The food industry has changed dramatically over the last decade. New technologies are constantly being introduced, and new food safety regulations keep coming into play. It can be challenging to stay up-to-date with all of these changes, but it’s essential to ensure your business remains competitive in this ever-changing market.

We are importing more food

As more people are eating imported foods, there has been an increase in the potential of outbreaks from contaminated products.

The Federal Government’s January to December 2020 report on imported food showed that the compliance rate for all food inspected last year was 97.9 per cent. While this compliance rate appears high, the more we import, the higher this risk factor becomes.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science (ABARES) has reported that food imports have grown in Australia at a rate of 4.8 per cent annually in recent decades, with around 15 per cent of all our food now coming from foreign countries.

As this number continues to rise, due diligence will have to continue to improve to minimise the risk of any contamination or outbreaks.

Climate change can lead to food contamination

Food contamination is a real concern today because of rising temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns caused by climate change.

Climate change is expected to increase heat waves and off-season rain periods, which means livestock are going to become more susceptible to diseases while parasites will also thrive in humid, damp environments. As a result, farmers are likely to use more chemicals and veterinary medicines to combat the threat of these animal illnesses and parasites, which might then enter the food chain.

In addition, increased temperatures may allow pests, fungi, and weeds usually kept under control by cold weather or lack of water to survive for more extended periods.

Stronger new bacteria and antibiotic resistance

The price of poor safety is likely to get higher in the future, as more and more dangerous forms of bacterial infection emerge that are also resistant to antibiotic treatments.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has outlined a growing problem that requires international cooperation. The problem of antibiotic resistance affects everyone, and it’s essential to work together across sectors and borders to address this issue.

WHO has created a global action plan for combating antibiotic resistance.

It includes five priority areas for action that will help guide countries in their efforts to address this challenge. These are surveillance, prevention, diagnosis and treatment, research and development of new tools, and responsible use measures.

WHO also provides technical support to countries on these issues through its regional offices around the world and its headquarters in Geneva.

A lack of accountability from consumers

While food safety is a growing concern for consumers, few are willing to take action to improve their habits. For example, a study found that 54 per cent of sample households were “extremely concerned” about the impacts of pesticides on their food, but only 35 per cent took “extreme precautions” when purchasing products they perceived as being a potential threat.

The problem is that consumers aren’t taking enough precautions when purchasing their food, so they need a way to quickly identify which products contain dangerous levels of pesticides and which ones don’t.

That means more onus on companies in food handling, production, manufacturing and supply to take greater precautions and offer more transparency to consumers.

Heightened consumer expectations

Consumers in the modern age expect zero risks, which is impossible. This loss of societal trust threatens the food safety system in a way we haven’t seen before because consumers are now more aware and demanding than ever before. However, we need to learn how to manage that reality and work with it rather than against it.

The challenge for us as an industry is to figure out how to meet those demands without compromising on our ability to provide safe products while still making them affordable enough for everyone in society who needs them every day of their lives.

We need to refocus on what matters most – protecting public health and preventing harm from occurring in the first place – and we must do so by building a culture of transparency that empowers consumers to make informed decisions about their well-being while also holding companies accountable for their actions and behaviours.

Food safety is an ongoing issue and it is important that any organisation that handles food and beverages is constantly updating their knowledge to stay safe and compliant. Learn more about the Australian Institute of Accreditation and the food safety courses we provide here.