Our last words for 2017

By Linda Jackson on 22 December 2017

At the end of a year we should always look back before we look forward. 2017 has been a tough year by all accounts.

On top of political uncertainty and a tough economic climate, at least three events have shaken the food industry this year.


1. Avian flu

The outbreak of avian flu in South Africa has rocked the poultry industry and the damage experienced in the Western Cape has had the inevitable knock on with consumer prices.

Considering this outbreak was predicted by the FAO a significant number of months before hitting our shores, could we have been better prepared? The lack of properly implemented biosecurity measures in some areas did not help in curtailing the outbreak.


Food Focus would like to be a part of the solutions. (Look out for our January feature)


2. The drought

For a second year in a row, the food industry has had to cope with drought and water restrictions. The level 5 water restrictions in the Western Cape are a further blow. Can the required level of hygiene be maintained with such limited resources? Cleaning and personal hygiene measures are often the highest source of water usage in a facility.


Yes they can! Alternative measures can and should be employed as we cannot skimp on this. We chatted to industry and the City of Cape Town for ideas to help - (Look out for our January feature)


3. Listeriosis outbreak

We have always said it would happen but now that we are in the middle of a catastrophic outbreak of the most serious food borne illness, I have to say - I wish this had not been a part of my career in the food industry.


While the outbreak continues I am surprised that the food industry has not done more to allay the fears of consumers. Surely there are products out there that are safe? We have spent over a decade working on food safety management systems to ensure this have we not? While the overseas media continue to highlight this unprecedented outbreak, we are silent.


From our vantage point, it does appear that the reaction from government has been too slow and much will need to change to prevent this from happening again. But with food being the number one cause of listeriosis in other parts of the world, this incident requires action at a number of levels – including ours.


Look out for our conference and Listeria 101 series coming in January 2018


Most of us will close the 2017 chapter with a sigh of relief but we cannot sweep these three events under the proverbial carpet. If we do, we will be no better than those we criticise for failing to deliver in politics and service delivery.


The number 18 is often seen as the age of majority – a number associated with the coming of age of a child into adulthood. 2018 should be the year when we become serious about the purpose of our food safety management efforts. It is not about passing audits at any and all costs – it is about saving lives.