PRACTICE DUE DILIGENCE

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By Mark Kunda

IT’S a requirement by law that every manufacturer of food products must ensure that their products are safe from production to consumption. Practicing Due Diligence helps the manufacturer to put in place necessary processes to ensure that only safe products get to the consumer.

One day a friend of mine told me the experience he had with a particular product. The product was a ready-to-drink, maize-based drink. When he was about to drink after opening, he noticed some strange black substances floating in the drink.

At that point, he paused to take a closer look to see if he had chosen the correct drink. He checked the container and the product label. Everything looked fine.

The product was properly sealed. It was him who removed the seal. So there was no way someone could have tempered with the product after production.

My friend concluded his story by saying “I just drunk the drink because as far as I was concerned companies produce ‘safe’ products.”

Most consumers judge the safety and quality of the product by its appearance. They assume that since the food product is in a good-looking packaging container, then the product inside is safe.

They also assume that the food product was produced in a safe and healthy environment. This is the level of trust that consumers have in manufacturers. Manufacturers shouldn’t take this trust for granted.

Manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure that the food products they produce are safe and fit for human consumption. They should also ensure that the food product is produced in a safe and healthy environment and that the product gets to the consumer in its safe state.

From production to consumption, the food product must be safe. This responsibility lies with every food manufacturer.

Food safety affects the safety and health of millions of consumers. Consumers rely on their five senses to determine the safety and quality of food products.

The sensory checks which consumers use include appearance, smell, colour, flavour and texture of the product. If all these seem to be OK, the consumer will simply consume the product.

Consumers don’t have instruments to assess the safety and quality of product before consumption. It is for this reason that you as a food manufacturer you must practice Due Diligence.

Due Diligence is the method that manufacturers use to demonstrate that they took all reasonably and humanly possible steps to prevent an offence from happening. With regard to food safety, this means that the manufacturer has taken all reasonably and humanly possible steps to safeguard the safety of consumers. Every manufacturer must do everything possible to ensure that the product they produce is safe to the consumer.

This means that the raw materials of the product must be safe. The process used to produce the product must be safe. The equipment used to produce the product must be safe.

The environment in which the product is produced must be safe. The people producing the product must be hygienically clean. The container used for packaging the final product must be safe.

Nothing from raw material to the final product must contaminate the product thereby making it unsafe to consumers. If this is achieved, then the manufacturer is practicing Due Diligence.

The opposite of Due Diligence is negligence. For instance, indicating the expiry date on the product is Due Diligence. Failing to indicate the expiry date is negligence.

The manufacturer shouldn’t give an excuse that because most consumers don’t check the expiry date, it’s not important to indicate it.  If a consumer consumes an expired food product with expiry date clearly labeled on it, it’s not the fault of the manufacturer.

But if a consumer consumes an expired food product without expiry date on it, it’s the fault of the manufacturer. In the former, it’s the negligence of the consumer for not checking the expiry date.

But in the later, it’s the negligence of the manufacturer because he daidn’t print the expiry date on the product and there is no way the consumer could determine the correct expiry date.

As a manufacturer you should always ensure that you do your part. You must ensure that products are produced in a hygienically clean environment. All the workers involved in producing food products must be trained to handle food in a hygienically manner. Good hygiene practices such as hand washing,  covering hair, having clean short nails and cleaning spillages immediately must emphasized. Workers with open wounds or those having flu must not be allowed to handle food products.

Good hygiene is part of Due Diligence. Good hygiene practices prevent food contamination. Food contamination can occur in three ways. These are physical, chemical and biological contamination. 

Physical contamination is when a foreign substance finds itself in the product. For example, finding a piece of broken bottle or a dead cockroach in the food product.

Chemical contamination occurs when harmful chemicals find themselves in the product. The common example is when cleaning chemicals contaminate the product because of poor rinsing after cleaning the equipment.

Chemical contamination can also occur if the raw materials contain high content of pesticides or heavy metals.

Lastly, biological contamination occurs when pathogenic microorganisms find themselves in the product. As you might be aware, most food products provide a good environment for microbiological growth. As part of Due Diligence, it’s your responsibility to prevent all forms of food contamination. As a manufacturer take personal responsibility for the safety of the food products you produce. Remember that consumers trust you and your products. They expect them to be safe.

Therefore, make every effort that the food product is safe at every stage of its journey from production to consumption. This is called Due Diligence.

Don’t wait for food inspectors for you to practice food safety. Don’t wait for public complaints about your products for you to practice food safety.  Simply do the right thing. Practice Due Diligence and make the product safe. Don’t just produce products, produce safe products. Until next week, stay safe. Zambia needs you.

*The author is the CEO of SafetyFocus, a leading safety company in Zambia. For your daily safety tips, like our Facebook page on www.facbook.com/safetyfocussuppliers.

For your comments, contact the author on cell +260 955 179267 or email: k.mark@safetyfocussuppliers.com

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