With an increase of food-related product recalls in the European Union and United Kingdom in the past few years, food safety has become an increasingly relevant topic worldwide. Consumers and regulators are paying closer attention to food safety and food-related product recalls, while manufacturers and retailers find themselves at greater reputational risk and facing new challenges.
As we observe World Food Safety Day, we look at the upcoming food safety priorities for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and the potential risks that could emerge for manufacturers and retailers.
What is World Food Safety Day?
In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly established World Food Safety Day on June 7 to raise awareness of the occurrence of foodborne illnesses and the importance of food safety. The theme of this year’s observance is “Safer food, better health”, and the campaign emphasizes the need to transform food systems to deliver better health in a sustainable manner in order to prevent most foodborne diseases.
This year’s observation coincides well with the World Health Organization’s food strategy for 2022-30, which was considered at the end of May during the 75th World Health Assembly. The strategy outlines five priorities that will likely impact trends and regulations in the food safety space. These priorities include:
- Strengthening national food control systems by evaluating and improving key components that will contribute to reducing foodborne illness and ensuring food authenticity.
- Identifying and responding to food safety challenges resulting from global changes and transformations in food systems.
- Increasing the use of food chain information, scientific evidence and risk assessment in making risk management decisions.
- Strengthening stakeholder engagement and risk communication while encouraging all groups to accept their individual and collective responsibility for food safety.
- Promoting food safety as an essential component in domestic and international food trade.
Upcoming risks to prepare for
If the WHO’s food strategy is adopted, manufacturers may see increased pressure from consumers to comply with new guidance. We’ve already seen an increase in conversations around food-related product recalls on social media, where consumers call out companies for perceived failures to ensure food safety. This has prompted greater coverage of recalls in traditional news media, which could prompt further pressure from consumers and regulators.
In addition, WHO member nations may create their own regulations and guidelines to meet the strategic priorities, which would place a greater burden of compliance on manufacturers and retailers. One area where we expect to see new regulations is sustainability. Regulations banning single-use plastic packaging or abolishing “best before dates” have been implemented or are under consideration in many countries. Consumers are also increasingly concerned with the sustainability of the products they purchase, and have not been hesitant to call out businesses they believe are guilty of greenwashing or unsustainable practices.
Despite the potential for new risks, these warnings are not meant to cause alarm. Manufacturers and others in the supply chain still have time to act to get ahead of food safety regulations – whether by taking steps to anticipate regulations, or by shoring up their risk management defences.
For more information on food safety regulation as well as the latest product recall data, trends, insights and perspectives impacting the sector, please download our latest edition of the recall index report.