Klieber. The fact sheet was written by Dr. Kim-Yen Phan-Thien of the Sydney Institute of Agriculture, University of Sydney.
Read the fact sheet here.

Technical Advisory Group Strategic Planning for the Future

 United Fresh is holding a strategy meeting to review the current projects and develop a workplan for 2022. We look forward to sharing the details in the New Year.