The Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) recently published a new guide on food safety best practices for the directors of companies involved with the production, processing, sale, and supply of food in the UK. The guide stressed the importance of mitigating food safety risks from the top down, because food safety failures can negatively impact businesses. The guide covered the importance of food safety governance, directors’ legal responsibilities regarding food safety, and directors’ role in assuring food safety success. It also discussed what tools directors can use to monitor and ensure food safety performance and the essentials of a good food safety system.

In the guide, IFST framed food safety as both a critical business risk and opportunity. Food safety failures can cause lasting damage to companies, and how a company responds to such failures can significantly enhance or harm its reputation. Excellence in food safety, on the other hand, can increase shareholder value and available business opportunities. The guide went on to define unsafe food, outline the impact of unsafe food, and highlight why product recalls are not 100 percent effective in mitigating the damage caused by unsafe food.

The guide also detailed UK companies’ legal requirements when placing food on the market. Businesses are responsible for ensuring that the food they produce, distribute, store, or sell is safe for consumption and compliant with government regulations. Businesses that breach food safety and food hygiene regulations can incur unlimited fines. Directors and senior managers, who can be held personally accountable for food safety failures, can face up to two years custody. 

IFST also introduced a food safety governance model, which was developed to help boards both create the right environment for food safety to operate successfully, and to hold management accountable for implementing food safety management systems. The guide ended with a comprehensive checklist for directors responsible for food safety governance, which covered steps directors should take to:

  1. Commit to food safety governance
  2. Lead food safety culture
  3. Assure risk is addressed and managed
  4. Monitor system design and performance.

The full guide can be downloaded for free.